For me, like many others, the Elise has become much more than a car. It embodies so much of what makes driving truly joyful. Simple, unfettered and analogue; unapologetically raw yet unquestionably beautiful; sitting in the sweet spot where form and function meet.
My first Elise was an early Series 2 111S which, sadly, lasted little longer than four months when front clam damage and a shortage of clamshells meant the car was written off before I’d really had chance to enjoy it.
Fortunately, this made way for another, very special 111S – a former Lotus development car, used by the factory to further refine the Series 2 Elise. Painted in the rare, non-production colour ‘electric green’, it was nicknamed ‘Kermit’ by the engineers at Hethel, making it not only unique, but a part of the Elise story itself.
When the time came to sell, it was difficult to know what could possibly replace Kermit. I knew I wanted something faster and more focussed, ideally with a Toyota engine (I’d had enough of K Series head gasket anxiety!) but I also wanted something that could tell a part of the Elise story in the same way my last car did – a Lotus with some uniqueness or special interest.
Which brings us to the latest and probably last Elise I’ll ever buy – the Cup 250 Final Edition.
Finished in vivid green with full black pack, diamond cut forged wheels and silver alcantara interior, I couldn’t be happier with the spec of my ‘dream’ Elise.
The colour is stunning and the fit and finish is a world away from my previous cars. As well as the beautiful, exposed gear linkage already seen in later Elises, the final edition cars also feature an alcantara-clad, flat bottomed steering wheel which is sublime to the touch, as well as an all-new digital dash, based on the popular AIM unit.
Even before it turns a wheel, the Cup 250 Final Edition succeeds in providing that ‘pinch me’ moment every time I clamber over the sills and into its exquisite carbon seats. The interior remains as ‘back to basics’ as it always has been – the exposed glue and bare aluminium still proudly on show. However, the quality of the materials and the carefully considered details combine to create something refined, purposeful and – above all – very special indeed.
On the road, the supercharged VVT-i engine really is a world away from my previous K Series – its 181lb ft of torque providing ample pulling power, even at low revs. Combined with the way the car carries its speed through corners and glides over rough surfaces, the car reminds you why, for 25 years, the Elise has been the perfect car for the British B road.
For me, the Elise Final Editions offer a rare opportunity to own a piece of Lotus history. These cars represent not only the pinnacle of Elise development, but they conclude one of the most compelling stories in Lotus’ history: The plucky, back-to-basics sports car that saved the marque from extinction and became the standard by which all other drivers’ cars would be judged.
It could be said that the Cup 260 was in fact the ultimate iteration of the Elise, or that the Series 1 was simply never surpassed in its dedication to the Lotus ethos. The truth is that the Elise – in all its forms – will go down in history as a true motoring icon, the likes of which we’ll never see again. To own even a small piece of that legacy should make all of us Elise owners feel very lucky indeed.