Lotus Elise, Exige and Evora

The current model range of Lotus, started with the Lotus Elise back in 1996.  This is arguably the best Lotus ever produced, and in all variants - there are many - it's fast, light, agile and handles superbly.  The Elise is also practical (well sort of) and reliable - not something that was always said about earlier models of Lotus cars!

Fast on the heels of the Elise, came the Lotus Exige in 2000.  It's basically the same car, but rather more hard core or track oriented, and differences versus the Elise include suspension, power and more aggressive styling.

The next new model introduced by Lotus was the Evora, and this was launched in 2009.  Like the Elise and Exige, it's mid engined and has a bonded aluminium chassis, but these similarities apart, the Lotus Evora is a totally different car.

Many different versions of the Lotus Elise, Exige and Evora have been produced and it can get rather confusing.  Some are little more than styling exercises, whereas others offer real differences.

What follows are brief notes and comments on the main models.  So click on the headings below and we'll try and guide you through the some of the different variants...

Series 1 Lotus Elise & Exige

Produced from 1996 to 2000, all Lotus Elise series 1 cars have the Rover K series engine. In the standard version this produces 118bhp and although not huge amounts of horse-power, the very light weight of the car (725kg) means performance is excellent with 0 - 60mph being possible in 5.6 seconds.

For those craving extra power, which the superb chassis is well able to handle, the following derivatives are available:

Sport 135 - an extra 17bhp takes the power to 135bhp, and there's stiffer suspension and a close ratio gearbox

111S - the most popular of the uprated Lotus Elises, this has the 'VVC' head offering variable valve timing, better breathing at high revs and 143bhp. There's also a close ratio gearbox, revised springs and dampers and fatter rear tyres.

Sport 160 - considered by many to be the best Series 1 Lotus Elise, the engine puts out 158bhp and there's uprated suspension, close ratio gearbox and a taller rear wing.

340R - the most radical Lotus Elise derivative of them all. No roof, no doors, cycle wings and minimal bodyshell. A weight of only 675kg and a 177bhp (or optional 190bhp) engine provides stunning performance (0 - 60mph in 4.6 seconds).

Lotus Exige - a fixed head car, introduced in 2000 and designed for the track but still very at home on the road.  Available with either a 177bhp engine or the 190bhp VHPD (very high performance derivative) engine. Front splitter and raised rear wing create significant extra downforce to allow this variant to corner harder and faster. 

Series 2 Lotus Elise - Rover engine

Launched in 2000 the Series 2 Lotus Elise has restyled body interior and hood, lower sills to allow easier access, revised suspension for even better handling, better brakes and an extensive list of other changes.

The standard Lotus Elise comes with basically the same K series engine as in the Lotus Elise Series 1, albeit with a slightly different ECU. A little while after the launch of the Series 2 Lotus Elise, a 111S version was introduced, once again employing the VVC engine and this time producing 156bhp.

Two option packs are available on these Lotus cars, Sports Touring and Race Tech. Both feature cross-drilled brakes, different wheels, metallic paint and a number of other internal and external styling features. The Race Tech version uses Alcantara for interior trim items, whilst the Sports Touring version uses leather and also had a carpet set.

Lotus never produced a Series 2 Exige with a Rover engine, but instead waited until they brought in the Toyota engine

Series 2 Lotus Elise and Exige - Toyota engine

In 2004, Lotus started to introduce Toyota engines.  There are 1.8 litre units available in 2 versions, 2ZZ and 1ZZ.  The 2ZZ engine is used in the 111R and Lotus Exige and can be normally aspirated or supercharged and produces between 189bhp and 260 bhp depending on model and specification.   The 1ZZ engine is used in the 'entry level' Lotus Elise S.

Key models of the Toyota engined S2 Lotus Elise are:

Elise 111R - this Elise introduced in 2004 uses a 1.8 litre Toyota 2ZZ engine with a 6 speed gearbox. Power is a useful 189bhp and gives a 0 - 60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. There's also revised suspension and track-tuned ABS brakes with servo assist.  By 2007, the name had changed from Elise 111R to Elise R.

Lotus Exige & Lotus Exige S - both of these employ the 1.8 litre Toyota engine as used in the 111R. In the Lotus Exige S however, the engine is supercharged, making it good for 218bhp and a 0 - 60 mph of just over 4 seconds. Body changes compared to the 111R include re-styled front and rear clamshells, fixed roof and strut mounted rear aerofoil.

Elise S - rather confusingly named, this Elise, unlike the Exige S, is not supercharged.  It instead uses the normally aspirated Toyota 1ZZ engine which produces 134bhp and is married to a 5-speed gearbox.  This model was introduced in 2006 and became the entry level Elise.

Elise SC - this is name given to the first supercharged Elise and launched in 2008.  It has a different supercharger to the Exige, offering a more compact installation, but produces similar amounts of power - around 217bhp.

Series 3 Lotus Elise and Exige

In 2010 the 'Facelift' or Series 3 models were launched.  Front end styling cues come from the Evora range - the headlight shape is revised, the front grill is more pronounced and at the back there's a different rear bumper and engine deck.

Elise - the entry level car is now known simply as 'Elise' rather than 'Elise S' (as from this point onwards the 'S' nomenclature is reserved for supercharged models).  The engine used is the naturally aspirated 1.6 litre Toyota 1ZR unit matched to a 6 speed gearbox.  Power is 134 bhp.

Elise R - apart from the facelift changes, basically the same car as the Series 2 version

Elise SC - again, apart from the facelift changes, basically the same car as the Series 2 version

Elise S - this replaced the Elise SC and had the next generation of Euro V compliant engine, the Toyota 2ZR engine.  This is supercharged and develops the same power as the Elise SC, namely 217 bhp, but with the benefit of additional torque and lower emissions.

Club Racer - this is available in both Elise and Elise S formats.  Less weight and more minimalistic than the 'standard' cars, it provides an even better, if rawer, driving experience.

Exige S - introduced in 2012 and markedly different to the Series 2 Exige S, in that it now features a supercharged 3.5 litre Toyota V6 - the same as in the Evora S - which produces 345 bhp.  The car is also longer in order to accommodate the larger engine.

Lotus Evora

Introduced in 2009, the Lotus Evora represented the first totally new vehicle platform for Lotus since the launch of the Elise in 1996.

The Evora is powered by a 3.5 litre Toyota V6, available in both naturally aspirated and supercharged versions.  In the former, the Evora's engine produces 276 bhp, whilst in the latter, named the Evora S, the supercharger boosts things to a rather healthy 345 bhp.

Although heavier than the Elise and Exige, the Evora is still lightweight compared to most other cars, tipping the scales at around 1,400 kg.  This of course ensures a good power to weight ratio, which can be fully exploited by the excellent handling and ride.

Manual or automatic (IPS) gearbox options are available for the Evoras, and the car comes in both 2 seater and 2 + 2 format, though in reality the rear seats in the latter version aren't a lot of use for carrying passengers!


Within the above headings we've been able to do no more than scratch the surface of all the different Elises and Exiges.

If you'd like to learn more, the rather good SELOC website has lots of detail.  To access this, please click on Elise/Exige model history

If you're interested in buying a used Lotus Elise, Exige or Evora and would like to see what cars we have available in our showroom, please click on Lotus Cars for Sale

To find out more about owning a new Lotus and full details of the current range, please click on New Lotus Sports Cars

And if you would like to find out more about our workshop and what we can offer in terms of servicing, upgrades and repairs, please click on Lotus Workshop