Lotus Elise Sprint: Because You Can Always Go a Little Lighter


Lotus Elise Sprint: Because You Can Always Go a Little Lighter

Apr 2, 2017

The most revolutionary thing about the Lotus Elise Sprint is its dashboard, which functions in the year 2017 with but a single dot-matrix readout under the tachometer. That’s as refreshingly old-school as any brand-new sports car can possibly get.

By Lotus standards, backlit color screens and multicore processors are not only heavy, they aren’t worth wiring inside a 20-year-old car. (Oh, you forgot that the Elise is that old?) So, while the Sprint chops even more weight from the Elise’s wee body, the Elise of today is still the Elise from 2000, right down to the ignition-key cylinder on the nonadjustable steering column. By comparison, an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a pampering luxury car with an onboard supercomputer.

Lotus Elise Sprint 220

So what is the Sprint? It is a revival of a sport-themed moniker used on the classic Elan, and here it has been translated to an aggressive lightweighting program. For example, Lotus removed two of the Elise’s taillights, chopping two-thirds of a pound. It then revised the front fascia with wider air intakes to save another 19 pounds. A lithium-ion 12-volt battery deletes 20 pounds. Carbon fiber in the seats, hood, engine cover, and roll hoop—plus a polycarbonate rear window—accounts for 13 more pounds lost.

The black forged-aluminum wheels save 11 pounds, while optional two-piece brakes rid another nine pounds. Lotus claims the Sprint overall is 90 pounds lighter than the last Elise, in case you weren’t tracking the diet’s math. Lotus practically says that every new Elise iteration is lighter than the last, and since the Sprint won’t be sold in the United States, we’ll never confirm it. Yet the claimed dry weight of 1759 pounds—figure that, with fluids onboard, the weight is closer to 1900 pounds—is pretty impressive. For comparison, the Sprint is only a couple hundred pounds heavier than the Elan we tested in 1966.

Lotus Elise Sprint 220

In addition to the Sprint’s weight loss, it has some mechanical enhancements, too. Spring rates are up marginally, along with minor aero tweaks to the underbody. As on previous Elises, there is a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter with 134 horsepower or, on the Sprint 220, a supercharged 1.8-liter with 217 horsepower. The gearshift linkage is again exposed and such a work of industrial art that you might not have noticed the microsuede and body-color panels Lotus adds to the Sprint’s snug cockpit. Lotus says the supercharged version is the “best-sounding four-cylinder car on the market,” a gentle jab at the Porsche 718 Boxster and its undistinguished noise (a topic on which the C/D staff has highly mixed feelings).

Curious what the car you can’t buy here in the States might cost? Prices start at the equivalent of $46,200, although the minimum price for a U.S.-bound Elise is more than $76,000, for the hard-core, track-only Race 250, which has headlights only as an option. That’s at least a few pounds Lotus could have saved for the Sprint right there!



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