Lotus is all about making headlines lately. First, we get reports that they have officially been purchased by auto manufacturing giant Geely, who happens to also own Volvo. But now we get news that the new Elise Cup 250 will be Lotus’s fastest four-cylinder model to date. Things are really looking up for the troublesome British brand.
The Lotus Elise has always been their flagship model, known for its small stature and quick handling. The Series-1 Elise was absurdly light. Coming in at 1600lbs, the Elise made the NA Miata look like a cow. Even with an underwhelming 118hp the little Elise still did 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. It also featured an extremely dialed chassis that was mid-engine, rear wheel drive.
The Elise was a smashing success from day one, inspiring anyone that wanted a serious track weapon that took up as little real estate as possible. From there the Elise got many special editions, including many different options to increase the power. Then came the Series-2, an updated body style that brought even more to the table. While it had more power it was also now heavier, essential for all of the new safety features that had to be added. Yet in the end it was heavily refined, producing a much better overall car. Another win for Lotus.
In 2011 came the Series-3. Once again bigger, if only by a small margin. But again a fine improvement over both the series 1 & 2. The engine is still a 1.8-liter inline 4, but now it sports a Magnuson R900 supercharger helping the Elise make a respectable 217hp. 0-60 is now over a second faster than the original Series-1, with a 4.7-second sprint. Lotus does a fantastic job of making this evolution look like intelligent design, yet truthfully there is a much darker reason the little Elise has stuck around this long.
Money. The root of all evil. Lotus for some reason has a hard time following the trend of British automotive success, resulting in all sorts of money problems. This has resulted in the company being sold several times over, and the lack of funds has detracted them from being able to design a new chassis. And that is why the Elise keeps evolving, it’s the only path Lotus can afford to take. They have been treading water, but that is all about to change. Geely Automotive is a manufacturing giant, producing everything from road going cars and trucks to engines and transmissions. The company is massive, well funded, and on the move in the attempt to get even bigger. With a 51% stake over Lotus Cars they now have creative control, hopefully promoting a new era for the British sports car brand.
While there isn’t a new car on the chopping block yet we are at least getting yet another version of the already popular Elise, the Cup 250. Last year’s Cup 250 was good, but now it’s getting even better. The Cup 250 is an aggressive lightweight track focused Elise, which is what the car is designed for in the first place. The new Cup 250 will keep the curb weight under 2000lbs, virtually unheard of in 2017. While boosting power to a proper 243hp and 184ft-lbs of torque, the Elise still uses a supercharged 1.8-liter inline 4. That gets the Cup up to 60 in under 4 seconds, the perfect speed for this kind of car.
If that weren’t enough to stir your heart than the new aerodynamics might actually do the job. Not only do they add to the already fantastic looks, but they are functional too. Combined the aero package adds 275lbs of downforce at 140mph. It all sounds good, but all I can think of is driving one of these little buggers at 140mph, sounds like heaven. No wonder they are calling this the “fastest, most focused four-cylinder Lotus sports car ever made.” While that’s not the first time they have said it, let’s hope it’s the last time.
What I mean by that is let’s hope that under the Geely banner Lotus can flourish, giving way to a new generation of cars that aren’t updated designs rooted in the late 90’s. Let’s hope the 2017 Cup 250 is the last Elise we see, because it’s the perfect version for the model to end on. Here’s to seeing the next non-Elise sports car to come from Lotus.