Lotus Elise production ending after 25 years

Lotus Elise and Exige final models announced

This year (2021) marks the 25th and final year of production for both the Lotus Elise and the Exige, and Lotus has pushed the boat out with more power and features.

Lotus has gone all out to give the Elise and the Exige the send-offs they deserve. An icon of the motoring world, the Lotus Elise will end production this year after 25 years. To send both vehicles out with a bang, Lotus has announced Final Edition versions of both the Elise and Exige.

There are two Final Edition Elise variants and they both get tweaked interiors with an all-new TFT dashboard with the option of two different dash layouts, one with a conventional set of dials and the other a race car-style with digital speed read-out and an engine speed bar. The steering wheel is of a new design and clad in leather and alcantara. It features a flat base to create better leg clearance for taller drivers and to aid ingress and egress. Every car comes with a Final Edition build plaque, plus new seat trim and stitch patterns.

The Lotus Elise Sport 240 has been tuned to thump out more power (replacing the Sport 220 at the top of the tree) with 0-96km/h being dispatched in around 4.1 seconds. It adds 10-spoke Anthracite lightweight forged alloy wheels as standard (6J x 16-inch front and 8J x 17-inch rear). They’re 0.5kg lighter than the wheels on the Elise Sport 220 and shod with Yokohama V105 tyres (195/50 R16 front and 225/45 R17 rear).

Lotus Elise and Exige final models announced

Further weight savings can be achieved with an extensive range of optional carbon fibre panels, including sill covers and engine cover, lithium-ion battery plus a lightweight polycarbonate rear window. With all the lightweight options chosen, the mass of the Elise Sport 240 reduces further from 922kg to 898kg.

The Final Edition Lotus Elise Cup 250 gets a new front splitter, rear wing, rear diffuser and side floor extension to improve aerodynamics and downforce at speed. In fact, at 100mph it produces 66kg of downforce, increasing all the way to its 154mph top speed.

It runs new 10-spoke Diamond Cut ultra-lightweight M Sport forged wheels (7J x 16” front and 8J x 17” rear) with Yokohama A052 tyres (195/50 R16 front and 225/45 R17 rear). The standard equipment includes Bilstein sport dampers and adjustable anti-roll bars, a lightweight lithium-ion battery and polycarbonate rear window. Other lightweight carbon fibre options, as on the Elise Sport 240 Final Edition, are available reducing the mass to an unladen weight of just 931kg.

What about the Exige? The Exige range is celebrated in its final year of production with three new models – the Exige Sport 390, Exige Sport 420 and Exige Cup 430. They all mirror the interior tweaks from the Elise.

Lotus Elise and Exige final models announced

All models are powered by a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 with a baffled sump, and the steering us unassisted. The Exige benefits from a bespoke version of Lotus’ pioneering bonded aluminium chassis, a unique rear subframe and forged aluminium double wishbone suspension at the rear.

The new Exige Sport 390 replaces the outgoing Exige Sport 350. The power increase comes from tweaks to the calibration for the Edelbrock supercharger with charge cooling. Linked to a light weight of 1138kg, the Exige Sport 390 accelerates to 96km/h in just 3.7 seconds. The aerodynamic tweaks generate 70kg of downforce at the rear and 45kg at the front for a total of 115kg at top speed.

Lotus Elise and Exige final models announced

The Exige Sport 420 Final Edition tops out at 180mph with 0-96km/h dispatched in 3.3 seconds. The list of standard equipment is impressive. Front and rear Eibach anti-roll bars are adjustable and the three-way adjustable Nitron dampers allow for different high and low speed compression settings. Stopping power comes from AP Racing brakes with forged, four-piston calipers and two-piece J-hook brake discs. 

The Cup 430 remains the range-topping Exige. The radical aero package is not for show; the Exige Cup 430 generates as much downforce at 100mph as the Exige Sport 390 does at 170mph. Weighing just 1110kg the power-to-weight ratio hits a staggering 387bhp per tonne. With 440Nm of torque from 2600rpm, 0-96km/h is completed in 3.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 174mph. Downforce is balanced at all speeds, with the car generating 76kg at the front and a further 95kg at the rear, giving a total of 171kg.

Every car comes with motorsport-grade carbon fibre panels including the front splitter, front access panel, roof, diffuser surround, enlarged air-intake side pods, one-piece tailgate and race-derived rear wing. In addition to revised steering arm geometry to increase bump steer, handling can be altered via the Nitron three-way adjustable dampers (high and low speed compression plus rebound adjustment) and Eibach adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars, both as standard. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (215/45 ZR17 front and 285/30 ZR18 rear) are fitted to ultra-lightweight 10 spoke diamond cut lightweight forged alloy wheels (7.5J x 17” front, 10J x 18” rear). Braking comes via forged, four-piston AP Racing brake calipers and higher thermal capacity two-piece J-hook brake discs front and rear. 

When production of the Lotus Elise, Exige and Evora ends later this year, the final combined production total will be around 55,000 cars. Together they account for more than half of Lotus’ total road car production since the first Lotus in 1948.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.