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My Lotus Diary August 2001

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10th August 2001

Looks like an Exige S2 is likely to surface very soon. This must bode well for an Elise power upgrade as no one is going to buy an Exige with 120bhp. Rumours of supercharging abound but only time will tell! The Elise stage II power upgrade is yet to be officially announced but it was suggested that Lotus were cheeky enough to test it in a mule S2 at the Hethel sprint meeting last week.

The K-series engine is also coming to the end of it's useful lifetime so it should be interesting to see what it's replaced by. The K-series emmissons rule out a US variant of the Elise and Lotus have a strong commitment to enter this market in 2002. Running two drive-trains is not ecomonic, so the K-series engine has a very limited lifetime. The options open to Lotus are to use the next generation engine from MG/Rover, to develop their own engine, or to find another supplier. Lotus cannot afford to develop another engine solely for Elise use but, a joint development with MG or Proton is a distinct possibility. Some people talk of the GM unit being used but, to use such a heavy block is not in keeping with the Elise philosophy and would require a new chassis for the Elise, or adoption of the longer VX220 chassis. If Lotus were going to move to a longer chassis then why develop an Exige S2 on the existing S2 chassis?

Either way, an enforced engine or chassis change basically means an Elise S3 (or is it an S2.5 if only the engine changes?) is going to appear in 2002. If the bodywork also changes at the same time (not so unlikely now that a cheaper process is used), then I hope it is more classically beautiful (less angular) than the S2 but keeps its meaner appearance.

12th August 2001

Saw my first Elise S2 on the roads today (not a demonstrator). A Colbalt Blue car in the rain. It would appear that the owners lives only a few streets away from me.

15th August 2001

In the Auto Express safety test the S2 comes last due to it's lack of safety features and poor braking distances. They do mention the chassis protection but only manage to stop the elise in 27.18m (in the dry) from 40mph, making it the worst car tested. In the text however they say they managed to get it down to 18.67m after practice, making it the 3rd best car! Surely a pre-requisite for this test is that the driver knows how to drive the car? Stamping on the pedal to lock the wheels is not going to provide very good stopping distances. It's no wonder that motoring journalists have litte credibility. The Elise was one of two cars without ABS tested but it looks like future European legislation is coming in to make ABS a compulsory feature. Full test to appear soon in press section. I have been forced to write to this magazine for the second time in two weeks.

Nick Adams sums it up better than I can on the OLC BBSRemote site so I've included his response here:

"I needn't say how disappointed we all were to see the results of the Auto Express tests this week, and even more so with the shock horror nature of the report in the Daily Express, but that's life I'm afraid....

As you all know the entire philosophy of the Lotus Elise is to provide the driver with the purest possible driving experience. As such all of the driver/car interfaces such as the steering, the throttle and the brakes have been carefully tuned to provide the very best feedback to the driver so that the car's limits can easily be sensed. This uncompromising approach rewards the driver with what AutoCar magazine was recently moved to describe as brake pedal feel that is second to none among road cars (because) of the lack of Anti-lock and Servo assistance. The Elise brakes have been carefully specified to offer consistent braking performance under the harshest of conditions and have been praised by magazine road testers worldwide. The absence of any Anti-lock (ABS) system is usually considered an acceptable penalty in return for such finesse.

Lotus' policy with regard to vehicle safety is long established; it is equally important to design a car to be capable of avoiding an accident as it is to make the car safe in the event of an accident. This approach, known as primary safety, demands a degree of agility and response from the chassis which few, if any other, manufacturers can achieve. Lotus does so by making no compromises in the specification of the chassis construction and suspension design, along with paring off unnecessary mass wherever possible to minimise the cars inertia. The ultra low mass of the car means that only relatively modest brake dimensions are necessary to deliver truly stunning stopping power; AutoCar's road test results of 23.8m from 50mph to 0 speak for themselves. Lotus does not offer ABS on the Elise because it believes the inclusion of such driver aids detract from the purity of the driving experience, where a competent driver can utilise the extraordinary levels of feedback from the braking system to stop the car safely in very short distances.

The braking tests performed by Auto Express did not take into account the quality of the braking system. They simply measured the effectiveness of the ABS system fitted to the cars tested by overloading the brake pedal until the ABS was in full operation. As a result, the two cars not fitted with ABS automatically came last in the test because they both locked wheels under the excessive pedal force. The Lotus Elise came last in the test precisely because its brakes are so powerful in comparison to its mass; the brakes locked the wheels as soon as the force was applied and the car therefore slid further than the other non ABS car tested. It is worth noting that when Auto Express test drivers repeated the test without locking the wheels the car recorded the third best stopping distance of the day, confirming that the brakes are indeed more than adequate.

Lotus has very high confidence in the overall safety of the Elise, a fact that is confirmed by its willingness to include the car in the Auto Express safety review. It is important to keep the context of any car in mind when comparing it with others; if the braking test had allowed for a competent driver the car would have shown one of the best results of the day. Lotus strongly believes that it should encourage better, more responsible driving and takes great pride in its highly acclaimed Driver Training Experience, which is open to all drivers, not just those lucky enough to own a Lotus. I hope this reassures you all and puts the record straight."

17th August 2001

I received a response to my e-mail to Auto Express, from one of the test drivers involved. The summary of it was that in the real world people do just jump on the brake pedal, hence the test and its associated results. The Elise also needs ABS and a few other driver aids, which would do nothing to dilute the Elise experience.

I'm sorry but I don't agree. On the occasions that I've had to perform emergency stops, the wheels did not lock and the car always scared me with it's ability to stop so quickly. If people go driving round in the wet at stupid speeds, expecting ABS to help them out when they make an error of judgement, then they deserve what they get. ABS is a safety device and not a sports accessory. If it's going off every time you touch the brake pedal then you are not driving safely. If ABS could be fitted to the Elise, without compromising handling and driver involvement then it would be a worthy option for some drivers but, making it compulsory on such a driver orientated car would be criminal.

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