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Making its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1995, the Lotus Elise was introduced as the world’s most advanced sports car.
Famously named after Elisa, the grand-daughter of Romano Artioli the then chairman of Lotus, the Elise was developed around a forward-thinking aluminium chassis design. Designed in-house at Lotus, it was a genuine pioneering car that rewrote the rule book on lightweight automotive engineering.
Over the years, the Lotus Elise has achieved iconic status in the motor industry, thought by many to be a once-in-a-generation achievement. Launching with a list price of just £18,995, the Elise created a more accessible entry point into sportscar culture and Lotus ownership.
Horsepower isn’t everything – the Elise’s 725kg mass meant it could generate explosive acceleration from a smaller engine.
With its groundbreaking extruded and bonded aluminium chassis, the Lotus Elise was truly ahead of its time. Designed by Richard Rackham – who still works in the Lotus design team – it was a world-first system, providing a rigid platform for the suspension while minimising weight and production costs. The Elise body was made from fibreglass, and the total car weight was just 725 kg.
‘The acceleration, the zest, the eye-popping ability to change speed and direction, the sheer unbridled sense of motion – these are what make driving the Elise so special and intense.’Car Magazine, 1996
Power for the Elise came from Rover’s 1.8-litre 118bhp K-Series engine, mounted transversely behind the twin seats. Combined with the car’s incredibly light weight, this substantial engine could launch the Elise to 100 kph in just 5.5 seconds. Additionally, the low 470mm centre of gravity boosted its cornering abilities and improved overall handling.
In typical Lotus style, the Elise delivers taut and precise driving dynamics, creating an instant connection with the road through its responsive feel and immediate feedback. In August 1996, after taking its first drive in the Elise, CAR magazine wrote: ‘The acceleration, the zest, the eye-popping ability to change speed and direction, the sheer unbridled sense of motion – these are what make driving the Elise so special and intense.’
The rebirth and still-growing popularity of Lotus in club motorsport is a direct result of the continued success of the Elise. The Lotus Cup Europe is one of several one-make racing series around the world, including races in Japan, USA, Italy, Malaysia, and Australia. The UK also has the Elise Trophy.
Name: Lotus Elise
Year of production: 1996-2001
Engine: Rover K-Series
Power output: 118 bhp
Transmission: Five-speed manual transaxle
The Elise Sport 220 builds on the success of the standard Elise, trimming weight even further while balancing agility, power, and driver feedback. A redesigned front clam panel shaves almost 9 kg while increasing cooling for the 1.8-litre supercharged, chargecooled four-cylinder. F1-inspired rubber elements mounted on the underside combine with the additional rear diffuser vane to reduce drag and increase stability.
The Elise Sport 240 Final Edition is a true celebration of the Elise’s life and legacy, recalibrating the engine for an extra 23bhp while adding an extensive list of interior and exterior features. The most notable is the TFT digital dashboard with a choice of screens (conventional dials or race-style read-out with speed bar). Produced in a limited run, the Elise Sport 240 Final Edition was destined for future classic status.
Bred for high-octane track performance, the Lotus Elise Cup 250 adds an all-alloy 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine, independent double wishbone suspension, and an adjustable front anti-roll bar. Weighing 14 kg less than its feather-light predecessor, the Elise Cup 250’s performance speaks for itself – a top speed of 241 kph, and 0-100 kph time of just 3.9 seconds.
The Elise Cup 250 Final Edition was produced in 2021 to mark the end of the Elise’s production run and celebrate its pedigree of automotive excellence. This special limited edition includes all of the performance upgrades from the Elise Cup 250 addition, adding numerous interior and exterior features and launching in a new selection of premium colourways that reference iconic liveries from throughout the history of Lotus.
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