Despite new materials and efforts to improve fuel economy, most cars are significantly heavier now than equivalent models from a few decades ago, due to a greater focus on safety and luxuries modern buyers now expect. There is, of course, one notable exception to the rule. Lotus doesn't sell many cars, but its whole range adheres to the simplify, then add lightness philosophy of founder Colin Chapman, and the Elise Sprint is no exception.
Although it constantly works to make incremental improvements to the base Elise package, the Sprint represents the biggest single weight-cut Lotus has made since the first-gen model debuted in 1996. The engineers at Hethel have cut 41 kg (90 lb) from the standard car, for a dry weight of just 798 kg (1,798 lb). In comparison, the carbon-tubbed Alfa 4C tips the scales at around 1,000 kg (2,201 lb) and the Alpine A110 comes in at 1,080 kg (2,381 lb).
The weight savings come from a long shopping list of specialized parts, starting with a lithium-ion battery, carbon race seats and lightweight forged-alloy wheels. Those three parts alone cut 20 kg (44 lb) compared to the standard car. The engine cover, roll-hoop cover and some smaller panels are now wrought in carbon fiber, saving 6 kg (13 lb) more, while an optional set of two-piece brake discs shave an extra 4 kg (8.8 lb).
Along with these special Sprint package changes, the non-Sprint Elise has been treated to a set of weight-saving measures. A revised front bumper cuts 8.7 kg (19 lb) and the new rear-end is home to two light clusters rather than four. Still need proof no-one does weight reduction like Lotus? The light cluster redesign was chosen (in part) because it saves 300 grams (0.66 lb).
All the changes are small on their own, but even little changes add up to make a big difference. The sprint to 60 mph (98 km/h) takes just 5.9 seconds in the base Elise Sprint, and 4.1 seconds in the more powerful Elise 220 Sprint, while the weight cuts should also help with fuel economy. That's not really the point here, but it's yet another by-product of aggressive weight savings.
"Once again, the Elise continues to redefine what is possible in terms of adding lightness to a sports car," says Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales. "An agile, lightweight sports car does not weigh just over a tonne. It should weigh substantially less and, it is a fantastic achievement from Lotus in ensuring that the fully type approved new Elise now dips below the 800 kg barrier."
The Elise Sprint will be on sale for £37,300 (US$46,248) when it lands in showrooms this coming May. Make sure to tie yours down in a storm – it might blow away.
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