If the aim of the Lotus Elan M100 was to save the company, the Elise was the car that actually managed to do so.
First unveiled in 1996, the original Elise weighed as little as 723kgs, which is really very light indeed.
This absence of mass was achievable through two principal engineering and construction methodologies. The first was to build the car with extruded aluminium sections, glued and rivetted together, and then reinforced by flat aluminium panels.
The second methodology consisted of giving the car next to nothing in terms of options or extraneous equipment and was, therefore, entirely in keeping with Colin Chapman’s mantra of, “simplify, then add lightness.”
Designed by Julian Thomson and Richard Rackham, the original cars were powered by a Rover K-Series engine - but even the 118bhp of the first models gave a power-to-weight ratio that was sufficient to see 62mph coming up in around six seconds.
And while the Elise’s top speed was a relatively poor-on-paper 126mph, the way it got there was what hooked owners, and continues to do so to this day.
Knee-high to a notably diminutive grasshopper, the Elise connected the driver to the road in a way that no-one bar Caterham owners had experienced for a very long time.
The handling, even by the lofty standards we’ve come to expect of Lotus, is sublime.
A low centre-of-gravity, supple but firmly damped suspension, and an absence of mass combine with super-direct steering to achieve levels of responsiveness, feel, handling and grip that are - often quite literally - streets ahead of sports cars with considerably grander badges and weightier price tags.
Unleashed in November 2015, The Lotus Elise Sport and 220 Sport replaced the outgoing Elise and Elise S. The 220 Sport came with a 1.8-litre Toyota engine developing 217 bhp, covering the 0-62mph sprint in 4.7 seconds and going on to 145mph before running out of steam.
The Lotus Elise 220 Sport is considered by many Lotus afionados to occupy the ‘Goldilocks’ spot among the full spectrum of Elise iterations.
It is neither too ‘hot’ nor too ‘cold’.
Neither is it too hard nor too soft.
It’s just right.
It has optimal levels of grip, balance, poise, performance and deftness but may still be driven in relative comfort on the kind of normal roads that exist beyond the perimeters of the Nordschleife.
You know…the kind of roads on which real people actually drive.
All of which goes some way to explaining why Evo magazine didn’t hesitate in crowning it their Sports Car of the Year in 2017.