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2011 Lotus Elise Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
2011 Lotus EliseCritical Knowledge:
  • New body design
  • New integrated headlamps with LED daytime running lights
  • Improved aerodynamics
  • Available forged alloy wheels
Introduction
Founded in 1948 by Colin Chapman, an avid engineer and racing enthusiast, the first Lotus was hand-built in a garage. Many years-and numerous models-later, the first Lotus Elise two-seater was introduced in 1996, returning the automaker to its roots with a lightweight, superb handling and fun-to-drive sports car. In that sense, the Elise was (and is today) true to the late Colin Chapman's philosophy that a "proper sports car" should not only be lightweight, it should also handle and ride superbly, and offer great driver satisfaction.

For 2011, the low-production automaker has treated its Elise lineup to a facelift-the first since its introduction many years ago. Distinguished by new integrated headlamps (with LED daytime running lights), the new, sleek bodywork is more aerodynamic, improving the Elise's high-speed acceleration and economy, the company says. Mechanically, the 2011 Lotus Elise and Elise SC are essentially unchanged from the current model, with the same 1.8-liter, 189-horsepower (Elise) or 218-horsepower (Elise SC) Toyota-built and Lotus-tuned engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

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2011 Lotus EliseModel Lineup
The 2011 Lotus Elise range for the U.S. market will include two models: Lotus Elise and Lotus Elise SC. Both share the identical platform and basic 1.8-liter engine architecture, but the SC model is fitted with a supercharged powerplant for increased performance.

Standard equipment includes black cloth seats with anatomical padding to better conform to the driver's spine; leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel; aluminum trim on the gear knob and handbrake sleeve; aerodynamic rear diffuser with central twin exhausts; standard 4-wheel disc brakes and anti-lock braking system (ABS); and cast alloy 8-spoke wheels. Options include traction control, limited-slip differential, hardtop, forged alloy wheels, various paint categories (metallic, lifestyle, limited or exclusive), and Touring or Sport packs.

Hardware
Both models of the 2011 Lotus Elise are powered by a Toyota-built and Lotus-tuned 1.8-liter, mid-mounted, 4-cylinder DOHC engine with variable valve timing and lift intelligence. In the base Elise, the engine delivers 189 horsepower at 7800 rpm and 188 lb.-ft. of torque at 6800 rpm. The same engine in Elise SC-supercharged for more power-pumps out 218 horsepower at 8000 rpm and 156 lb.-ft. of torque at 5000 rpm. Acceleration from standstill to 60 mph is accomplished in 4.9 seconds in the Elise and 4.0 seconds in the Elise SC, according to Lotus. The top speed for both is listed at 150 mph. A 6-speed, close-ratio manual is the only transmission available. Fuel economy for the Elise is estimated at 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, while the more powerful Elise SC is estimated at a slightly poorer 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

To maximize power-to-weight performance, the Elise has a lightweight chassis comprised of epoxy bonded aluminum extrusions-a fancy way of saying glued (not welded) lightweight metal. The body is RTM composite Fiberglass and the black soft top has integral reflectors. The sports car has fully independent suspension with unequal-length wishbones, 4-wheel ventilated and cross-drilled disc brakes, Lotus/AP Racing and Brembo calibers, and standard ABS. A limited-slip differential and traction control are available as options. The standard wheels, staggered for better performance, are 16 inches up front and 17 inches in the rear-all are cast alloy. New for 2011 are optional forged lightweight aluminum alloy wheels, designed to increase performance.

2011 Lotus EliseSafety
All 2011 Lotus Elise models are fitted with standard dual driver and front passenger air bags, anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer, and remote start. Additional standard safety equipment includes "track-tuned" ABS (with a higher brake threshold than more traditional ABS), and a tire-pressure-monitoring system. There are no front side or curtain air bags available, and traction control is optional. As a limited-production vehicle, it is not required that the Lotus Elise be crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Technology
The new body kit on the 2011 Lotus Elise not only improves its appearance, but it also improves performance, according to the company. The fresh face on the Elise contributes to a 4-percent decrease in aerodynamic drag, Lotus says. Whereas most powerful sports cars rely on their high-horsepower engines to push the air aside with brawn, the Elise-with a rather low_horsepower, 1.8-liter engine-benefits rather significantly from improved aerodynamics as the lower drag coefficient improves acceleration at speed (it also boosts highway fuel efficiency). The Elise is also available with forged alloy wheels. Lighter than the standard traditional cast wheels by 4.7 pounds, the reduced weight at the wheels (known as "unsprung weight") improves ride and increases overall vehicle performance. As an added benefit, forged wheels are also stronger and have thinner spokes-improving aesthetics-when compared to cast wheels.

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