January 19, 2017

Lotus Elise Club Racer Review

The first thing that you notice when you see the 2011 Club Racer is that there’s not much to it! Most car manufacturers take a car and strip it down, remove unnecessary parts and replace those necessary with more lightweight, race orientated options and charge an arm and a (lightweight, carbon fibre) leg for the privilege but fortunately for us, this isn’t the case with the Club Racer. The car has had sound insulation removed, it comes without a stereo or speakers, no carpets, mats or cup holder to speak of and even the battery is a lightweight race type. Such luxuries as central locking weigh too much and the seats look like a thin sliver of fibreglass with a few fabric pads in the right places and Lotus even have gone so far as to make it cheaper, not more expensive!

As a package, the car is 24 kgs lighter than the standard Elise and weighs in at a very lightweight 851 kgs. The 134bhp 1.6 Toyota sourced 1ZR-FAE engine gives a power to weight ratio of 157 bhp/ton which, whilst not the biggest number in the world is not what this car is about. Following on with the success Chapman saw with lightweight cars instead of pure power, the Club Racer excels in the areas that you would buy the car to enjoy. No, it’s not a red light dragster – and no, you won’t be topping 200mph on the autobahn but yes, changing direction with speed, precision and accuracy and huge braking performance are here in droves.

We had the car for a week and drove in on a variety of roads, from a 400 mile motorway trip to ripping through the A & B roads of the English countryside, experiencing all the likely roads/surfaces/conditions you could be expected to drive the car in and on. The first thing that you notice is that on the road, the car feels like it’s egging you on. With the Lotus DPM system you’re inspired to press on when the opportunity presents itself and it’s very complimentary to the driver, making you feel that the driver and car are ultimately connected to the road and your levels of skills are perhaps beyond what they really are! The dynamic vehicle control reels in understeer when the nose is driven wide by applying small amounts of braking to the front wheels, the drag torque control making sure any sudden lift off through a corner are reeled in by applying partial throttle so that the rear wheels don’t get ahead of themselves! It’s all too easy to drive this car very quickly without fear of visiting a hedge backwards, it’s a great introduction to the Elise and what the ride and handling of a Lotus is all about. The road surface, available traction and any inclemencies are sent to the driver directly so that you keep that wonderful connection with the roads that Lotus are famous for but the suspension is soft enough to make a 200 mile journey in one hit practical and even comfortable. Seriously, you can drive that distance and get out of the car without the aches and pains associated with a much stiffer sprung car, you don’t feel you’re losing fillings over bumpy roads. It’s no GT but you could commute a fair distance in the car, it’s a comfortable drive.

For the more experienced driver looking to access more of the performance of the car handling but while still retaining a degree of safety, the DPM system comes uniquely with a ‘Sport’ mode, accessed via an easy to reach button in front of the gear stick. This allows for a slightly sharper throttle response but more importantly, more control over the movement of the car at the grip limit for the driver. Greater slip angles can be achieved and the fun is cranked up a degree or two. It’s good to explore the edges of the performance with the knowledge that within the laws of physics, any mistakes will be dealt with by the car. Once you’re confident you understand and can handle the car at and beyond the limits of the tyres, the DPM system can be switched entirely off (bar the ABS and other braking aids) which means driver and car remain completely connected, the car can be trailed braked to the apex and power laid down as soon as the wheel begins to straighten without interference. A fast steering rack aids turn-in and also helps while catching the car with opposite lock when required, with the small but really, really nice part-SuedeTex covered wheel adding to the racing feel. With practice, the lateness of your braking, the corner speed and acceleration in the latter half of the corner lead to the hugely enjoyable experience that the Elise is renown for.

Set up for the road, the Club Racer is softly sprung for regular and hardcore track work but an easily adjustable front ARB will stiffen the car noticeably and reduce body roll while cornering increasing mechanical grip, although this will compromise the everyday comfort. Fortunately being adjustable, this isn’t an issue and the car is a civil, if sparse daily driver which can jump on track as it is, or be a track monster with 15 minutes work for when your driving progresses up the ladder. The suspension components consist of Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs, world-class components as used throughout the latter Elise/Exige and also on the later Esprit and the current Evora.

For a small power increase and great exhaust note, there is a dealer fit Club Racer Power Pack available which this car had fitted giving some induction noise and a more free flow of air through the engine, with a popping/burbling from the back of the car on a trailing throttle. Other options include the comfort pack (below), Y-spoked forged wheel upgrade, soft or hard top and air conditioning plus the Club Racer comes as standard with black wheels and black rear diffuser. Other standard features of the Club Racer are: clear stonechip protection film, body colour lightweight trimmed seats, body colour centre console with ‘CR’ decal, part SuedeTex steering wheel, SuedeTex door inserts & handbrake/gearlever gaiter, matt painted rear transom panel, door mirror caps & roll hoop cover plus ‘CR’ decal on rear, A panels, roll hoop cover and dash (if no stereo fitted).

Comfort Pack (£1,000)
Radio & Speakers
Central Locking
Noise insulation
Carpets (embroidered ‘CR’)
Passenger foot rest
Mud flaps
Standard size battery
Non-adjustable ARB

As a first foray into a more serious sportscar, the Elise Club Racer is the perfect introduction. It also serves as a great way to join the Lotus family, offering hugely accessible performance with the ability to grow and condition the car as your skills allow. We took the car on a 400 mile round trip with 2 adults and enough luggage for an overnight stay and careful planning is required to pack the car, it’s only just capable but it was never made as a GT car but with the styling cues, the car attracted a lot of attention and admiration both while on the move and parked up. We saw the fuel consumption at 38.1 mpg over the trip which included motorways and enthusiastically driven A & B roads so a good cross-section, factory figures suggest a combined 45.0 mpg however this is unlikely to be 2 people and a fully loaded car. All the same, excellent fuel economy for a car which saw many gear changes at the red line and lots of exciting driving.

Base price: £27,500 / €34,450 / CHF48,900

Road Fund licence: £130 per annum

Colours: Sky Blue, Saffron Yellow, Ardent Red, Aspen White, Matt Black & Carbon Grey)

Max Engine Speed 6,800rpm cont. or 7,000rpm transient
0-60mph 6.0 seconds
0-100km/h 6.5 seconds
0-100mph (160km/h) 18.6 seconds
Max Speed 127mph (204km/h)
Fuel Cons (urban) 34.0mpg
Fuel Cons (extra-urban) 56.1mpg
Fuel Cons (combined) 45.0mpg
CO2 149g/km
Fuel Tank 40 litres (8.8 gal (UK))

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