Tested: 2008 Lotus Elise SC

From the September 2008 issue of Car and Driver.

We dreamed, perhaps unrealistically, that the addition of a supercharger to the Elise’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder would be akin to dropping a small-block V-8 into the 2043-pound roadster. If you’re expecting that sort of torqued-out transformation, you’ll be a bit disappointed. But let’s say you’d just like an Elise that is less peaky and a little quicker than the naturally aspirated version, a car whose power curve looks like Piet Mondrian drew it.

For those unfamiliar with the standard Elise, its power delivery at 6500 rpm is akin to getting an injection of adrenaline to the heart; at that rpm the cam phasing changes, and the Elise hurtles forward violently. Supercharging the Elise smoothes out the engine’s bipolar behavior like a good dose of lithium. The Elise becomes a more docile and tractable car, a better citizen and certainly easier to live with. Boost from the supercharger totals only 5 psi, low enough that Lotus doesn’t even alter the 11.5:1 compression ratio or add an intercooler. Even at low rpm the Elise SC feels satisfyingly strong; power builds progressively, and the cam change is virtually undetectable. All 218 horsepower (a scant 19 more) arrive at 8000 rpm with max torque (156 pound-feet, 23 more than before) coming 1800 rpm sooner, at 5000 rpm.

AARON KILEYCar and Driver

Surprisingly, the SC’s 0-to-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds was a 10th slower than the naturally aspirated Elise we tested in ’04 but quicker than the 4.8-second sprint of a naturally aspirated Lotus Elise we tested last year. We’re thinking that first Elise may have been an unnaturally fleet example.

HIGHS: A little more power everywhere, direct and sharp responses, a day-to-day race car.
LOWS:
Getting in and out, fussy top, $8230 more than the regular Elise, interior creaks.

AARON KILEYCar and Driver

Supercharger and rearview-blocking rear spoiler aside, the Elise SC is pretty much the same as the regular Elise. It has sharp and flavorful steering, quick responses, huge grip, and it’s sometimes creaky and nearly impossible to get into with the top in place. In short, the SC retains all of its charm.

For ’08, the entire Lotus lineup gained lower-gloss interior plastics and new instruments, the Exige S lost its intercooler and two horses, and the newly named and intercooled Exige S 240 gained 20 horsepower. No major changes are planned for 2009.

AARON KILEYCar and Driver

Specifications

SPECIFICATIONS

2008 Lotus Elise SC

VEHICLE TYPE
mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door targa

PRICE AS TESTED
$58,020 (base price: $55,425)

ENGINE TYPE
supercharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection
Displacement
110 in3, 1796 cm3
Power
218 hp @ 8000 rpm
Torque
156 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm

TRANSMISSION
6-speed manual

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 90.5 in
Length: 149.0 in
Width: 67.7 in  
Height: 44.0 in
Curb weight: 2043 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 4.5 sec
100 mph: 12.0 sec
130 mph: 26.6 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 5.6 sec
1/4 mile: 13.3 sec @ 104 mph
Top speed (drag limited): 145 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 157 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.97 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 20 mpg

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 22/20/26 mpg

c/d testing explained

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