2002 Lotus Elise 111s 1.8 VVC
Best fun per pound you can buy
This is a Rover K-series engined series 2 111s. I have been told that the head gasket issue was not so prevalent in these models and can say (touch wood) that all has been fine so far.
The roof does leak - but only a very little bit and only when stationary. I have been in big downpours and had no problems.
It is noisy - but this is the fifth roadster I have had over the last 25 years (a midget, 2 TVRs and a BMW Z1) and this is no worse than any of them - although there is more turbulence felt than in the Z1 - but that was special.
Getting in and out is an acquired skill, but I am only 5'8" and find it no problem at all - once I got the technique right. I have friends at 6'4" who say that they always have to put their hand on the road to get out. Their loss - my gain...
The ride is not hard at all unless you are used to soft saloons only. The ride is about the best it can be for the performance/handling compromise. This is in part due to the light weight - you don't need to clamp the suspension down on a light car to control body movement. Both of my TVR's were much harder, the Z1 was about as good.
Steering feel is superb, the wheel doesn't quite weave about in your hand, but does tell you what the camber of the road is as you go over each undulation. You can tell if you are on grippy tarmac or slippy.
The 111s has 160bhp as standard and weighs about 806 kg. So power to weight ratio is very good. Town driving can be great fun - the only thing that feels as nippy is a mini (the real one - not the BMW version).
On A roads and motorways, the car feels anything from very fast to extremely adequate. Very fast below 80, and still good enough above - as aerodynamics becomes more important than weight.
In addition to the roadsters, I have also owned some very fast large coupes and saloons (e.g. BMW 840 ci 4.4). The idea of this car was to be able to enjoy driving without having to travel at warp factor 9. And this has proven to be the case - roundabouts and A/B road corners all present an opportunity for some fun. In fact, all journeys so far (six months of daily driving) have been fun. It's not easy to ay that these days.
I can also cruise at speeds that get me where I want to go fast enough, without the noise being a problem.
I have had a high performance driving day in it that was HUGE fun - and showed me that I have plenty to learn. The point is that the car is built for track days - redlining and hard braking. Driving it enthusiastically on the roads does not concern me at all. The car can take this kind of punishment easily - if you observe warm up and warm down times.
Anyway, part of the enjoyment of owning an Elise should be that you develop it as you develop your driving skills. If I blow the engine it will just go for a rebuild - up to 190bhp.
In normal driving I get between 40 and 45 mpg. I booted it hard on the weekend for about 170 miles and got 38. And remember - miles = smiles...
In the meantime, the build quality is fine - no rattles! Reliability is fine. The car feels very well put together.
However I do wonder if mine maybe a special case. It was used by Lotus as their test bed and given to the journalists for road tests. So, I suspect it might have come in for some special attention before it went to the likes of top gear...
I have had over 45 cars so far - this one is the best fun. I will be keeping it for decades.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 25th March, 2009