Lotus Elise 111S

Our largely standard Elise meets Analogue Automotive’s expertly enhanced alternativ­e

- Yousuf Ashraf (@ashrafonca­rs)

IKNEW IT AS SOON AS JOHN BARKER dropped a gear and screamed past the dawdling Toyota Avensis. Giving chase in my S1 Elise, I fumbled into second gear and pulled out to overtake, throttle against the stop, and watched the squat, jet-black car grow smaller and smaller in front. Stones were pinging from under its aluminium diffuser as if to ward me off the pursuit, and after just a moment or two I’d fallen well outside the danger zone. The Analogue Elise Super Sport is a different animal, and getting a taste of it might just cost me a large sum of money in new parts…

I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding and rejuvenati­ng my Elise, being extremely careful not to tamper with the ethos set out by its designers. It’s all too easy to spoil a well-engineered car with poorly judged modificati­ons, so I got to know the Elise in its original form for a few months before having a go with the spanners. Now, with uprated dampers, a slack-free gear linkage, a quicker steering rack and a host of detail changes, the car is wonderful: still distinctly Elise-like with the same bewitching character and pliant ride, but with a more precise and cohesive feel. I haven’t wanted more power, stiffer suspension, more grip, more of anything really. But context is important, and I have wondered whether there’s a car out there that could potentiall­y overwrite my idea of perfection – just as the Elise did when I first drove one.

When the Hampshire-based Lotus specialist Analogue Automotive got in touch to offer a drive of its new creation, the Elise Super Sport, I thought I might have found that car. You may have read John Barker’s review of the £100,000 restomod in issue 311, but in a nutshell the Super Sport is a comprehens­ively re-engineered S1 Elise built from the ground up with bespoke suspension, lightweigh­t components and a 210bhp Rover K-series motor. It’s the work of company founder and Lotus guru Steffen Dobke and is the culminatio­n of more than two decades of Elise ownership and developmen­t work.

Sitting low in a snug-fitting carbon-shelled bucket, harnessed in with the engine pulsing away, the Super Sport permeates with an intensity I haven’t felt in an Elise before. The environmen­t is familiar, but there’s a more serious, sinister energy throughout the car; it’s significan­tly louder, the steering relays stronger messages from the road surface and there’s an immediate directness to the ride. It’s no more harsh than the standard car, but the Analogue Elise tends

‘Could the Analogue Elise be the car that overwrites my idea of perfection?’

to follow the contours of the road rather than lap them up within its suspension travel.

With its extra torque – 160lb ft to my car’s 128 – it feels even more weightless under light throttle openings, but also more physical, the gearshift in particular requiring some muscle. There’s a third more power too, and a kerb weight of 695kg makes it 70kg lighter than my car. The first time the Super Sport snaps forward in a flurry of induction roar, I’m genuinely startled. The noise and ferocity are immense, but the raw sense of connection allows you to commit with confidence; the chassis loads up instantly where a standard Elise needs some coaxing, and exiting corners I find myself driving it on the throttle as you might in a Caterham. It’s an entirely alien experience in an Elise, but one made possible by the added grunt and Quaife limited-slip diff. It’s intoxicati­ng.

In fact, my overriding impression of the Analogue car is that its character has shifted further towards a Seven’s, with its beefier control weights, more urgent responses and rampant nature. More than once I found myself peering down at the peaks of the wheelarche­s through the windscreen to remind myself I was in an Elise.

Driving home from Analogue’s workshop in my car, the Elise’s defining characteri­stics – the ones I fell in love with – were suddenly crystal clear again, from the light, delicate steering to its natural chassis flow and on-its-toes midcorner adjustabil­ity. Both Elises are undoubtedl­y five-star cars, but a standard S1 will always be a thing of joy in its own right; hence why my spend this month is zero…

Date acquired August 2021 Total mileage 59,219 Mileage this month 181 Costs this month £0 mpg this month 32.4

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