The no-frills lightweight sports cars that put British automaker Lotus back on the radar are going out of production in style with three ultra-limited edition versions of the Elise roadster and the hardtop Exige. Marking the end of production this month before starting production of a series of all-new cars, Lotus will make 15 Elise SC Final Edition roadsters, 25 Exige Matte Black Final Edition models, and 30 Exige S260 Final Edition coupes for all of the U.S. and Canadian market.
On sale in the U.S. since 2005, the Elise and the Exige coupe have provided car buyers with one of the purest driver’s cars on the market ― a 2,000-pound sports car powered by a high-revving Toyota-sourced engine. With exotic-car looks and a relatively modest price tag, the Elise has gained a cult following from enthusiasts who religiously adhere to founder Colin Chapman’s mantra of “Simplify, then add lightness.”
With the Elise SC Final Edition, Lotus is supercharging the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine to bump output to 218 horsepower, painting it red, white, a deep gray, or a chrome orange color, and supplying it with additional sport and luxury features. It will start at $58,625 including a $1125 destination fee.
Next up, the $71,125 Exige Matte Black Final Edition will come in any color you want as long as it’s black. With it, Lotus includes a 257-hp supercharged four-cylinder engine, air conditioning (usually optional equipment), and a host of other amenities including an adjustable racing suspension and an Alcantara-lined interior with iPod connectivity. Finally, the Exige S260 Final Edition features the same pieces of hardcore track equipment, but it will come in different paint colors and should be easier to clean (most matte-paint cars are to be washed by hand with a moist sponge without soap).
After that, Lotus will continue to sell several different variants of the larger Evora grand tourer through 2013, when the all-new Esprit supercar is set to debut. Upcoming Evora models will include a six-speed automatic version known as the IPS and an open-top model. Following the introduction of the Esprit, other models such as a four-door sports sedan called the Eterne, a subcompact city car, and another convertible will follow.
While enthusiasts have clamored that the lightweight sports car is meeting its demise in favor of larger, heavier cars, Kevin Smith, marketing and PR executive for Lotus Cars North America says not to worry, as the next Elise, which will debut around 2015, will still weigh around 700 pounds less than a comparable Porsche Boxster, saying that the move is necessary to ensure the success of Lotus.
“As long as we limit ourselves to just lightweight cars, we’ll never get to the rest of the market,” he said. “But we will make our cars lighter than the competition ― and better.”