2015 Lotus Elise R

Launched in 1996 as a rear-wheel-drive, mid-engined roadster, the Lotus Elise replaced the aging Elan in the company’s lineup. Initially powered by a 118-horsepower, 1.8-liter Rover engine, the little roadster weighed only 1,598 pounds and was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.8 seconds. More powerful iterations, including one that came with 190 horsepower on tap, were released until the first-generation model was replaced in 2001. The second-gen sports car came with revised exterior styling and a refreshed interior, while the Rover engine was dropped in favor of a Toyota -sourced, 1.8-liter four-banger. The second-gen Elise received a mild facelift in 2011, when an entry-level, 1.6-liter unit was introduced for the European market. As we’re moving closer to 2015, Lotus began testing a new version of the Elise on the Nurburgring track.

Spotted for the very first time by our skilled paparazzi, this Elise prototype appears to be a road-legal version of the track-prepped Cup R model launched in 2013.

Click past the jump to read about the Lotus Elise R

Spy Shots

Lotus Elise R
Lotus Elise R
Lotus Elise R

The test vehicle is obviously carrying the same body kit as the Elise Cup R. Everything from the bumpers, side skirts, rear diffuser and fixed wing are identical to those seen on the race car . Even the front bonnet is similar, while the side mirrors are only a tad larger and mounted further away from the body. To the untrained eye, it might seem that we’re dealing with a mule for an updated Cup R. However, a closer look reveals that this beefed-up Elise lacks the external battery isolator switch and the fire extinguisher button the Cup R incorporates in its B-pillar. Also notice that the prototype sports a set of real headlamps, whereas the Cup R features black plastic covers.

And this could only mean one thing. Lotus is turning the track-confined Cup R into a powerful, road-legal sports car. It’s been a while since the Brits launched a new vehicle - the limited-edition Exige LF1 doesn’t count — and a street-legal Elise R would be more than welcome. Especially if it gets to keep the Cup R’s supercharged, 1.8-liter engine that comes with 217 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Naturally, we’re hoping Lotus will increase the unit’s output so that the Elise R become the most powerful sports car of the lineup.

Expected to make its official debut at the Paris Motor Show in October, the Elise R could cost more than £40,000 (about $66,500 as of 8/19/2014).

Could this new vehicle be part of Jean-Marc Gales strategy to save the brand? The Luxembourgian became the brand’s CEO in May 2014 after working for companies such as Citroen, Daimler, General Motor and Volkswagen.

Competitors

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Boxster

The Boxster may be a lot heavier than the Elise, but the base model packs enough power to overcome the weight disadvantage. Motivated by a 2.7-liter, flat-six engine, the entry-level model has 265 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque at its disposal and screams from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds when fitted with a six-speed manual transmission. When the PDK is selected, the benchmark drops to 5.4 seconds and even 5.2 seconds with the Sport+ option. Top speed sits at 164, which is certainly than what the Elise can achieve.

Fuel consumption isn’t too shabby either, despite the Porsche badge, as the Boxster returns up to 30 mpg on the highway with the manual and up to 32 with the PDK transmission. The entry-level model is priced from $51,400, apparently a lot cheaper than what an Elise R would cost around here.

Lotus Elise Cup R

Lotus Elise S Cup R

Based on the Elise S, the Elise S Cup R is a track-only model launched for the 2014 Lotus Cup series. Tipping the scales at only 2,037 pounds, the racer is powered by a supercharged, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that puts 217 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of twist to the pavement.

Fitted with revised front splitter, barge boards, winglets, rear diffuser and rear wing, the Elise S Cup R also benefits from adjustable dampers and springs. Thanks to these improvements, the sports car is four seconds faster than the standard Elise S on a 2.2-mile lap, according to the company. Hopefully this figure will be transferred to the Elise R as well.


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