This is awkward. How can you objectively assess a car with your name emblazoned all over it? It’s a conflict of interests, surely? Fortunately we’re professionals here at evo, so we won’t be swayed by something as flattering as having our logo liberally applied to a limited-edition Lotus Elise. But if you still have any lingering doubts, it might help to point out that the model upon which this special edition is based – the regular Sport 220 – is already a five-star evo car and was awarded the Best Sports Car accolade in our 2017 eCoty issue. This evo Edition is in celebration of that fact and will be limited to just 15 examples for the UK only.
So, what have we got? evo logos adorning the wings, rear bumper and seat backrests, metallic paint in a similar bright orange hue to that of the S1 Elise on the cover of the pre-launch ‘Issue 000’ of evo back in 1998, and forged alloy wheels from the Sprint model (saving 5kg in total) plus carbon kick plates (cutting 0.8kg), helping this Elise to tip the scales at just under 900kg. These additions would add £5000 to the regular Sport’s £39,300 price tag, so at £42,000 this special is decent value. And if our choice of spec doesn’t suit, you can turn to Lotus’s Exclusive division.
The Sport 220 delivers pretty much the perfect blend of power, poise and grip, so it’s understandable that Lotus has left the oily bits untouched. The only change is to the Yokohama tyres, which have an updated compound.
Even a brief blast in a 220 will leave you invigorated. Peak torque (250Nm) arrives at a relatively heady 4600rpm, but with so little mass to move, the Elise responds quickly and eagerly even at low revs, meaning you can lazily short-shift through the six ratios and still make remarkable progress. The gearbox is a delight, with a quick, precise action, while the brakes are powerful and easy to modulate.
Work the engine harder and the Elise really takes flight. It doesn’t accelerate rabidly, but it’s quick enough that you wonder whether you’d ever really need to go faster on the road.
Yet it’s the chassis that dominates the experience, seeming to both float above the road’s surface and yet keep you intimately keyed into its every nuance. Meanwhile the unassisted steering requires little more than gentle wrist flicks through quicker bends, its rim gently writhing as it delivers non-stop commentary to your fingertips. Yes, you can slacken off the stability control and bully the Elise into adopting all sorts of angles on the entry to corners, but it responds best to being driven neatly and precisely. It’s a thrilling little car, worthy of its evo badging. James Disdale
Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1798cc, supercharged
Power 162kW @ 6800rpm
Torque 250Nm @ 4600rpm
Weight 898kg (180kW/tonne)
Top speed 233km/h
Basic price $84,990 (1.8 S)