Short Take Road Test: 2008 Lotus Elise SC
By Tony Quiroga 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.
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.
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.