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The 111R’s delivery is anything but linear, but that’s the big idea. The Elise has finally, after years of making do with fizzed-up K-series power, been equipped with a motor that fits it’s “performance through light weight” design philosophy and unrivalled chassis purity like a kid glove. And it’s a screamer. Lifted from the Celica 190 T-Sport, Toyota’s normally aspirated 1796cc VVTL-I (Variable Valve Timing and Lift-Intelligent) 16-valve four develops its 189bhp at a dizzy 7800rpm but supplements this with a relatively puny 138lb ft of torque at 6800rpm. The 220 T’s 197 horses lines up at a comparatively calm 5500rpm and its persuasive 185lb ft of torque at a positively chilled 1950rpm. Hard to imagine a greater contrast. Yet it’s the Elise that scalps the VX when it comes to pure power-to-weight, it’s 860kg at the kerb giving 220bhp per tonne versus the 70kg portlier Vauxhall’s 212 bhp per tonne.
Lotus chose the Toyota lump specifically for it’s sky-rocket power curve, light weight and compact metal matrix composite alloy cylinder block. The attached C64 six-speed gearbox completed a compelling package. Naturally, they didn’t leave it at that, developing their own (T4) engine management system which sets the valve lift ‘blue touch paper’ point, under optimum conditions, at 6200rpm while making the transition from brisk to bloody hell somewhat less switch-like that it is in the Celica. A bifurcated exhaust down-pipe with twin pipes exiting through the rear diffuser and a bespoke gearshift mechanism were also designed and developed by Lotus for the 111R. Inside, the new composite sport seats are shapelier, better to look at and more comfortable, while the graphics of the usual (but now orange back-lit) twin dial instrument pack have been simplified for greater clarity. At any rate, these are the headline changes. Clear from the moment you ease your butt into the leanly cushioned seat is that Lotus’s continuing efforts to improve the quality, fit, habitability and ambience of the interior are starting to pay off. It’s no Boxster (owners of which Lotus claims are switching to Elises in increasing numbers) but a quick comparo with the VX parked alongside shows that there’s now clear blue water between the two, despite there being built in the same factory.