Lotus have built some extremely special cars over the years. The company has been revered as a supercar manufacturer that flies under the radar when compared to giants of the industry such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche. Three of the most famous Lotuses are the Elise, Exige and Evora.
The 5 differences between the Lotus Elise, Exige, and Evora are:
For those who are new to the brand, the three models on offer may be difficult to set apart. While all of these models are fantastic cars, there are some key differences between them and the range is more diverse than most people think.
What Is Lotus?
Lotus is a British automotive company founded by Colin Chapman and Colin Dare, two engineers. The Lotus Company’s (now Lotus Cars) actual birth date is relatively unclear. Technically, Chapman created the first Lotus car in 1948. It was a race car he built himself in his garage.
Chapman and Dare founded Lotus Engineering in 1952, and the Lotus Group of Companies followed a few years later in 1959. This confusing origin story is often overlooked and majority of the credit goes to Colin Chapman for the sporty and flamboyant cars that are built by the Lotus company.
From F1 To Road Cars
Over the years, Lotus has built many respected cars, and the company has built up a reputable name for itself. With multiple short stints in Formula 1 and other racing series around the world, along with building the famous Lotus Esprit, Lotus is now mainly focused on building exciting road cars that anyone can own.
The reason why Lotus cars are so rare in most countries other than Britain is that two out of the three cars that are on offer are unable to pass US road safety regulations. In the United States, for example, the Elise and Exige are considered to be ‘too light’ to pass a road safety test.
The cars are also very exclusive and specialized, so they don’t cater to everyone, but more towards people who value a true and authentic driving experience with minimal luxuries.
Lotus Elise – The Sunday Driver
The Lotus Elise is the smallest car on offer from the British manufacturer, and also the oldest model currently available. The Elise first hit the market in 1996 and is currently in its third generation. The car was very popular among petrol heads for its authentic driving experience.
High performance and driving enjoyment were the core principles that Lotus kept in the design of the Elise. They were able to do so by keeping the car lightweight and minimizing the amount of luxuries in the car.
The car has no air conditioning, stereo or power steering as standard, all to keep the overall weight of the car as low as possible. While these can all be added on as optional extras, it’s what set the Elise apart from all the other cars on the market and created the sense of being strapped into a race car.
With the Elise, a soft top comes as standard in order to reduce the overall weight of the car. A hard top is available though as an optional extra if you prefer it. The idea is to create a car that is smaller and lighter than the other two cars on offer at Lotus.
The Elise has five different variations on offer, and while none of them come with luxuries as standard, what you get with each later model is a more powerful engine, and a lighter car. The base model features a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder Toyota engine with a power output of 130 horsepower.
The rest of the models all have 1.8-liter supercharged versions of the same Toyota engine. The power output of the engine increases slightly up to the top of the range model, the Sport 220, which has 220 horsepower available.
The Sport 220 is also the most popular Lotus Elise model. This version of the car can do 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 140 mph. While that doesn’t sound all too impressive for a ‘supercar’, the numbers weren’t always very important for Lotus.
Driving Experience Is What Matters
What was of crucial importance to them was the actual driving experience. Lotus wanted to build a car that is fun to drive and can bring the driver closer to the machine. That is exactly what the Elise does extremely well.
It shows you that you don’t need luxuries or even power steering to enjoy driving a car. The Elise also proves that you don’t even need a lot of speed and power to have fun in a supercar. This car is perfect to drive around windy mountain passes over a weekend for your own enjoyment. Just don’t expect it to be great for daily use!
Lotus Exige – The Track Car
The Exige is a very close relative to the Elise. In fact, the entire front of the car is exactly the same. The rear of the car is more closely related to the Evora. The car is considered to be a coupe version of the Elise, but it does offer a lot more than just that.
Lotus had Essentially combined the two cars together in order to test their new 3.5-liter supercharged V6 Toyota engine. After extensive testing, the Lotus test drivers loved the car that was created, and so the company decided to release the car as the Exige.
A Real Race Car
The result was a more hardcore version of the Elise. A car that is fully focused on performance and more geared towards driving on a racetrack as opposed to winding roads on a sunny weekend. More power, more grip and more downforce on the Exige meant that it had come closer to a real race car than the Elise.
The Exige has three different models on offer, and the top of the range version, the Sport 380, offers a 3.5-liter supercharged V6 Toyota engine with 380 horsepower. It can do 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 178 mph.
The car remains extremely lightweight, with an overall weight of just 1100kg. Lotus retained their philosophy of having lightweight cars, but this time adding a significant amount of extra power as well.
Lotus also gave the Exige bigger tires and brakes for some extra grip and stopping power. The result is a car that handles just as well as the Elise, but has much more power and straight-line speed, perfect for track days.
In addition, the Exige features exterior carbon fiber winglets and inlets which produce actual downforce rather than just being cosmetic. These come as standard on the car, and they are bolted on to increase the car’s high speed cornering ability.
Lotus have been reluctant to upgrade the engine to produce more than 400 horsepower though. This is because doing so would mean that the engine would need some extra cooling components and a lot of extra design work. As a result, the overall weight of the Exige would increase dramatically, therefore affecting the driving experience.
Lotus Evora – The Daily Driver
With the Evora, Lotus decided to take a different approach. Sticking with their core value of driving enjoyment, they built a car that is more suited to daily driving.
The Evora is a car that is more spacious and has more luxuries than the Elise and the Exige. The Evora has a back seat unlike the other two models, which offers enough space for passengers. While the passengers in the back seat might be slightly uncomfortable if they’re very tall, the Evora is more suited to being your everyday car.
The Evora is much more refined and offers the luxuries that are lacking in the other models. The car feels a lot more like your standard daily drivers with air conditioning, power steering, leather seats and sound proofing inside the cabin.
The Lotus Evora also has a fresh new design. Being 15 years newer than the Elise and Exige, the Evora has a much more modern look and feel to it. The new design elements can be seen from the exterior and the interior of the car.
A Bit More Expensive
It does have a significant price increase, and it will go for around the same price as a base model Porsche 911. However, the Evora offers luxuries that would be optional extras in the 911, such as satellite navigation.
On top of that, the Evora also offers more power and less weight than the base model 911. The Evora features the same 3.5-liter supercharged V6 as the Exige, except it now produces 420 horsepower and launches itself from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds. The Evora can also hit a top speed of 186 mph.
Even with all of these additions, the Evora still hasn’t lost that authentic Lotus driving experience. The car has an immense amount of grip and stability, and it remains planted through corners.
Many Evora owners also say that the car has extreme mechanical sympathy despite its incredible performance, with tires and brakes lasting a long time on the car, and reliability problems being few and far between.
Lotus Elise vs Exige vs Evora – 5 Differences
Performance is a good way of separating cars. This is especially true when it comes to supercars. Many of them are focused on numbers and performance. This, however, is not the case for Lotus, who value the overall driving experience. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to paint a clear picture of how these cars differ from one another.
Engine: Toyota 1.8-liter supercharged inline-4
Power: 140 horsepower
0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
Top Speed: 140 mph
Torque: 250 Nm
Weight: 932 kg
Downforce: 125 kg
Engine: Toyota 3.5-liter supercharged V6
Power: 345 horsepower
0-60 mph: 3.7 seconds
Top Speed: 170 mph
Torque: 420 Nm
Weight: 1100 kg
Downforce: 150 kg
Engine: Toyota 3.5-liter supercharged V6
Power: 420 horsepower
0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: 186 mph
Torque: 450 Nm
Weight: 1400 kg
Downforce: 100 kg
In a short drag race over a quarter mile, the Lotus Exige would win, albeit by a small margin with the Evora in a close second place. Being 400kg lighter will give the Exige an advantage at the start with quicker acceleration.
However, over a longer stretch the Evora would eventually reel in the Exige. The Exige produces more downforce as it picks up speed which will slow it down in a straight line. In essence, there will be more weight pushed down on the car as it gains speed, which will slow it down. The Evora’s 16 mph extra top speed will come into play over a longer distance.
Handling is a factor that cannot necessarily be measured by numbers alone, as it’s more about the actual driving experience. The only numbers we have to go on are the overall weight of the car, and the amount of downforce they produce.
Overall weight: 932 kg
Downforce: 125 kg
The Lotus Elise was initially designed as a car that you would drive for fun. Naturally this meant that the car had fantastic handling. But it’s important to remember that this car does not come with power steering as standard.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The lack of power steering will give you much more feedback as to what the car and the tires are doing during cornering. You’ll have a much better feel for the car and how it handles, very much like in a go-kart.
What this does is give you the ability to sense understeer and oversteer much more clearly, and it will also give you a good indication of how much grip the tires have at all times.
The drawbackto this is that your arms will need to have a lot of strength and stamina. Driving without power steering, especially at high speeds and through fast corners, is extremely tiring, as there’s no electronic system helping you to turn the wheels.
The fact that this car is under 1000 kg is remarkable, and you will certainly feel that when cornering. The car will feel nimble and agile. In addition, the downforce it produces will keep it planted through high-speed corners.
Overall weight: 1100 kg
Downforce: 150 kg
The Exige was built as the ultimate track car offered by Lotus, and as such, its handling has been optimized compared to its older version, the Elise. With power steering added this time, your strength won’t be as much of an issue.
The power steering allows for a much smoother and more comfortable driving experience, especially at high speeds. Plus, correcting the steering is significantly easier and not as punishing on the arms as it is with the Elise.
The car remains lightweight, less than 200 kg heavier than the Elise, which is mainly down to the upgraded engine. The car still feels very nimble and agile, but the extra power does take some of that away when you really start to push the car.
The carbon winglets and extra inlets on the exterior of the Exige provide a genuine benefit. It produces a slight amount of extra downforce. Although only 25 kg more, it can still be felt in the high-speed corners. Cornering speeds are a couple of miles per hour faster than in the Elise despite the added power. This results in an overall faster lap time.
The power steering also makes high speed corners a breeze compared to how brutal they feel in the Elise. Overall, it is clear that this car is a step up from the Elise and it is a focused track car.
Overall weight: 1400 kg
Downforce: 100 kg
The Evora is the heaviest of the three cars, being a massive 400 kg heavier than the Exige, and that can be felt instantly. Despite that, the Evora is still planted and stable throughout its cornering thanks to it retaining the Lotus philosophy of being focused on handling.
The extra weight gives it more mechanical grip which is useful in the slower corners. The extra weight shifts around the car well to guide it through the slow and medium speed bends. However, the added weight does hinder it in faster corners.
In addition, the Evora also produces less downforce than both of the other cars, which means that it is unable to make use of its extra power through the faster corners.
The Exige is the best handling car out of the three. This is purely down to it being the car that is most focused on handling and driving around a racetrack. The combination of lightweight parts and extra downforce make a huge difference.
The other two are by no means poor in terms of handling though. Lotus have stuck with their core principles in building cars that are fun and enjoyable to drive.
The price of these cars can be a huge factor for most people. As they are all built with different purposes in mind, their prices vary greatly. However, the prices are reasonable in terms of what you get in the car. Note that the prices quoted below are estimates made at the time of writing.
Entry level: $50,000
Top of the range: $91,000
The Lotus Elise comes in at a very respectable price for the entry level version. Of course, if you want to add more power or more optional extras you’re going to pay more.
Considering the fact that this is a car you’ll likely only be using over weekends for pure driving enjoyment, it’s not a bad investment. If you’re just using it for weekend drives the car will last a long time and it won’t require regular maintenance.
Entry level: $139,500
Top of the range: $209,990
While the Exige has a starting price that is far higher than an Elise, it’s important to remember that this is a very track-focused car. What you get for your money is more power and some better handling. You’re essentially buying a race-ready package for the Elise.
This is only really a car to consider if you enjoy track days and pushing your car to its limit. You most likely won’t get the most out of it if you’re driving it on public roads.
Entry level: $189,990
Top of the range: $220,220
The Evora is the most expensive car of the trio and understandably so. You get a lot of car for your money. There’s a lot of extras included here such as leather seats, more space, and most of the luxuries you can find in other supercars as well.
While it is the most expensive, you can expect to find everything you would in a car that is a similar price range such as an Audi R8 with the added bonus that the Lotus is a rarer and more exclusive car.
It all depends on what you want in your car. If you’re looking for a supercar that you can drive daily, then the Evora is not priced too badly, and it has all the extras and luxuries you need. If you’re looking for a second or third car to use as a weekend toy, then the Elise is very well priced compared to a Porsche or Lamborghini.
Mileage is crucial for all cars, but even more so in supercars. Supercars are already expensive as it is, running up the mileage can hurt your wallet even more. It’s therefore key to consider the range of each car when choosing between them.
Fuel tank capacity: 10.6 gallons
City range: 222.6 miles
Highway range: 286.2 miles
Being a lightweight, fun to drive car, the Elise doesn’t need a huge fuel tank. Lotus’ aim was to make this car as light as possible, and giving it a small fuel tank was a step in the right direction.
The Elise also wasn’t built for road trips, so range is not an important factor for the car. Instead, the tank allows you to drive this car along a winding mountain pass on a sunny day and then back home.
Fuel tank capacity: 10.6 gallons
City range: 222.6 miles
Highway range: 286.2 miles
Like the Elise, the Exige is also not built for long road trips. Using the same size of fuel tank for its weight saving capabilities was the option that Lotus went with here. The aim was to maximize the performance, and a 10-gallon fuel tank can do just that. The Exige doesn’t need a long range if it’s doing laps around a racetrack.
Fuel tank capacity: 15.9 gallons
City range: 286.2 miles
Highway range: 413.4 miles
The Evora on the other hand is more focused on its fuel economy than the other two models. Being more of a daily drive type of supercar, the Evora needed a bigger fuel tank, compromising its performance for more practicality.
At the end of the day, mileage isn’t that crucial when it comes to the Elise and Exige since they’re not cars that you would want to use every day anyway. However, if it’s good mileage that you’re looking for then the Evora is certainly the better option.
Supercars aren’t known for their practicality. In fact, Lotus cars specifically are known for being extremely impractical. That is true, to an extent, but it’s worth taking a closer look.
The Elise is about as impractical as they come. It’s basically a stripped-down car with nothing more than the parts that allow it to drive. In terms of practicality, the Elise probably scores a zero. There are no luxuries such as air conditioning or power steering, the seats are uncomfortable, and the ride is stiffened to improve its handling. There’s only room for one passenger, with no backseat.
Just like the Elise, the Exige is an extremely impractical car. Although there are some ‘luxuries,’ these are mainly to make the car go faster. These include power steering and a slightly more comfortable ride thanks to the larger tires and brakes. There’s still no backseat though!
The Evora is the most practical of the three, being kitted out with more tech and extra space. The Evora is slightly bigger, so if you’re on the taller side this car may be your only option when it comes to picking a Lotus. This car has a backseat which has more room than you might think, too.
The Evora is the most practical of the three cars, offering more space, luxuries and a much more comfortable ride than the other two models.
Which Lotus Is The Best?
In terms of which Lotus is best, it comes down to personal preference and how you intend to use the car. If you’re looking for a weekend car that can give you a raw and enjoyable driving experience, then the Elise is perfect.
If you need a car to take on a track day and to experience the thrill and adrenaline rush that racing drivers experience, then the Exige is the better option, but it might not be too great on public roads.
If you’re looking for a supercar you can show off to friends and family with all the bells and whistles, and still drive it around every day, then the Evora is the perfect Lotus for you.
Lotus offers the Elise, Exige, and Evora. For those who are new to the brand, these cars may look extremely similar, but they are different. Each one is unique and serves a different purpose, catering to different markets. Knowing the main differences between each one ensures you pick the right Lotus for your next car.