First Drive Review: 2008 Lotus Elise SC
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track
Pala, California — The premium to be paid for the new 2008 Elise Supercharged is $8230 — and it's worth every penny. The new Lotus, with its 218 bhp and extra torque made down low at 4000 rpm (but peaking with 153 lb.-ft. at 5500 rpm), is likely one of the fastest ways through any mountain pass. The addition of 26 lb. in the form of a Magnusson M45 Roots-type supercharger and miscellaneous bits are all that's added to make a great car superb. Weight is kept to a wet 2006 lb.
The Toyota-sourced 2ZZ inline-4 engine is the same, but with a custom manifold that integrates the supercharger. It's missing the power of the Exige S 240 (22 less bhp) mostly due to the lack of an intercooler, as the Elise doesn't have the space for it. Everything on the car is mechanically the same for the SC and normally aspirated model.
However, for 2008 there are some revisions. Only Touring and Sport package options will be available for the Elise. Traction control and a limited-slip differential are available as well, but Lotus recommends the LSD only for the most demanding of tight tracks, as it takes away from the balanced nature of the car at speed. All cars receive a new instrument panel that is in reverse colors of the original — it's now white on black. The panel is better integrated with improved readability, red coloring for the multi-function display and three-tier shift lights. Those lights are a little difficult to see in bright daylight, but the engine and intake noise are more than enough to gauge rpm.
Unlike the base Elise's non-supercharged 1.8-liter that must be constantly flogged to keep up momentum, the SC car lunges forward with eagerness — the engine's torque making for instant response. Finally, Lotus has an engine with the same telepathic response as its revered steering.
A new twist to the car is that the ECU varies the cam switchover of the variable-lift Toyota engine depending on throttle usage: Heavy on the throttle and the cams switch at 4000 rpm. Gradual progression and it switches at 6200 rpm. This keeps the engine from falling off the cams between shifts like the naturally aspirated version, and adds to that feel of constant thrust. Fuel economy is a respectable 20/26 mpg, making the required premium fill-ups "not so bad."
May every reader be so lucky as to experience the perfection of an Elise on a sunny Sunday morning chasing down lesser cars or motorbikes on their favorite back road. The amount of luck necessary for a base SC is $54,000. Add the leather, i-Pod adapter, cupholder and refinement of the Touring pack for $1600, or the Performance Package with a stiffer ride, forged wheels, lighter ProBax seats and traction control for $2600. If you must have the torque-sensing LSD, it's $1790 and requires traction control. I'll take the base SC car in British Racing Green, thank you.