Lotus Elise S Club Racer review, specs and performance

The Lotus Elise S Club Racer takes the 217bhp supercharged Elise S and trims its weight. The best Elise on sale?

Evo rating
  • Supreme balance, punchy performance
  • Weight savings require commitment

What is it?

The Lotus Elise S Club Racer. It’s a mixture of the two most exciting Elises on sale, the stripped-out Club Racer and the supercharged S. In many ways it’s the car we’ve all been waiting for, as the original, naturally aspirated Club Racer promises a lot, but falls short of delivering as much as we’d hoped. Its mild-mannered 1.6-litre engine is sweet, but not man enough to pull an overly tall set of gears with any conviction. Applying the Club Racer ethos to the significantly more potent Elise S should finally make good on the promise. It’s priced from £35,600.

Technical highlights?

Straight out of the box the £35,600 S Club Racer weighs just over 15kg less than a standard S. Those weight savings come by not having the stereo (-4kg), sound deadening/carpets (-4.5kg) or even a roof (-5.9kg) as standard. Delete option the airbag and that figure jumps to the best part of 20kg, and saves you £600. Further weight savings come from spending money on things like forged alloys (-1.5kg), a lightweight battery, carbon airbox and sports exhaust, which is supposedly track-only. You can save a further 0.06kg by having a lightweight badge. Go for the lot and you’ll save a little over 28kg.

The 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine possesses 217bhp and 184lb ft, figures similar to a mk6 VW Golf GTI in something that weighs around 400kg less. That means 0-60 in around 4.5sec and a top speed of 145mph, figures significantly improved over the basic Elise Club Racer.

What’s it like to drive?

The name and obsession with weight suggests the Club Racer is a track-biased car, but as its underpinnings are standard Elise S it makes for a fine road-going sports car. The supercharged 1.8-litre Toyota engine delivers a brilliant blend of low and mid-range torque combined with a voracious appetite for revs. It sounds good too, with just enough supercharger whine to sound like it means business, but not so much that it sounds like a bench saw. You even get some crackles and pops from the exhaust.

As the Lotus Elise has evolved, it has gained firmer suspension and wider tyres. In the S this makes for a more aggressive feel, with serious grip and fist-tight body control. There’s still the trademark pliancy for which Lotus are rightly lauded, and the steering is constantly chattering away, informing you of the most subtle surface changes and cambers, but stopping short of bombarding you with unwanted kickback. Grip levels are high, so you really need to push hard before you feel either end begin to relinquish its hold of the road, but because there’s so much feel the car doesn’t exclude you from the work it’s doing.

Balance-wise the S Club Racer is resolutely neutral up to and beyond any sane speed you’re likely to carry into a corner on the road. It’s a remarkable sensation to explore its abilities, working closer and closer to where you think the limit lies, only to find it has more in reserve. With the roof removed you know you’re working the Elise hard when the unmistakable tang of hot tyres permeates the cockpit. This really is a car that engages all your senses.

How does it compare?

The six million dollar question is do you notice the Club Racer weight savings? Honestly that’s hard to say. I’m sure if you stepped out of a regular Elise S and into a Club Racer with all the weight saving options (and delete options) then you probably would.

As the Elise sits in a middle ground between out-and-out track cars and more luxurious roadsters, rivals range from a £27,995, 180bhp Caterham 7 Supersport R or a £38,000, 310bhp Ariel Atom 3.5 Supercharged to a £38,237, 261bhp Porsche Boxster 2.7, depending on your planned usage. The former two will serve up richer thrills, but neither will feel as friendly as an Elise when the weather turns wet and you simply need to get somewhere with little fuss. The Boxster, meanwhile, is a truly everyday car that is also superbly balanced. Bit big next to an Elise, though…

>Find a used Lotus Elise for sale on the Classic and Performance Car site<

Most Popular

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers

The long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid has finally come to fruition, with first US examples hitting the road
11 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched
2021 Maserati GranTurismo spy – track
Maserati

2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched

GranTurismo coupe and its soft-top GranCabrio sibling to be reborn later this year, but controversially without the proposed combustion alternative...…
11 Jun 2021
Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder
Posaidon Mercedes-AMG E63
Mercedes E63 AMG

Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder

Three new Posaidon power upgrades are now available for Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S, bringing hypercar numbers to the four door supersaloon
9 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals 11 June 21
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
11 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
Cheap fast cars 2021 – the best budget performance cars on the market
Cheap fast cars 2021
used cars

Cheap fast cars 2021 – the best budget performance cars on the market

If you buy right and do your research, the cheap fast car is a wonderful thing. Here are our top picks between £1000 and £10,000
25 May 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – front
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
9 Jun 2021
HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86
HKS Toyota GR 86
Toyota

HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86

Japanese tuner HKS is in development of a supercharger upgrade package for the new GR 86
9 Jun 2021
Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated
Best small cars 2021
Best cars

Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated

You don’t need 200bhp or more in a small hatchback to have fun – these ‘warm’ small cars are the proof
7 Jun 2021
2021 Alpina XD3 and XD4 update revealed – extra torque from Alpine’s quad-turbo diesel SUV
Alpina XD3 and XD4 2021 – header
Alpina XD3

2021 Alpina XD3 and XD4 update revealed – extra torque from Alpine’s quad-turbo diesel SUV

The updates to the Alpina XD3 and XD4 are largely of the aesthetic kind, but more torque and new chassis calibrations are also part of the package
10 Jun 2021
2022 BMW X3 and X4 M Competition pricing announced
2022 BMW X3 and X4 M Competitions
BMW

2022 BMW X3 and X4 M Competition pricing announced

Engine upgrades, a chassis recalibration and some striking new visuals for BMW’s hot midsize SUVs
11 Jun 2021
Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?
Jethro opinion header
Opinion

Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?

The boot struts have gone saggy and the hatch slams onto my head three times a week, but the Clio Trophy is hard to resist
8 Jun 2021