While reading a post by James on the Lotus List, I asked for more information. I wanted to know more about the differences between the S1 and the S2 because we, in America, will only get the S2. I wanted to know if I was missing anything.

From: James Weedon
To: Michael and Lynne Sands
Date: Saturday, February 2, 2002 12:59 PM
Subject: Re: S2 now instead of an S1


To be honest I was being tactful in my posting to avoid upsetting any S1 owners! I think the S2 makes the old car look a bit rough and ready - it's almost kit car like in comparison. The general finish has improved beyond all recognition and a lot of things seem to have been much better thought out and better engineered. I guess given the limited budget the S1 was designed and produced on this isn't really a surprise ...

To be fair, my S1 was a relatively early example, (production No. 2034 - November 97 build ) so later cars were probably better screwed together. However after four years of explaining that yes the car is indeed "finished" and that "it's clever to use to cheap materials to keep the weight down" it's a welcome relief when people comment positively about the new car.

Driving wise I have only done 950 miles and I've been very strict regarding running in. As such I can't comment on the ultimate performance, but the improved throttle response and smoothness of the engine show that Lotus were right to go with their own engine management system. The engine also has a much more rorty exhaust note and seems to rev better (at least as far as I've pushed it - I've still got nowhere near seeing the 'change up' light blink). I guess the Rover engine will not be used in the US, but the improved action of the pedals will probably still be evident.

The steering feels more linear, is less affected by bump steer and generally has a smoother more even action. At low speed the ride is slightly firmer (probably due to the increased wheel size as much as the dampers), but it evens out very pleasingly at speed. I drive down some typical English country lanes on my way to work and the new car glides over pot holes and bumps that used to make the old car crash and bang. The knocking noises associated with the Konis on the old car was well documented. Thankfully the Bilsteins display no tendency towards making the same aural din at all!

Handling wise the car seems more together. With the old car there was a moment after turn in where I always felt unsure about what the car was going to do. Once the weight had transferred to the outside wheel all was well, but I found it unnerving. After I while I learnt to drive through it, but it always detracted somewhat from the pleasure of cornering in the car. The new car does not have this characteristic at all, feeling planted to the road at all times. This has really increased my confidence in the car and means I feel much more inclined to 'man handle' it through the bends when the urge takes me. All of the UK car mags said the handling is a big improvement over the old car and I agree 100%.

The roof is a revelation. The old one used to get a lot of bad press in all the magazines, but I thought it was in keeping with the car. Trouble was it used to inflate at speed and leaked. The lack of decent rubber seals also meant their was a lot of wind noise. The new roof is a lot less fiddly to deal with and stores in the boot (my S1 was one of the models where the braces could only be stored behind the seats which was an incredible pain in the b*tt).

The stereo is also a lot, lot beater. Maybe not a 'cool' thing to talk about in a Lotus, but I think music is an integral part of driving so the improved audio set-up is much appreciated. Entry and exit is not much more graceful - an extra couple of centimetres on the door sills makes a world of difference, as do the new seats (which offer much more support under the thighs and are far more comfortable than the old ones).

Downsides are the driving lights (not as powerful as before), the brakes (I preferred the MMC brakes on my S1) and the lack of a remote boot release (I keep starting the engine to warm it up, taking the roof off and then having to turn the engine off in order to unlock the boot).

The UK press have gone absolutely nuts about the car. I rate Autocar above all others and their comment on the New Elise was as follows:

"Does the impossible - betters the original Elise. Ride, handling and engine improve on a car we thought untouchable, until Hethel proved us wrong"

Couldn't have said it better myself!

With regard to increased weight, the UK version has not seen a significant gain over the old car. As I understand it the extra sound proofing and insulation has been offset by the weight saved on the new body panels (now machine built in France). They are supposedly 2/3rds the thickness of the old panels without loosing any rigidity. I guess the US model will gain some extra pounds in order to meet US regulations so it might end up being an issue ... especially after A/C etc have been added. However even if the US version is slightly heavier it is still going to be fantastic.

The old car was a peach. I loved mine to bits and had four happy years with it. However, the new one improves on it by a subtle and yet significant amount in all areas. What more can I say!