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on Tue, 04/05/2010 - 17:00

The performance output of the Elise Sports Tourer in standard guise is 120 brake horse power. The immediate reaction to this tends to be that 120bhp doesn’t sound like very much and indeed a direct comparison with other sports cars from the same era does show it wanting. A 2003 Porsche Boxster has nearly twice the power at 225bhp and a Porsche 996 further still at 325bhp. However, I don't think this paints the full picture and while the Elise may not have the stats to brag about down the pub I think it can more than hold its own with those in the know.

The key to the Elise is of course weight, or lack there of. Spend enough time reading car forums and you will soon find that it is power to weight ratio that is a far better measure of a car's performance and this is where the little Elise starts to close the gap on the more powerful machines. Some of my upgrades, such as the sports exhaust, have helped reduce the weight a little further while bringing other benefits along with them (such as a delightful soundtrack).

When it comes to cars I'm not particularly a statistics man. I'm much more interested in how a car feels, responds to input and I won't lie, how it looks. That being said I won’t be defensive of 120bhp without first breaking it down. After all, when I was initially looking for a Lotus Elise I wanted the 160bhp 111S version. Its natural, the BHP number is higher and it has an "S" so it must be better. The truth is the 111S is the superior car but at the time I was constrained by budget and an entry level Lotus is better than no Lotus in my mind. In hindsight the Sports Tourer might have saved me a good chunk on insurance for the first few years as well so maybe things worked out for the better.

When I first drove the Elise I found the speed and acceleration to be more than adequate, but then I was 23 and coming from a Vauxhall Corsa. 5 years on I feel slightly different, but not a lot. There are times, usually on the motorway, when I find myself wishing there was a bit more top end acceleration to compete with some of the super saloons. The rest of the time I still find the acceleration and speed creates enough of an adrenaline rush to put a grin on my face, particularly when pressing on with the revs. Going round corners or up hill I find the Elise comes into its own and few cars I have driven compete. Over time I have become more accustomed to the car and my general driving ability has improved. I've also been fortunate enough to drive some pretty exotic cars since my first drive in the Elise (see some of the supercar write ups on my Track Days page). Taking all that on board I am happy with the Elise's performance.

There are those that look to upgrade the engine and fair play to them. Although with performance upgrades often voiding warranties, upping insurance costs and increasing the risk of things blowing up it isn't really for me. I'm not against upgrades and have done a few bits and pieces, but nothing that really has an impact on the overall power output. I think it is all too easy to get hung up on trying to grab a few extra bhp when time would be far better spent just getting out and enjoying the car for what it is.

Will I be out dragged on the motorway by a Porsche Boxster? Probably, but I know where I'd rather be when it comes to the twisty bits.

As an aside, I do think I will get the Elise onto a dyno at some point to find out what its true power output really is. Watch this space.