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Lotus Elise S1 (1996 - 2001)

Last updated 26 November 2014

Wonderful handling and steering, this lightweight sports car marks Lotus's return to form
Not a practical all-weather car, cramped for larger drivers, less than perfect reliability record
2000: Ultimate K-Series cars added to the range

The Sport 160 joins range, with 160bhp from 16v Rover K-Series engine, a higher rear wing and metallic grey five-spoke alloys.

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Bugatti's tenure of Lotus might have need been the easiest of times for the company, but its one lasting legacy is that it facilitated the Elise's arrival on to the market place. Lotus' ability to produce a lightweight sports car might not have been exercised too much during the 1980s, but the Elise's all round range of abilities clearly showed that Lotus was still devastatingly capable of developing cars true to its heritage.

It was a technological marvel in terms of body engineering that not only took Lotus back to its stripped down lightweight roots, but also created its best-selling car of all. The body is created by attaching composite panels to a very light but strong chassis tub made from extruded aluminium - and the whole ensemble is literally glued together. Because of its low weight, the Elise S1 lacked a brake servo and power steering, which gave it almost supernatural amounts of feel. Performance from the stock 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine was impressive, but it was the sheer breath of the car's dynamic abilities that continue to impress.

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