GRR Garage: The Lotus Elise Cup 250 makes boring journeys fun
Wonderfully compromised is how I would describe the Lotus Elise Cup 250, without any negative implications. After almost two days and 14 hours straight behind the wheel, I’ve been able to gather my thoughts on the ‘ultimate’ Elise.
I set out very early on a Saturday morning, having woken up much earlier than normal, to clamber into a chilly and very bright orange Lotus. When you spend the majority of your time in ‘normal’ road cars, the first 10 seconds with the Elise Cup 250 immediately set the tone for how different an experience it will be. Likely 9 of those seconds will be spent contorting yourself over the wide door sill and under the incredibly low roof-line… However, once you’ve got the hang of it, getting into and out of the car becomes the first of the wonderful compromises that define the Elise.
The second wonderful compromise is the Elise’s size. It’s small – granted it is larger than the original Elise – but it remains tiny in comparison to most modern vehicles. This size becomes useful when choosing a car parking space. With the roof attached you do need a good amount of space to open the door and clamber out, but as the Elise is so small, the supercar feel it gives you doesn’t extend beyond the footprint of a small hatchback. Getting in and out might be tricky, but parking certainly isn’t.
The benefit of a small footprint is further apparent once you’re on the move. A normal A-road feels wide; you have space to move the Elise around and the bulging front wheel arches let you know exactly where the extents of the car are – a rare quality for a car built in 2020. Also, the rather dramatic-looking rear wing, which dominates your view behind, is a perfect indicator of where the rear-most extent of the car is. A feature that is practical and creates downforce – that’s not a feature that comes standard on many cars…
Unlike the immaculately engineered German alternatives that offer a front and rear boot, the Lotus is limited to a small compartment behind the engine. However, this is large enough to fit a couple of overnight bags and the heat soak from the engine is surprisingly low. I wouldn’t put the weekly shop in there but that is probably fairly obvious, which is why the surprisingly comfortable bucket seats have a dual purpose as they cradle your shopping perfectly.
The third wonderful compromise is how involved you’re required to be. Anyone can step into the Elise and drive at any sensible road speed, as all of the controls feel very intuitive – it is, after all, still a car. However, to get the most from the Cup 250 you really have to think about your driving inputs, especially managing the weight distribution. Yes, there’s ABS and traction control, but you’re held more accountable than in most other cars – it’s incredibly refreshing in a world where modern stability and traction systems will cover all manner of sins.
The experience the Elise Cup 250 offers is unlike that of most modern cars, or cars of any era for that matter. It’ wonderfully compromised, and makes almost any journey a genuinely exciting experience.