Driven: Elise S vs. Elise SC.

While the Exige S has been making headlines and receiving critical acclaim from the worlds motoring press the new Elise S has had something of a more low key introduction.

For many however it’s the Elise S which is the more exciting prospect, re-introducing the high performance Elise back in to the marketplace for the first time since the Euro V engine regulations killed off the previous generation Elise R and Elise SC for those unimpressed by the 134bhp Elise 1.6.

The Elise S offers the same 217bhp as the old Elise SC, but sees the Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine replaced by the newer 2ZR-FE, which Lotus have paired with their T6e ECU and a Magnuson R900 Supercharger with integrated chargecooler. The change brings with it an increase in torque (up 30lb/ft, from 154lb/ft in the SC to 184lb/ft in the S) along with a decrease in emissions, from 199g/km to 175g/km.

It also brings a decrease in available revs however, down from a 8500rpm limit in the Elise SC to 7000rpm in the Elise S, causing some to question whether the new car could match its predecessor in terms of character, so when Bell and Colvill offered us the chance to try both cars back to back it was an opportunity too good to miss.

Elise SC

The Elise SC was first introduced in February 2008 and remained in production up until the 2ZZ-GE’s engines lack of Euro V compliance killed it off in 2011.

This particular car is one of the late facelifted RGB Edition cars and had been delivered to Bell and Colvill just the day before from it’s previous owner, Lotus Chief Technical Officer Wolf Zimmerman. With just 4,300 miles on the clock it’s the perfect car to compare to the newly delivered Elise S demonstrator.

2011 Elise SC Engine Bay

Having driven a 111R in the past I’d found the peaky nature of the 2ZZ-GE engine a little frustrating, needing to be worked hard to really extract the best from it and keep it on the high-lift cam. The addition of the supercharger in the SC certainly helps on this front, giving the engine a bit more grunt at lower revs, but with peak torque arriving at 5000rpm it’s still an engine which does its best work in the upper reaches of the rev range. For those unfamiliar with it it’s easy to find yourself short shifting and missing out on the final run to the red-line at first.

One thing which is noticeable is the sports suspension fitted to this RGB Edition car. While great on the fast, flowing part of the test route I’ve planned out it makes the car something of a handful as I move off the B-roads and on to the broken and bumpy tarmac of a particularly testing country road and you start to feel like you’re wrestling with the car and it makes itself known in the form of a buzzing somewhere in right hand side of the dashboard – something Jamie at Bell and Colvill had already noticed and which should be resolved when the car is fully prepared for sale.

Elise S

Switching over to the Elise S and while on the surface it’s near enough identical to the Elise SC – including the neat little rear spoiler which Lotus claims adds a small amount of rear downforce compared to the Elise 1.6 – before I’ve even left the forecourt a couple changes are immediately apparent.

First of all any fears that the Elise S might be lacking in a charismatic exhaust note are gone, at least in this particular example. Bell and Colvill have opted to fit the car with a TRD airbox and sports exhaust and the car has a satisfyingly deep exhaust note. It’s a nice sounding set-up when you’re pushing on, with a few pops and crackles on the over-run, but at low revs and off throttle it can give a bit of a droning noise and may prove a bit tiring for a daily driver, it would have been interesting to see how the car sounded as standard.

Secondly the gear shift is slicker, thanks to some lower friction gear cables. In the forward gears it doesn’t make a huge difference – there was nothing really wrong with the gear shift in the Elise SC – but selecting the lift collar reverse gear is a lot easier, particularly when you’re trying to execute a three point turn in the middle of £100,000 or so worth of cars on a crowded forecourt….

Elise S Engine and Rear Spoiler

Out on the road and there’s surprisingly little to choose between the two engines. The Elise S might have a lower red-line, but the EC60 gearbox means the peak speeds in each gear are within a few mph of each other. The only exception of 1st which is around 25% shorter in the Elise S, making it easy to clatter in to the rev-limiter the first time you go to make a spirited getaway as the shift lights come on faster than you can react to them. Nothing you wouldn’t become used to however and probably only really apparent having just stepped out of the SC.

Having driven the Elise 1.6 in the past with the same gearbox it has to be said the Elise S makes far more sense of the higher gears. Where the 1.6 could feel a little flat in 3rd and 4th – particularly on track – the plumper torque curve of the S means you don’t have to wring everything out of the lower gears to feel like you’re making decent progress.

The engines flexibility, combined with the more compliant suspension, means that on a give or take road the S gives you that little bit more confidence you need to push on and is probably fractionally quicker. Had the SC been equipped with the standard suspension however there would have been almost nothing in it. The key thing is that not only has it lost none of the character or enjoyment of the previous generation Elise SC, but it’s also improved on it in several areas.

The only real complaint I could really level at the Elise S was that the Lotus DPM systems Traction Control System felt a little too keen to intervene, cutting the power as the car rode over the more significant crests and bumps in the road and proving a little frustrating. As this car was not fitted with the optional Sports Pack it misses out on the Sports Mode setting for the DPM system, but after switching the system off entirely and driving back along the same road the rear-end showed no signs of struggling for grip. For day to day driving it’s still a nice safety net to have, but if you really want to enjoy the car then you’ll likely want either the raised limits of Sport Mode or to forgo it entirely.


There is a real argument for the Elise S being the best road going Elise variant out there – even taking in to consideration the Exige S. The engine delivers almost the perfect amount of power to be fun and exploitable on the road and combines it in a package which is as liveable on a day to day basis as any of it’s predecessors and makes tangible improvements in terms of emissions and economy to sweeten the deal.

If you’re an Elise SC owner then you needn’t feel like it’s essential to make a change to the latest model straight away, but if you do you’re unlikely to be disappointed and for everyone else it’s a more than welcome return of the higher powered Elise to the market.

The Elise S as tested has a list price of £41,650, while the Elise SC RGB Edition is currently for sale at £32,995. Many thanks to Jamie at Bell and Colvill for the use of both cars.
Written by James Thorburn (Thorburn)

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