With the Lotus Elise now available on the local market, and the Exige expected to follow soon, can we expect the marque's cult following to spill over into South Africa?

With the Lotus Elise now available on the local market, and the Exige expected to follow soon, can we expect the marque's cult following to spill over into South Africa?

The Elises are not new cars, but Pearl Automotive was recently awarded the rights to distribute the Lotus models, along with its existing range of Bentley, MG and Rover products in South Africa. Pearl Automotive, a subsidiary of Imperial Group Holdings, currently has a dealer network of 19 outlets.

The Lotus Elise has achieved cult status in the United Kingdom by virtue of its made-for-the-track hardcore sports car credentials. Local enthusiasts also receive the most powerful Elise to date - the 111R is powered by Toyota's 141 kW 2ZZ-GE 1,8 litre 16-valve VVTL-i engine. The Elise 111R has an epoxy-bonded aluminium tub chassis and the model rides on Eibach coaxial coil springs and Bilstein high pressure monotube gas dampers. With a kerb weight as low as 860 kg (unladen with no options), the sparsely-equipped model accelerates to 100 km/h in 5,2 seconds and reaches a top speed of 241 km/h.

For the first time, track-tuned ABS (with servo assisted brakes) will be offered on the Elise 111R.

The fully Euro IV Emissions Compliant engine helps the Elise to return 8,8 litres/100km on the combined cycle, as well as 208g/km of CO2 emissions.

The Elise was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motorshow in 1995 before entering production the next year, with first deliveries in August 1996. Since then, over 17 000 Elises have been built - some achievement for a car that was originally designed to be built in volumes of only 700 a year!

All Lotus Elises are hand assembled by skilled craftsmen at Lotus' headquarters in Hethel, England. Each Elise takes about 100 man-hours to build.

The link between the Elise and the race track remains strong, and the facia and trim combination with the chassis tub sides reinforces the experience of being in a racing derived cockpit. Despite its spartan interior, a four-speaker Blaupunkt stereo system with CD player is provided as standard, along with a radio receiver wiring loom (with dipole aerial kit) located at the front of the 111R.

The chassis received modifications in 2000, including lower, reinforced longitudinal sills to improve access into the cockpit, and further enhancements were been made to the rear structure with the introduction of the VVTL-i engine.

The unique Bridgestone Potenza RE040 tyres (175/55R16 front and 225/45R17 rear) have been carried over from the Lotus Elise and the Elise 111S.

Toyota's 1,8 litre 16-valve engine and six-speed gearbox were chosen for their combination of power and torque characteristics and lightweight alloy construction. The engine management system, bifurcated exhaust downpipe and gearshift mechanism were developed by Lotus and the car was subjected to rigorous testing in extreme heat and cold and at altitude.

Standard equipment for the Elise 111R includes a half-leather interior, central door locking, Blaupunkt Lausanne radio CD-R/W player and Blaupunkt high performance front and rear speakers.

Optional equipment includes a Touring Pack, which comes with auxiliary front driving lights, a choice of either full leather or Alcantara trim, a soft-top with sound and thermal insulation, electric windows, an upgraded Blaupunkt Woodstock DAB radio, CD-R/W and MP3 player, interior stowage net, sound insulation, and full carpet with a lightweight aluminium passenger footrest.

Other options include metallic paint, air-conditioning and a body-coloured hard top.

Options for the basic Lotus Elise with the 89,7 kW engine are minimal, and include a stowage net, four-speaker stereo system, a new range of paint colours and leather seats. Externally, a hard top and front driving lights are also available as options. Air-conditioning is standard on all models.

Prices range from R 375 000 for the Lotus Elise 111 to R480 000 for the 111R.

Original article from Car