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How the Lotus Elise Works

        Auto | British

Four Cylinders of Power
Elise engine bay
Elise engine bay
Photo courtesy Group Lotus PLC

The Elise's engine contrasts sharply with some of the hefty engines in today's European supercars. The Toyota-made engine replaces the somewhat outdated Rover K-Series that has powered the Elise in Europe. The 1.8-liter, water-cooled, naturally-aspirated engine has an all-aluminum four-cylinder block with ­dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and an 11.5:1 compression ratio. It is placed in a mid-engine configuration, just behind the driver.

This engine is similar to the one found in the Toyota Celica GT-S, but with an updated intake system and exhaust and an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) tuned specifically for Lotus (Road & Track, August, 2004). It's cranks out 190 horsepower at 7,800 rpm, producing 138 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm. If you've been looking at the Ferraris and Corvettes of the world, those numbers might seem a bit low. Keep in mind that the Lotus isn't meant to be a roaring beast of a car -- it's meant to be incredibly agile.

The Elise is designed for high-performance handling.
The Elise is designed for high-performance handling.
Photo courtesy Group Lotus PLC

The Elise comes with Toyota's variable valve timing and lift (VVTL-i) installed. This allows the engine to switch to a different profile on the camshaft when a high rpm is detected. To put it simply, this gives the engine an extra kick at about the 6,200-rpm level. Both Motor Trend and Road & Track report that the system has been refined to provide a smoother transition to the high-rpm cam profile than in previous Toyota engines.

The engine is mated to a six-speed, close-ratio manual transmission (also from Toyota), designed to offer short, quick shifts as power is transferred to the rear wheels. A shift light lets the driver know when he's getting close to the redline, which in the Elise is 8,000 rpm.

Next, we'll take a closer look at what makes a Lotus a Lotus -- low weight and great handling.


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