Four Cylinders of Power
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 The Toyota-made engine replaces the somewhat outdated Rover K-Series that has powered the Elise in Europe.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 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.