The Norfolk-based British sports car company has added a new model to its Elise line-up – one that takes its weight a bit too seriously. But has the crash diet been worth it? AOL Cars has driven one to find out.
What is it?
If you were of the belief Lotus' racy little Elise S went against the company founder Colin Chapman's fascination in making cars as light as possible, the Elise S Club Racer could well be the car for you. Lotus has taken the already slight Elise S, put it through an even more rigourous weight-loss programme and given it a name that sounds worryingly like a late-1990s pop band. Think of this as the Weight Watchers version of the Elise S and you'd be thinking along the right lines.
What's under the bonnet?
The Elise S Club Racer uses the same engine that powers the full-fat Elise S – namely a supercharged 1.8-litre petrol. It's poached from a Toyota, but you really wouldn't know, and musters 217bhp. That means it's good for a sprint to 60mph in an astonishing 4.2 seconds and will go all the way up to 145mph before it runs out of puff – or your ears have burst.
And why would your ears have burst? Well, the Elise S could never really be classed as a refined and cosseting car at the best of times, and the Elise S Club Racer is even less well mannered. Lotus has put the car through a 20kg weight-loss programme and ditched kit like sound deadening, the radio, the air conditioning system, central locking and floor carpets. List price for the S Club Racer is £35,600 – £400 cheaper than the Elise S. But our test car had all the removed features fitted – leading us to ask what was the point?
There are quite a few two-seaters in this market. There's Toyota's back-to-basics GT86 launched last year, but the Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz SLK, BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster are all far posher and easier to live with than the Lotus. The company sees the Elise S Club Racer primarily as a track day tool – and going by that marker there's little that rivals it.
What's it like to drive?
It's an absolute corker. If you're one of those people who think modern cars are too soft, one trip in the Elise S Club Racer will return your faith. There's no power steering so there's little else on the market to match the Club Racer's ability to go around corners, and once you've managed to clamber into it, you'll be treated to a fantastic, almost-lying-down driving position. The pedals are perfectly set up for a bit of heel 'n' toe footwork and the gearbox has a delightfully old-fashioned shifting action – all snikerty and mechanical. The suspension is stiff though, and what with the seats being made from a kayak, the S Club Racer doesn't feature high on the comfort stakes. But that's not the point of this car.
The AOL Cars verdict
You can't help but fall in love with the Elise S Club Racer – not just for its sheer brio but also because it's built in Britain, and the British know how to build a sports car. However, while it's an absolute joy and would be perfect for a bit of track day action, we can't help but feel the normal Elise S does the job more than acceptably. And it's a tad more comfortable too.
Model: Lotus Elise S Club Racer
Price: £35,600 Engine: 1.8-litre, supercharged petrol
Top speed: 145mph
0-60mph: 4.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 37.5mpg (combined)
Emissions: 175g/km CO2