The Lotus Elise Has Evolved Without Being Compromised

Compared to a Series 1, the current Series 3 Elise is a highly evolved sports car. But progress didn't make it any less entertaining.

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Coming up with a new aluminum platform for an affordable mid-engined car was not easy after the financial failure of the front-wheel drive Lotus Elan. But Romano Artioli's team went the extra mile to create something truly significant, and the 1996 Elise Series 1 instantly became the new standard for lightweight sports cars.

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Weighing just 1665 pounds, the first Elise was a pure handling machine, a car that could make the most of its aging Rover K-Series engine's 118 horsepower. Not to mention making the most of its driver. As experienced racing driver and proud Elise Sport 140 owner Mark Williamson explains, the S1 is "pretty raw", not to mention how it "rattles and rolls a little bit” as you push it through the corners. But that means it will also communicate every movement worth mentioning, teaching you how to drive flat out step by step.

Following the 2000-2009 Series 2, the third-generation Elise came in 2010, with twice the power courtesy of a supercharged Toyota engine, and a much tighter six-speed gearbox instead of the old five-speed. Air bags, bigger wheels and a few comfort upgrades also made it a touch heavier than the previous cars, but Lotus made sure that wouldn't compromise the driving experience. Keeping cars light takes a lot of effort, but the now 22 years old Elise proves its well worth it. And while the team at Hethel works on a successor perhaps positioned higher, let's be grateful that the next Lotus will certainly be legal in America. As well as down under:

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