Lotus Elise Suspension comparo: Base Vs Nitron 46mm SA Vs Penske SA

One of the great things about being a car guy in CA is that there is a large number of fellow addicts around. This means that if you ever want to put some high dollar upgrades on a car you can usually find someone with a similar setup and get some first hand info about it. The latest to take advantage of this was Vincent from the GGLC who has been thinking of getting a set of single adjustable coilovers for his Elise and was having a tough time deciding between the Nitron 46mm Race Pro 1-Way and the BWR Penske Single Adjustable. Since the shocks run $2500+ he sent out some feelers on the forums and was able to get 3 cars together to try some back to back to back driving on some interesting roads for a highly subjective and completely unscientific comparison.

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Mag Blue (Vincent)
2005 Elise
Base suspension
LSS wheels
R888 tires

Black (Scott)
2008 Exige S 240
Nitron 46mm Race Pro 1-Way (450/600 “soft” springs)
Exige Wheels
R888 tires
A-arms for extra camber

Titanium (Rahul)
2006 Elise
BWR Penske SA (500/700 “street/track” springs)
Rota wheels (15/16)
RA1 tires wider than stock (205/50R15 245/45R16)
Aligned, lowered and corner balanced to BWR spec

Route
The road we used for the test was CA-35 from CA-92 upto Alices Restaurant which is an extremely bumpy road with lots of cracks and undulations. It is however quite a twisty road so is very popular with sports cars, bikers and cyclists. We also did drive La Honda road from Alices down to CA-1 but that section of road is so smooth that we could barely tell the difference and ended up using the original stretch again.

This was far from a scientific test and is basically about subjective feel of the various suspensions on a fairly bumpy road. We did not have any specific test criteria going into this and just wanted to drive all 3 cars. I am just going to describe my feedback from all 3 in the order I drove them:

Nitron 46mm Race Pro 1-Way (450/600)
The first car I drove was Scotts Exige S240 on the Nitrons. The car was set to 15 FFH front and rear which is a little softer than the recommended Nitron settings. The two things I noticed were that the steering was a lot lighter (extra camber A-arms) and that ride did feel pretty harsh on the on the bumpy sections. I had plenty of confidence in the car but I was feeling a lot of bumps and vibration through both the seat and the wheel. That said it certainly was not undrivable – just harsher than I would want on an everyday drive.

Lotus Base Suspension
I thought the Nitrons were harsh but when I drove the base car over the same section of road I realised just how much worse the base car is. It was crashing and skipping over the bumps and got lots of unpleasant feedback through the wheel. I should add that this is in relation to the Nitron/Penskes only – the base suspension Elise is still an incredibly capable car and I drove mine for 90k miles on that suspension including dozens of trips down CA-35. Driving the base car is still a great experience and only felt bad because it was sandwiched between two more capable (and more expensive) setups.

BWR Penske Single Adjustable
After driving the other cars I took my car for a spin down the same road just to see how it handled those bumps. While I have ~800 miles on these shocks most of them were at COTA and I had not driven a truly bumpy road on them before. The car started the day in my “highway” settings of FS/FS-5 which are significantly softer than BWR suggested settings for the street. These settings disconnect you from road harshness and expansion joints but can hit the stops on big bumps which is no fun. After Vincent drive in my car he said it felt too soft so I moved it up to FS+10/FS+25 for Scott before following him on the second run. I did notice that the rear appeared to be “bouncing” a lot over the bumps which is something he reported as well at the next stop. I started out the first couple of miles on the same settings and quickly realised that while there was no high frequency harshness the car was just too bouncy and underdamped over the bumps. I pulled over and bumped it to FS+15/FS+35 which gave it a much more compliant ride with minimal harshness (less than the Nitrons).

Final results
In the end I have to say that the Nitrons and the Penskes are both a significant improvement over stock in terms of comfort and drivability. From this informal test I’d have to say that the Penskes can be adjusted to a softer setup (this might also be due to the extra tirewall from the 15/16 wheels) but some folks can find that to be too “Cadillac-y” and unconnected. The Nitrons were very good on the smoother sections but cannot be made as “soft” as the Penskes. That said we dont know if the softer adjustments cause the Penskes to lose a bit on track (not AutoX). I have driven 3 days at COTA with Penskes but that is possibly the smoothest track in the US plus without a back-to-back its hard to really judge.

In the end if you want a good aftermarket suspension you cant really go wrong with either of these options and both vendors will work further with you to come up with the right package for your specific needs. They are both a massive upgrade over stock in terms of drivability and I wish I had bought them years ago instead of waiting 90k miles to make the change.

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Update: Added a note that the ride comfort of the Penskes is affected by the extra tire wall from the smaller wheels.

New Lotus Exige Sport 350 – Light is Right

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As the ultimate incarnation of the world famous Exige, Lotus has revealed the Sport 350, the latest version of the class-leading and award winning sports car, that’s lighter and faster than ever before.

The new Exige Sport 350 is the next model in the range to mark the reintroduction of the renowned ‘Sport’ naming designation. It joins the recently announced Lotus Elise Sport and Elise Sport 220 – delivering a lighter and even more performance-focused driving experience.

Concentrating on what Lotus does best, and with a focus on pure performance, the two-seater has been developed to deliver an unrivalled experience for the driver, being sharper and more direct than previous models. Drawing on the core elements that have made the Exige a firm favourite with driving enthusiasts, the Exige Sport 350 combines Lotus’ lightweight extruded aluminium chassis structure with muscular and aerodynamically efficient composite bodywork.

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A product of Lotus’ ‘Lightweight Laboratory’, the Exige Sport 350 weighs just 1125 kg and has shed 51 kg compared to the previous model Exige S. This reduction in mass is the result of a thorough re-evaluation designed to deliver a pure driving experience.

Lotus engineers weighed every component in the previous Lotus Exige S in order to save weight, the result of which includes, amongst many other changes, the introduction of a louvered tailgate panel, a lighter battery, lightweight engine mounts, a lightweight centre console featuring an exposed gearshift mechanism, lighter HVAC pipework and the optimised use of sound insulation.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus plc, commented: “The Lotus Exige is already regarded as one of the world’s best sports cars and a benchmark for performance and handling both on road and on track. With the Exige Sport 350 we took an already phenomenally quick car and made it even faster, more dynamic and more pure, perfectly demonstrating our Lotus design philosophy of ‘lighter and faster’.”

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The 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine generates 345 hp and 295lbft of torque at 4500rpm, offering scintillating, progressive power to the road, while revised suspension tuning and wheel geometry contribute to un-matched vehicle dynamics and steering precision. Coupled with the car’s lower mass, this power and torque enables the Lotus Exige Sport 350 to accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds (0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds) before reaching a top speed of 170 mph (274 km/h).

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The manual gearbox has been heavily revised, giving more precise and quicker shifting. The gearshift mechanism uses light weight machined and cast aluminium components which are so technically aesthetically appealing they are no longer hidden within the transmission tunnel but exposed through an open-gate design, further reducing weight.

The Lotus Exige Sport 350 is also available with a 6-speed automatic option where drivers can change gears manually via forged aluminium paddles located behind the steering wheel, or rely on the gearbox’s fully automatic mode. The automatic gearbox control panel is integrated neatly into the centre console of the cockpit, with buttons for Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Up-shifts take just 240 milliseconds, with rapid downshifts accompanied by automatic throttle-blip (when in Sport mode).

When fitted with the optional automatic gearbox, the new Exige Sport 350 is slightly quicker for 0-62 mph (0-100km/h), clocking a time of 3.8 seconds against 3.9 seconds for the manual gearbox, due to electronically optimised gearshifts.

Replacing the previous car’s glass tailgate, the newly designed lightweight, strong and stiff, rear louvered tailgate not only helps lower the Exige’s centre of gravity, but also aids engine bay cooling – a feature first introduced on the Lotus Esprit Turbo in 1980.

The Exige Sport 350’s aerodynamic styling produces 42 kg of down force at 100 mph (160 km/h) with the rear wing and flat underside both contributing to its phenomenal aerodynamic performance and finely balanced handling.

The Exige Sport 350’s suspension, with firmer dampers and revised geometry, delivers more responsive handling and, combined with a lowered centre of gravity and four piston brake calipers, help it lap Lotus’ test track 2.5 seconds faster than the previous Exige S model, in a time of 1 minute 29.8 seconds. This makes it the first production Lotus ever to go sub 1 minute 30 seconds around the famed Hethel track.

Lotus Dynamic Performance Management (DPM) provides three discrete modes – ‘Drive’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ – with the latter offering increased levels of traction slip threshold, allowing wider drift angles before intervening. The system also opens the engine exhaust bypass valve at mid-to-high engine speeds. Both ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ settings increase throttle responsiveness.

New larger switches with improved haptics have been introduced for the DPM system (Sport and Race) with the headlights and rear fog lights mounted together with the vehicle’s new engine start button.

New trim packs introduce a heritage theme to the cabin with lightweight sports seats and door panels clad in red or yellow Tartan (leather or Alcantara interior trim options are also available). The Tartan theme was first introduced in 1976 in the Lotus Esprit S1 and was a bold statement originally in keeping with the fashion of the time and now fitting for the new Exige Sport 350.

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Optional extras for the Exige Sport 350 include lightweight forged alloy wheels (reducing kerb weight by a further 5 kg), cross drilled and vented two-piece brake discs (shaving yet another 5 kg off the weight), black or yellow painted four-piston callipers, air conditioning, an in-car entertainment system and full carpet and sound insulation pack. Interior packs cover Alcantara, leather and Tartan options, for both seat and door trims. By selecting the lightweight options available the total weight of the Exige Sport 350 becomes a featherweight 1115 kg.

As standard, the front splitter, rear wing, front access panel, roof panel, wing mirrors and rear transom are finished in matt black to complement the car’s aggressive stance; with the option for these components to be painted in body colour at no additional cost.

Jean-Marc Gales continued, “Light weight is the most important aspect of our heritage and future Lotus cars will follow the direction of our most recently launched models, the Evora 400, Elise Sport and of course our latest Exige Sport 350, all of which are both lighter and faster than their predecessors. Over the last 15 years, successive versions of the Lotus Exige have beaten more expensive sports car rivals in media comparison tests and I expect the Exige Sport 350 to continue this. The best has just got better!”

The Lotus Exige Sport 350 goes on sale in Europe in February 2016 and will be available outside Europe, excluding North America from March 2016.

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The Lotus Exige Sport 350 will also be available as a Roadster from March 2016.

Those wishing to register their interest in the new Lotus Exige Sport 350 should visit: http://www.lotuscars.com/lotus-exige-range.

Lotus Exige 360 Cup launched

Lotus Motorsport redefines the Exige V6 Cup with the introduction of the Exige 360 Cup. New lightweight panels and an increase in power mean the Lotus Motorsport Cup model continues to provide a benchmark in handling and performance.

Lotus Exige Cup 360

The Exige 360 Cup bespoke styling signals an evolution in design, with an option of four colours (Metallic White, Metallic Grey, Metallic Black and Metallic Silver) and stealth matt black roof, front access panel and louvered tailgate. This design is a limited edition run of 50 vehicles and each of these special Exige 360 Cup cars will receive a numbered Lotus Motorsport build plate.

This new model boasts an increase in power of 10 PS with freer flowing induction and a sports exhaust system, which combined with a low vehicle weight of 1130 kg gives an incredibly pure driving experience on road and track. The powertrain updates also give the Exige 360 Cup a sportier soundtrack to enhance the driving experience.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus plc, commented: “The V6 Cup was a favourite amongst many knowledgeable customers with its incredible track performance and distinctive design. I am excited about the introduction of the new 360 Cup which moves the game forward with striking new design features and performance upgrades that offer phenomenal ability on road and track.”

The Exige 360 Cup uses the track proven aero package from the Exige V6 Cup with an aerodynamically optimised front splitter, rear diffuser and wing. Together with the flat underside these aerodynamic aids offer 42 kg of downforce at 100 mph (160 km/h).

The chassis on the Exige 360 Cup is a Lotus designed stiff and lightweight bonded aluminium chassis with double wishbone suspension all round. The car is fitted with track focused 2-way adjustable suspension and a 4-dynamic mode (drive, sport, race and off) system, including launch control.

New features for the Exige 360 Cup include a bespoke lightweight front access panel, new lightweight rear tailgate and louvered panel. The Exige 360 Cup has a distinctive design, updated grooved brake discs for improved performance, Motorsport Red wheels, embroidered seats and dash panel.

The options available for the Exige 360 Cup include a new red Alcantara interior, adjustable anti-roll bars, Öhlins race dampers, fire extinguisher and electrical cut-off, FIA carbon seats, air conditioning and removable steering wheel.

The Exige 360 Cup is on sale now through the Lotus dealer network with prices starting at £62,995 (MSRP) including 20% tax.

As with all Lotus Motorsport Cup models the Exige 360 Cup is eligible for Lotus Cup race series.

First Production Exige S comes off the Assembly Line

The first production Exige S came off the assembly line today and very soon the first customers will experience this exciting new Lotus, a car which has already produced very positive headlines in the automotive media

Lotus Chief Operating Officer, Aslam Farikullah stood proudly by the production line and spoke about the significance of this event

How do you feel about reaching this particular milestone?

We are very proud of the Exige S. It marks the first step towards consolidating and then growing the company. I know that customers have been eagerly waiting for this car, and I assure them that it will be worth the wait. We wanted to be sure that we had a product that was absolutely ready before launching it. We are confident that the right time for the Exige S is now.

Our new philosophy is simple: We will keep announcements about our planned products to a minimum. New models will only be launched when the product and timing is right. Once we do launch a new product, we will ensure that we can deliver to customers anywhere in the world as scheduled.

What else will be different at Lotus under your leadership?

Our emphasis now is on the finer details of what we do. I believe that the ability of our engineers and workforce makes them among the best in the world. We will leverage on this key strength as we revitalise and strengthen the Lotus brand.

We can all look forward to exciting times ahead as we bring the company to the next level. But I am not a fan of the limelight; I will let our cars do the talking.

So what is your vision for Lotus?

I want the Lotus name to become a by-word in the automotive industry for integrity, which means delivering quality products on the dates we say we will deliver them. As a start, we will refocus our human resources in order to further strengthen our Quality Department by 20%, clearly demonstrating our future intent.

I would also like to reiterate that DRB-HICOM is committed to the future of Lotus. When I arrived I found a company full of talent, ambition and pride in the Lotus name. It’s my job now to re-galvanise the company and we will be doing that by investing in our existing talent.

Lotus Motorsport Hits Major Milestones

Whilst most sensible people prepare to wind down for the festive period, the hard working Lotus Motorsport team are busy celebrating the fruits of their labour over the past 12 months following the first successful engine fire up in the Lotus IndyCar chassis AND the first proper Exige R-GT rally car shakedown all within the space of 24 hours.

The first official Lotus IndyCar engine fire up in new car took place on 22nd December at Dallara’s headquarters in Varano Melegari, Palma under the watchful eye of Group Lotus Director of Motorsport Claudio Berro and technicians from the team. Pleased with the overall results, the team have now prepared the engine and car for shipment to the US where full testing will begin in January.

Heading north to Turin, the Exige R-GT, the Rally version of the new Exige S, took centre stage with a quick track shakedown for the first time in full Rally specification. The car handled exactly as expected and the team were delighted with the results. Testing will continue in the new year ahead of the start of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship season where the Exige will contend the FIA GT category on asphalt at events in Monte Carlo, Tour de Corse and San Remo.

Claudio Berro said: “The fire up in the car went really well, there were no nasty surprises and I think our partners are going to be very happy with the results. It was only October last year that we announced that we would become an IndyCar engine supplier and just 12 months on, we had an all new Lotus engine and three teams signed up – Bryan Herta Autosport, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, and HVM Racing. We’ve still got a lot of work to do ahead of the start of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar season but so far I’m very encouraged by what I see.

“And as for the Rally car, when you consider that we’ve only began working on this car in July, I think what we’ve achieved in that time has been incredible. For me the Exige S makes the perfect GT rally car, it has an awesome 3.5-litre, supercharged engine, and we’ve managed to balance the weight perfectly to meet the minimum weight regulations. The shakedown today (23rd December) has only made us even more excited to show off the car in true race form early next year – I think we’re doing the Lotus motorsport pedigree proud.”

[press release from Lotus]

Lotus Recalling 05 and 06 Elise/Exige

Lotus is recalling over 5000 Lotus Elise and Exige in the US due to the oil cooler line potentially getting detached and spraying oil on either a tire or the engine. This will affect all cars of model 05 and some cars of 06. Owners of cars manufactured between 1-June-2004 and 30-November-2005 will be contacted by Lotus Cars or can directly contact Lotus at 1-800-245-6887. Since this notice was only issued yesterday dealers may not yet be aware or the issue and we recommend waiting a month before contacting Lotus.

The full NHTSA notice can be read here:Lotus Recall Notice – 05-06 Elise/Exige (PDF).

Lotus Double Premieres during Pebble Beach Week 2011

Lotus will again have a significant presence during the upcoming Pebble Beach week of automotive events showcasing the Lotus Evora GTE Road Car Concept and the Exige Matte Black Final Edition

World Premiere of the new Lotus Evora GTE Road Car Concept

The new Lotus Evora GTE Road Car Concept will be unveiled to the world for the first time within the Lotus exhibit at the McCall’s Motorworks Revival event Wednesday night, August 17, at the Monterey Jet Center.

The Lotus Evora GTE is a race car developed with a single-minded aim to be successful in the new global motorsport GTE category, which includes the world famous Le Mans 24 Hours.

To celebrate this ground breaking car, Lotus has built the race-inspired Evora GTE Road Car Concept. This high-strung Evora elicits over 420 bhp from its race-developed engine, fed through a sequential AMT racing gearbox and put to the pavement through ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels with center-lock hubs shod with Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires.

The Evora GTE Road Car Concept isn’t merely a paint scheme or homage to a race car – this is a serious race car that makes for a very serious road car.

The Evora GTE Road Car Concept will later be shown within the Lotus exhibit on Peter Hay Hill near The Lodge at Pebble Beach Thursday, August 18 through mid-day Saturday, August 20 before being moved onto the Concept Car Lawn for display throughout the remainder of the Concours weekend.

US Premiere of the North American only Exige Matte Black Final Edition

To mark the end of an era of Exige production, Lotus has created the Exige Matte Black Final Edition – exclusively for North America. The Exige is one of the world’s greatest sports cars, and this Final Edition of the motoring icon will premiere within the Lotus exhibit on Peter Hay Hill near The Lodge at Pebble Beach Thursday, August 18 through Sunday, August 21.

With power upgraded to 257 bhp, an exclusive Matte Black paint finish providing a stealthy presence, black Alacantara sport seats and a high level of standard equipment, the Exige Matte Black Final Edition makes a striking statement.

Only 25 examples of this Exige will be built, each with their own numbered plate, which should help make these cars instantly collectible.

Lotus to cease production of 2ZZ-GE engined Elise/Exige

Lotus Cars has notified US dealers that the current generation of 2ZZ-GE engined Exige and Elise will cease production this July on Model Year 11. Toyota has already stopped production of the 2ZZ-GE engine and Lotus has been buliding cars using stockpiled engines ever since.

There are to be 3 final Elise and Exige versions – “Final Editions” to be built between now and July 2011, for arrival in the US and Canada between June – August 2011. These are to be produced in strictly limited numbers as the supply of engines for production is approaching exhaustion. Interested customers need to reserve their cars NOW. The specifications of the 3 final edition cars are listed below:

Exige S260 Final Edition

Production Run: 30
An excellent value proposition, available in choice of color, these are based on the current Exige 240 spec with power enhanced to 260bhp. Tour pack, track pack and LSD are standard equipment.

Basics
• 257 horsepower supercharged and intercooled 1.8 Liter, mid-mounted 4-cylinder engine
• Multi-point fuel injection system with electronic ignition and throttle control
• Synchromesh 6-speed transaxle with lockout reverse gear
• Variable slip traction control
• Launch Control

Standard Fitment
• Touring Package with sport seats trimmed in your choice of black, red, magnolia or biscuit
leather.
• Track Package with double adjustable Ohlins dampers.
• Torsen (Torque-sensing) Limited Slip Differential.
• Black Y type 5 spoke forged wheels with A048 tires.
• Metallic paint range at no additional charge.

Options
• Choice of full range of current colors
• StarShield

Production Details
• Limited to 30 units for North America
• May/June production

MSRP
• $67,500 plus destination

Exige S260 Final Edition – Matte Black

Production run: 25
Based on the stunning Matt Black Exige Scura sold in Europe with great success, some changes for the US market to ensure that this car is even better value.

Basics
• 257 horsepower supercharged and intercooled 1.8 Liter, mid-mounted 4-cylinder engine
• Multi-point fuel injection system with electronic ignition and throttle control
• Synchromesh 6-speed transaxle with lockout reverse gear
• Variable slip traction control
• Launch Control

Standard Fitment
• Touring Package with sport seats trimmed in black Alcantara
• Track Package with double adjustable Ohlins dampers
• Torsen (Torque-sensing) Limited Slip Differential
• Black 5-spoke ultra lightweight forged wheels with A048 tires
• Special Matte Black paint
• Special numbered plaque

Options
• No options available

Production Details
• Limited to 25 units for North America
• May/June production

MSRP
• $69,900 plus destination

Elise SC Final Edition

Production run: 15
With a color scheme based upon the “Club Racer” Elise sold in Europe. Available in four colors with a high standard specification makes this Final Edition Elise an excellent value proposition. Extremely limited production run of 15 cars to close out the model in North America.

Basics
• 220 horsepower supercharged 1.8 Liter, mid-mounted 4-cylinder engine
• Multi-point fuel injection system with electronic ignition and throttle control
• Synchromesh 6-speed transaxle with lockout reverse gear

Standard Fitment
• Touring Package with sport seats trimmed in black Alcantara
• Bilstein sport pack dampers with Eibach springs
• Torsen (Torque-sensing) Limited Slip Differential
• Black 5 Y- spoke forged wheels with A048 tires
• Black rear diffuser
• Matte Black painted hard top, roll bar cover, transom panel and door mirrors
• Special numbered plaque

Options
• 4 no charge color options: Ardent Red, Aspen White, Chrome Orange and Carbon Grey
• StarShield

Production Details
• Limited to 15 units for North America
• May/June production

MSRP
• $57,500 plus destination
• $995 StarShield

Information via Lotus of Atlanta and Lotus of Newport Beach

Chris Harris drives the Exige 260

Chris Harris celebrates the cult of the road racer by gathering together the very best of the breed. Renault R26.R, 430 Scuderia, GT3 RS, Exige Cup 260 and more battle it out against Colin McRaes’ 1997 Subaru WRX World Rally Championship car. The Exige clip is at the start of the second video.