Lotus is in the enviable position of being virtually the only British name in motor racing which just about everyone knows - the other being Jaguar.

The Norfolk manufacturer has won many world championships and been the vehicle for the careers of some of the greats of motor racing, Jim Clark, for example. This enviable record of success has been firmly based on mechanical ingenuity and excellence of design and engineering.

The racing team is now separate from the sports car division which itself is now a part of the massive General Motors corporation, yet it has not been diminished by this association, the American car giant keen to keep Lotus as the cutting edge of their future technological development, while supporting its continuing manufacture of fine sports cars.

The Elan is the very latest product from this illustrious company and has been uniformly well received by the world's motoring press, who have lauded it as one of the best handling cars available, a view with which I can only agree after my brief flirtation with this stunning car.

With one of the most pleasing and rewarding chassis I have ever driven and powered by a dream of an engine which gives exciting performance with great smoothness and an engine note which certainly has the tingle factor, particularly the chirrup from the mechanical grasshopper, the turbo wastegate, at every upchange.

In profile the Elan is rather stubby and purposeful, the design is certainly one which takes no prisoners, you either love or hate it, but those final arbiters of taste, the Design Centre in London, have already showered praise upon it. I must admit I liked it as a perfect example of aerodynamics in action, not swoopy or curvy in the classical sports car way it is a remarkably stable and wind defeating design at any speed.

Power - and lots of it - comes from a Lotus developed, Isuzu twin cam, engine which is an absolute delight, smooth and flexible all the way up to the 7,000 rpm redline, delivery being very progressive and turbo lag unnoticeable, the 1588cc provides breathtaking acceleration. Not perhaps in the mainstream of sporting engine manufactures it is quite possible that the Japanese engines will soon be powering the Formula One team, one such engine already having been developed and tested.

Transmission is by a smooth 5 speed box which is a pleasure to use, each gear easily selected with a sweet and precise, short throw, action, tempting one to play more than is strictly necessary as the engine develops torque over a wide rev range and is perfectly happy pootling from 1,000 rpm in 5th, making it very docile in traffic unlike many rather nervous sports cars.

Strictly a close encounter area for 2, the cockpit feels just right, fitting like the proverbial glove, the ideal environment as soon as you climb into it. With very comfortable and form fitting leather seats and an adjustable steering wheel a perfect driving position is easily achieved facing the large clear dials and the well laid out dash.

As it should be everything falls naturally to hand and one feels fully in control at all times.

The hood is one of the best, very simple and quick to erect, not spoiling the lines of the car and hidden under a rear scuttle panel when not in use.

Equipment there is in plenty for a small sports car, power steering, central locking, electric windows and mirrors and a Blaupunkt stereo which can still be enjoyed with the top down. The small leather wheel and the very direct, racing car like, steering put you in instant communication with the car, a responsive chassis enhancing this communication with the car and the road, suspension being firm with no roll, great control and quite amazing grip from the 205/50 tyres on their alloy rims. The handling is sensitive to the tiniest input but never nervous, quickly instilling complete faith in its abilities.

Braking is very firm although the pedal has a curiously dead feel and perhaps in a car which communicates so well with the driver it should be more sensitive but this is only a minor grumble in a feast of delights.

Truly open air motoring of the first order, the Elan is already, deservedly, a classic as was its eponymous predecessor in the sixties and seventies, the stuff of which legends are made.



  • PRICE AS TESTED  £22,940
  • 0-60 6.5 SECONDS

First Published 1992 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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