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Autoexpress 111R article

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Lotus 111R

Americans haven't got the best environmental credentials, so it could come as a surprise to learn Lotus's Elise has never been allowed there because it didn't meet exhaust emissions regulations.

Unable to get the Rover K Series engine clean enough, Lotus has fitted its roadster with a Toyota unit for its US debut. Having already sampled an American-spec prototype, this is our first opportunity to drive the UK version.

Priced at £27,995, the 111R newcomer will top the Elise range when it goes on sale here this month. With the 190bhp VVTi unit found in the Celica T Sport, the Lotus also makes use of the six-speed Toyota gearbox. Once out on the road, it's obvious we have a lot to thank the Americans for, as the 111R's performance is stunning.

Housed in a new sub-frame, the powerplant and the bespoke engine management mean the unit is smooth, with more low-down torque than with the K Series. However, after 6,500rpm the variable valve timing provides frenetic acceleration all the way to the 8,500rpm red line. Plus the slick ratios are well spaced, giving more flexibility and quieter cruising. Added to this, the twin exhaust results in a great burble at idle and race-car wail at high revs.

Any fears the Elise's razor sharp handling and ride may be softened for the US market can be put aside, as they both remain intact. However, with reworked damper and spring rates, it's more comfortable on rough roads at low speeds. And as more owners are buying the Lotus as their only car, this is the first Elise to have ABS and servo-assisted brakes as standard. They retain plenty of feel, with the ABS not being triggered too soon.

Buyers will also benefit from a half leather interior, central locking and a CD player, with the £1,995 Touring Pack adding better sound insulation, carpet and electric windows. It also offers a full leather or Alcantara interior, and a digital radio, CD and MP3 player.

The 111R is distinguished by extra bulges in the bonnet (to house the brake servo) and a new rear splitter that includes the centrally mounted twin exhaust pipes. There's no doubt this is the best Elise yet, and with the Toyota engine it's sure to be reliable. This is one British nod to American rules we can be pleased with.
Owen Mildenhall

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