It’s almost hard to believe that the Lotus Elise will be celebrating its 20th anniversary later this year. Here’s a gallery of some of the best incarnations through the years
On the dawn of the Lotus Elise’s 20th anniversary, the Hethel-based sports car manufacturer has announced a new special edition model to mark the occasion. Drive an S1 Elise today and it’s almost hard to believe it’s nearly 20 years old, and in the intervening years there have been some absolutely fantastic special editions and spin-off models.
Lotus Elise S1
The Lotus Elise made its first public appearance in September 1995 at the Frankfurt motor show, introducing a new lightweight aluminium chassis and glassfibre body panels. Fitted with a small but potent 1.8-litre Rover K-series engine, producing 118bhp, the 725kg sportscar was al absolutely fantastic driving experience. The beauty of the original Elise was not just about its performance, modest by today's standards, but the perfectly balanced chassis set-up, which allowed the little sportscar to corner and ride like nothing else on the road.
Lotus Elise 111S
With the Elise making such an impact at launch, calls for a more powerful version were quickly addressed. Launched in 1999, the 111S utilised the recently introduced VVC K-Series engine with a slightly more acceptable 143bhp. The 111S also featured shorter gearing and new headlight covers.
Lotus Elise Type 49
During the Elise’s lifetime, it would feature many special paintjobs, often harking back to the glory days of Lotus in F1. One of the first - and most memorable - was the Elise Type 49. The standard, or VVC-powered model mirrors the red, white and gold colour scheme of the Lotus 49 racing car.
Based on the underpinnings of the Elise S1, the 340R did away with all practicalities, like a roof, and added a more powerful 177bhp engine. Although the prototype offered 340bhp per tonne power-to-weight ratio, the production car couldn’t match it, and the name instead refers to the total number produced.
Lotus Elise Sport 160
A new ECU, improved cylinder head, camshaft upgrade and sports exhaust freed up a few extra horse power (now 157bhp). It eventually replaced the 111S model entirely.
Lotus Sport Elise
Built to satisfy the demand for a track-based racer, this Coupe Elise utilised a lot of carbon fibre, as well as a highly-tuned 200bhp version of the K-Series engine. A precursor to the extreme road-going Exige…
Lotus Exige S1
Using a lot of the technology and parts from the Elise race car, Lotus developed the Exige into a hardcore track-focused road car. With around 170bhp on tap, this impressive machine could hit 0-60mph in 4.7secs, destroying much more powerful cars on track.