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Lotus Elise S 2008 review

Despite its size, a tall driver can successfully find a comfortable position in the Elise S.

Fine if you are a ``Bogan.''

It will also buy you a sleek, lightweight, 1.8-litre, Lotus Elise S two-seater with race-bred dynamics, a removable soft top and enough poke to see off most of the boofy V8s. Come to a set of curves and it's definitely all over.

Weighing in at 860kg gives the Elise S an impressive power to weight ratio which explains why the naturally aspirated, 100kW/173Nm, 1.8-litre Toyota engine pushes it from 0-100km/h in a scant 6.1 seconds.

But we are just scratching the surface of what this delightful little car has to offer. It is tiny even compared to most other sports cars and is spartan inside though better than before.

The startling looks are designed to scythe through the air while the flat undertray with rear diffusers further aids aerodynamics. Large vents funnel air to the engine's radiators in the rear quarters and the entire car stands barely more than a metre high.

The Elise S is more of an everyday car than its hard-top stablemate  the supercharged Exige S. Though still challenging to get into with the roof on, the Elise S will happily trundle along in city traffic with the aircon cooling its occupants and the Alpine audio blazing away.

On weekends, it will relish a dose of club track day activity rewarding the driver with race-car handling and performance at a controllable cost. Fuel, brake pads, tyres won't be a critical issue.

This is the latest version of the Elise that has been around for quite a few years now, starting life with an awful Rover K-Series engine but moving on up since Toyota power was bolted amidships. Interior enhancements include splashes of pukka carbon fibre texture leather and a new instrument pod. It has key remote central locking and dual airbags along with ABS, aircon and Alpine sound.

The soft top is easily removed and stowed in the "boot'' behind the engine. You can actually see out the rear view mirror and though manually adjusted, the side mirrors are well positioned and relatively easy to move.

This is Lotus's entry-level model but is available with two option packs, not that you would need them. There are also some new colours.

On our test drive we were stirred by the raunchy exhaust note and feel of the direct steering. The five-speed gear change is like a rifle bolt action and the brakes are super strong. We have always been impressed by the chassis strength of the Elise and Exige which remains the same as before, even with the roof off. But pedal placement is problematic being offset to the centre and too close together. Despite the diminuitive dimensions, drivers of 183cm can find a comfy driving position. All necessary information is housed in the compact instrument pod including a gear change warning light as the engine nears redline.

This car is all about pushing hard through turns. It sits flat and grabs the tarmac with grippy Yokohama tyres to the point where you will end up with a sore neck from the G-forces. When you go home like that, you know you've been having fun.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

R 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $18,100 – 25,190 2008 Lotus Elise 2008 R Pricing and Specs
S 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $18,800 – 26,180 2008 Lotus Elise 2008 S Pricing and Specs
SC 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $18,000 – 25,080 2008 Lotus Elise 2008 SC Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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