There are two ways to look at the performance of the Lotus Elise. A 0-60mph time of 6.7sec for a 1.6-litre car is impressive, even if it does weigh 900kg – Elises are getting heavier – and gets there in second gear. (A third-gear 30-50mph time of 4.9sec is pretty useful, too.)
However, take into account the cost of the car and how that sits next to a similarly-performing BMW Z4 (0-62mph 6.6sec) and it looks less clever, especially as the Lotus has nowhere near the flexibility of the Z4, or the far cheaper MX-5.
The Lotus Elise Sport 220 adds another dimension, however. It his 62mph from a standstill in 4.2sec and makes 100mph far faster than the standard car. That puts it up against the Porsche 718 Boxster and Nissan 370Z Roadster, both in terms of grunt and price - but it is in a class of its own as far as handling purity and performance go.
This car is all about the driving, so we shouldn’t mind that in the standard car we have to change gear often to keep its eager engine pumping hard. On both engines the best work is done above 5000rpm, when there’s an exhilarating hardening of beat and noticeable extra zest, in the first four gears at least.
Gearshifting is an easy and satisfying business thanks to lower-friction cables, and if the lever still clacks into its gate and flops slightly from side to side, it’s accurate enough to allow for excitingly rapid shifts.