NOW I have to start off by admitting a little bias as I have had a Lotus for almost 20 years and, unlike some owners, I am still a big fan.
My bright red 1988 Esprit Turbo has only let me down once – and that was mainly due to an expensive maintenance mistake made by me – the rest of the time the car has been a well behaved crowd puller.
So when those lovely people at Lotus invited me to the first post lockdown UK driving day offering a couple of hours behind the wheel of the latest Elise Cup 250 around the twisting lanes of Warwickshire I was more than happy to oblige.
Against a backdrop of cars from their heritage fleet they let me loose in the 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds pocket road rocket and what a load of fun it was.
Cup cars are even more paired back than the standard Elise with nice touches like an exposed gear shift mechanism and track mode yet there are still some creature comforts such as air conditioning, a dab radio and electric windows.
But it is the track which is this car’s natural environment as Lotus say the Cup badge is not for show. It’s the mark of a car that was built to lap hard all day without complaint and could be raced competitively by adding little more than a roll cage.
Bred for the track but brilliant on the road, the Elise Cup 250 uses highly advanced aerodynamics to generate 148kg of downforce when flat out. That amounts to a 14% increase in the car’s weight at high speed, literally out of thin air.
Chargecooled for a consistent 245 bhp, the all-alloy, 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder rockets the Elise Cup 250 to a top speed of 150 mph and for the 2020 model Lotus’s acoustic engineers have improved the exhaust note for ‘even greater driver engagement’.
The slick six-speed manual gearbox with that beautifully detailed open-gate design provides faster, more positive changes and the Cup 250 features fully independent double wishbone suspension and an adjustable front anti-roll bar coupled with Bilstein high-performance dampers and Eibach coaxial coil springs front and rear.
But all that performance and handling needs some serious braking which is provided by AP Racing twin-piston ventilated discs for fade-free stopping power. Adding to that go-kart like handling are Yokohama Advan A052 tyres which provide loads of grip both on road and track where the standard steel roll over bar adds yet more strength and torsional rigidity to the chassis.
The latest Elise Cup 250 is 14 kg lighter than its predecessor thanks to more use of carbon fibre, titanium and aluminium and standard features include a Lithium-Ion battery, carbon race seats, ultra-lightweight motorsport forged alloy wheels and a polycarbonate rear screen.
Our test car also had the optional Carbon Fibre Aero Pack which includes a front splitter, rear wing and bargeboards to help the Cup 250’s radical aerodynamics modify airflow over, under and around the car to increase downforce at speed.
As I said earlier the Lotus team brought along cars from their heritage fleet including a couple of Esprits (both much better than mine) including a white series one model with a very famous number plate – although a lack of burly security guards gave away that fact that this was not the original James Bond car from the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me but an identical model (apart from the ability to go underwater!)
So it is quick, fun and great to look at – but all this comes at a price as the 250 Cup is £47,800 although you do get supercar acceleration… and around 40mpg with some careful non-track style driving.
For more information see www.lotus.co.uk
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth