Lotus has done what many would have thought impossible, and reduced the weight of its already tiny Elise sports car to create the Lotus Elise Sprint.
The new diet has brought the featherweight Elise’s weight down by 41kg to just 798kg (dry weight, not kerb weight). Continuing the model’s evolution since first being unveiled more than 20 years ago, the Elise Sprint features more carbon fibre and other weight-saving measures to bring its dry weight below 800kg – which is frankly tiny for a modern car of any description.
Following founder Colin Chapman’s mantra of “adding lightness”, Lotus has replaced the conventional battery with a lithium-ion unit, saving 9kg. New lightweight alloy wheels have saved 5kg, while the rear windscreen is now polycarbonate rather than glass, saving another 6kg. Carbon fibre has been used to good effect, being used for new racing seats, access panel, roll hoop cover and engine cover.
Revisions to the front and rear styling have also contributed 10kg in weight reduction, which will be rolled out across the Elise range and not limited to the Elise Sprint. The same applies to the beautiful open-gate manual gearbox, which saves another kilo. The final claimed weight for the Elise Spring also includes optional, lighter brake discs (a 4kg saving) and carbon sill covers (saving just under a kilo).
Styling tweaks to the Elise Sprint models include a matt black transom panel in front of the windscreen, black-painted alloy wheels, some go-faster stripes and badging. Inside, seat inserts have been colour-coded to the bodywork, as has the transmission console and HVAC panel. Alcantara trim on the doors, sills, seats and vent surrounds is available at extra cost.
Two engines are available across the Elise range, and have not changed for 2017. A 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated unit produces 135hp, while the 1.8-litre supercharged unit produces 220hp. Lotus has spent time improving the “aural appeal” of the 220hp engine option. The company claims that the 1.8-litre supercharged Elise 220 (in Sport or Sprint trims) is “the best-sounding four-cylinder car on the market”.
The weight reduction programme is claimed to improve 0-62mph acceleration of the Elise Sprint to just 5.9 seconds.
Lotus Elise Sprint leads updated model range
The whole Elise line-up has been upgraded at the same time as the Sprint model is launched. As mentioned, the revised front and rear assemblies have saved a total 10kg in weight. At the front, a lighter clam panel and wider grille apertures have saved 8.7kg. At the rear, two of the tail lights have been ditched and the rear fog lights have been repositioned, saving 300g and visually boosting the appearance. The open-gate gearbox is now standard across the range, and promises a better shift as well as a gloriously technical look.
In a nod to life in the 21st century, all Elise models can now be ordered with a new stereo featuring iPod and Bluetooth connectivity. Not as standard, obviously, but available. And a new “electric light blue” paint finish has been added to the colour palette.
With the reduced weight and altered weight distribution, Lotus has also worked to balance the Elise’s aerodynamics with vanes and elements underneath the bodywork to reduce drag and increase stability.
Lotus has built about 33,000 Elise models in various configurations since 1994, and the latest versions are on sale now. First deliveries are expected from April.