Lotus Elise 111R
road test

The lure of the open road!

You don't see a Lotus everyday. And I know why! But before I explain why, you need some background on my experience with the newest Elise, the 111R.

But firstly, let's look at the Elise 111R itself. It was introduced in January 2004 with it's international debut here in Australia. The original Elise came along in 1997 and the new 111R adds considerable depth to the Elise line-up because the 111R adds even more punch to the performance.

Lotus has equipped both the Elise 111R and the even newer Exige with a Toyota sourced 1.8 DOHC 16V high-performance 4-cylinder engine, which is mounted midship. It provides 141 kW of power at 7,800 rpm and torque is 181 Nm. It's enough to rocket the Elise 111R from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.2 seconds. Top speed is 110 km/h on Australian roads with a good driver and elsewhere it can achieve a claimed 237 km/h top speed. That'll be with a very good driver! But it's not the speed that's important in my view. It's the way it does it and it's the feeling it evokes while doing it. I can assure you, whilst doing a casual 110 km/h on the freeway you will certainly think how nice it would be to be on an autobahn instead. It does that to your mind as you roar away kilometre after kilometre sitting just inches above the ground. It's a feeling you can only ever get when you're in a real sports car.

And Lotus is a real sports car, have no doubts about it. The racing pedigree is easy to pick when you're behind the wheel. This is not a car to run down the street to do errands in, this is a car to enjoy. This is a car that wants you to take the scenic route, not for the scenes, but for the drive!

The driving experience is pure delight, as the car is so well balanced and comfortable. In a city environment amongst heavy traffic it was so delightfully easy to manage, but out of town is where the Lotus wants to go!

With a day to go where I pleased, I chose to run a few errands in suburban Melbourne to see what the car was like in a suburban environment. But the real goal was to head out of town. And that's what I did, just as soon as the errands were done. The chosen direction was south-east, along the Princes Highway through Dandenong and Pakenham on the way to Warragul for lunch. Then after a late lunch it was to try the car in the undulating hills north of Warragul, Victoria.

In this rural environment the car was so enjoyable I just kept driving and driving. The freedom that the Lotus inspires is a compelling command to continue cruising. Up and down and around those hills cleared the mind and provided so much enjoyment that I forgot that I also wanted to do a run around the Dandenong Mountains. That'll have to be next time!

The accompanying photographs were taken in the hills out of Warragul on a cool, wet winter day, just as the rain was clearing.

www.nextcar.com.au (copyright image)
Click the image for a larger view

www.nextcar.com.au (copyright image)
Click the image for a larger view

How much is an Elise 111R? We're not talking chicken feed here, the 111R is $99,990! And if you've got it, then go for it. And take my advice .... head for the hills! Of course, Lotus Clubs will cater for drivers who want some competition but just heading for the hills is just as enjoyable in my mind.

There are several Elise models to consider. There are 5 in total. Prices range from $69,990 to $99,990. Then there's the Exige as well. It's priced at $99,990 (without options).

There are no options for the Elise 111R. So you can forget about automatic transmission and power steering. But you don't need either! The standard 6-speed manual gearbox is an absolute delight. It has a gear change mechanism with feeling! The light weight and the midship engine means power steering isn't required. I did several parking manoeuvres in Melbourne and not once did I wish for steering assistance. It was an easy car to manoeuvre. Getting in and out will take more effort than the steering! Being a sports car, you need to appreciate that the seating position is between the "chassis" rails. It takes just a little effort to get in and out as you negotiate your way over the side sill. Have a look here to see the height of a Lotus Elise 111R. The car is no higher than my beltline and the seat is no higher than my knees!

For a performance car, the fuel economy is excellent. Of course, the way you drive will determine the way you burn your fuel, but Lotus rate the 'combined cycle' at 8.8 l/100 km, which I rate as excellent. The car is available in a wide choice of colours. The top is an easy operation and it's insulated. I was very comfortable in this car, even in Melbourne's winter.

Air conditioning, electric windows, central locking, track-tuned ABS brakes and 8-spoke wheels are all standard on the 111R.

There's just one more thing! When driving the 111R make sure you get the revs up over 6200 every now and then. Wow, let me tell you, you'll get a kick out of it! Because I was on a public road, I got the 'feeling' just twice when accerating from a standing position to join the freeway in isolated traffic conditions, as I headed towards the 110 limit. And WOW, it's some feeling!

Is there just one word to describe the Elise 111R? Yes, brilliant!

Is there one word to describe the driving experience? Yes, exhilarating!

This explains why Lotus sales have doubled this year, compared to last year. Clearly, Lotus are on a roll! Driving the Elise 111R proved it!

Back to the question though. Why don't you see a Lotus everyday? In my mind you don't see a Lotus each day because I imagine they're out there in the hills ..... enjoying themselves! And I wish I was too!

Stephen Walker
6th August, 2004


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