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GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Lotus Elan

britgreen_elan.jpg

SPEX 
Years Represented:: 1962-1964
Class: Sports Car 
Type: 2-door roadster

Country: England ````````````````````````````````` Host: GT2  & GT5


Price: $37,800 (GT2), $32,974 (GT5)

Length: 145" // Width: 55.9" // Height: 46.5"
Wheelbase: 84"
Track: 48.5" front & rear
Ground Clearance: 5.5"
Weight: 1,529 lbs. (S4 Sprint, GT2), 1,408 lbs. (S1, GT5)
Weight Distribution: 52/48
Tires: N/A
F. Suspension: couble A-arms / coils / anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: Chapman struts / leaf springs
Brakes: disc / disc
 
The car in GT5 was given oil change, but no engine rebuild, for all specs & testing below

Engine: 1558 cc DOHC inline-4
Aspiration: normal (2 single-barrel carbs)
Valves / Cylinder: 4
Bore x Stroke: 3.25 x 2.86"
Compression Ratio: 10.3:1 (S4) 9.6:1 (S1)
GT2 Redline: 7,000 // RPM Limit: @7,750
GT5 Idle: 750 // Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: 7,000
 
                                 GT2                   GT5 
Horsepowr: 127 @ 6,300 rpm    102 @ 5,500
Torque:      
113 @ 5,200
rpm     105 @ 4,000 
Cr / HP:                $297.64               222.98
Lbs / HP:                12.0                     13.80         
Hp / Liter:                81.5                    65.4       

Transmission: 4-speed manual
Differential: open type
Layout: Front Engine / Rear Drive

0-60 mph:   10.8 seconds             10.100      
0-100 mph: 27.578 seconds          27.412
 
400 M: 18.578 @ 82 mph      17.832 @ 82 mph
1 KM:
32.585 @ 108
mph     31.905 @ 105 mph
 
Test Track Time: 2:15.996             1:19.564 (Daytona)

S4 Sprint Top Speed at RPM limit
1st: 46 mph
2nd: 72 mph
3rd: 94 mph
4th: 119.32 mph @ 7,750 (rpm limted)
 
S1 Top Speed at Redline
1st: 34.6 mph
2nd: 50.2
3rd: 74.7
4th: 113.4 mph @ 7,000 rpm (rpm limited)  
 
 

---------------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY----------------

Let's take a virtual drive back to....a simpler time. A time when the safety equipment in a sports car was a lower seat-belt strapped across your waist, instead of a full harness backed up by airbags, traction & stability controls, and lane-change warning chimes. A time when true sports cars were defined (and still are by some) via stricter guidelines.

The beauty of most any Lotus from this time (and sometimes now) is its small size, which can also be a curse for some situations when we consider a car like the Elan, because it's hardly much bigger than a twin-size bed mattress. Our vehicle weighs-in at around 1,500 pounds, and is therefore among the lightest of true sports cars in Gran Turismo, or real-life.
 
Gran Turismo 2 gives us three different Elans to try out: the '64 S2, '71 S4 Sprint, and the '90 Elan S2. That last car is front-drive, and in my opinion (and the opinion of others, I assume) is not as worthy of the Elan name, but hey. I just write car reviews, I don't get to design or name them. In any Gran Turismo later than GT2, we only get one Elan to try: the '62 Elan S1. The original. Many have bought this one to race in GT4's 1000 Miles! events, and the S1 can also be used in later games, during many different situations, especially since it is of such low power.

The Elan was a saviour to Lotus: over the course of 11 years, approximately 9,000 of them were sold from 1962 to 1973, not including the Elan +2, which offered four seats instead of two (hence, its +2 name). If we include this baby, now we're up to 17,000 examples, according to some websites. This may not sound like a lot, but the thing is these cars were partially hand-built, which puts things into perspective, I guess. Since Lotus was actively racing the entire time it was making Elans and other models, it's obvious they were doing well. Lotus is one of the few that did not get conglomerated into British Leyland, like MG, Jaguar, and a few other sports car makers did. 
 
One of the key features was this car's 'backbone' chassis, literally it was shaped like the letter I, with each corner of that letter representing an axle & wheel. On top of this backbone went the super-lightweight fiberglass body. Apparently, the car wasn't that hard to assemble, all things considered. Like many other sports cars of its day, the customer could buy an Elan in kit form, and then build it himself. Or herself. But usually himself. Let's see anything like this happen today. Let's see what happens if Dodge offers their Viper as a kit, or Porsche their 996. Let's see what happens when Joe Suburban tries to build his own sports car in his driveway, and has to deal not just with nuts & bolts, but dozens of actuators, sensors, insane wiring diagram schemes, a tool box the size of a gardening shed... probably won't end well, right?  I smell lawsuits.

One of the best features of the Elan's appearance (in GT2 and 4, in which these guys can be bought at any time) are the assortment of paint jobs we can choose--all of which are colorful and complicated. Tell me with a straight face you don't get indecisive when faced with all these choices of color!  The Elan can also be found in GT5, but in this game it's become a rarely-seen vintage machine, the way it should be. To find one is to pine for one. Those who don't like the color they've found can simply paint over it.  
 
The car's weight is already race-ready. Weight reductions only displace a total of 95 pounds in GT2, and I have yet to find a reason to remove weight in GT5. Matter of fact, I've had to add weight to my GT5 car a couple times. The 1964 Elan S2 can be reduced to just 1,252 pounds, and the 1971 Elan S4 Sprint can be minimized to 1,406 pounds in 2, though. GT4 features only the S1, which can be made a bit lighter than those in GT2. Anyways, this is a lot to pay for very little results: um, approxmately 326 credits per pound for that S4 Sprint. On top of this, race-kits are available in the 2nd game. Very cool.
 
The car in GT5 features a narrow mousetrap of an interior, with a small center mirror, and no side-view mirrors. And for many reasons about to be outlined below, I'm not really missing our modern habit of side-view mirrors in this one. A car which is just 56 inches wide and 145 inches long can usually, simply, get by many others because of its portability. 

bnw_elan.jpg

 
-----------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------

Ahh, listen to that grumbling, knocking engine, and smell those rich, leaded exhaust fumes. Aren't we lucky?  Any roadster from this era is considered a work of art, and the Elan is cream of the crop; literally some of the best. Driving a car of this type, whether it be a Lotus, an Alfa, a Fiat, a Porsche, etc. takes mastery, even though they aren't necessarily the fastest cars on the block. Luckily for us, the Elan happens to be one of the easier cars to try sporting around in from these days of 31 cent-per-gallon gasoline.   
 
Originally, Ford built the engine block in the Elan, though Lotus still made the aluminum cylinder head and cams. This unit eventually became known as the Lotus TwinCam. Seemingly pint-sized, it's amazing some of the feats we can pull off with this microplant in front of us, mostly because it hasn't got much mass to move around, but it's also the engineers at Lotus, who knew what they were doing way back then. This car is not all about its engine, as we shall see.   

When driving the Elan in GT2, the main thing you'll have to avoid is fishtailing, and by God this roadster just loves to fishtail!  If you can afford to part ways with some cash, your first buy should actually be the brake controller before any engine modifications, and once you've got it you can set the rear brakes really low (like 1 to 3) assuming you're not using slick tires, that is. This will help keep the back-end in check, though the Lotus will never be perfect. At times, you may be able to simply downshift instead of using brakes to slow this car down.
 
The car in GT5 won't require a brake balancer at all, in my opinion, especially if you're not using ABS. In this game, a limited-slip (or simply some better tires) might be the best early buy, though the Elan in this game is not as loose as the version in GT2. All of this will be outlined further in the next chapter, though.  

Back to the engine. The engine sounds great, no matter which exhaust modification has been chosen. There is nothing like the oration of a barely-muffled sports car from this era: they roar without apology!  The top speed in a stock Elan S4 Sprint (GT2) of 119 mph is low, but can be raised with the fully-modifyable gearbox. Also, the engine can be upped with 2 levels of NA tuning-straight to 213
hp @ 7,100 rpm with 165 lb-ft. of torque. This will get your car through a good number of races if you also consider how light it is. The lowest power to pound ratio we can eke is 6.6, and a really skilled driver will be able to take this Lotus to some of the more advanced series of the game.
 
In GT5, I managed some really dismal numbers: Zero to sixty in just over 10 seconds, 100 mph in just over 27, and a 17.8-ish quarter mile. Top speed rates at just 113 miles per hour, and by the time we get this far, the RPM limiter is keeping this car from getting any further, but this is only because it's got a close-rated 4-speed, and in those days it was probably frightening to be going this fast in a car just larger than a bathtub, anyways.
 
But the thing is, the Elan, like so many others of its ilk, is not supposed to be a speed demon. Let's have a look at some other facets of this car's reality; the very reasons why this one is in four out of six major Gran Turismo games.

elan_slide.jpg

-------------CHASSIS / HANDLING----------
 
GT2
If you are the type who hates slippery, soapy behaviour in a car, avoid the S4! Try watching the Italian National replays (and the Rome Short Clubman race) to get a gander of how this car handles with stock tires, then go for slicks if this isn't your thing. Small size and light weight make the Elan handle just like you think it would in this game: predictable, but tempermental.

Sometimes the Elan is highly maneuverable, at others it is highly unstable. When driving at some courses you'll have to remember where every bump is, because if the Elan runs over one, it may fly; and when it lands, counter-steer and appropriate throttle response (or brakes) are frequently needed. In other words: this car's unpredictability can be very predictable, and its spontaneity comes thru even in a videogame. That deserves an honorable mention.

Something you can do to help is put some medium grade slicks and a 1.5 limited-slip under the Elan. This will do wonders to cure this car's quirkyness, but also kill most of the fun. The normal street tires on this car don't have very good lateral traction, making oversteer a serious problem at times. If the car's track-width were a bit wider, all of this could be solved easily!

....But this is the appreciation one must have for vintage cars--and this particular automobile was made for narrow, twisty roads. The line between road, car, and driver is reduced a lot in such a small vehicle; one can feel every bump and sway when driving this car is what I mean to say, in real life as well as the game. No, the handling isn't the best, but for drift lovers, a Lotus S4 is heaven.

The beauty of this car is the balance between under and oversteer--albeit the S4 (or earlier S2) will predictably understeer towards a corner at times. Apply a bit of throttle, and it will pleasantly oversteer and position the little auto just where it needs to go (if you got the skill, that is). Like the Viper, this car is constantly needing a little adjustment, but hell, it's a ball!
 
GT4
Completely different story here. In this game, the Elan isn't so wild. If you think
 
GT5
...If you think...what? Hey, things get complicated in Parnelli's world. Such a shame that one never got finished though, I'm curious what the Elan in GT4 (a game famous for lack of proper oversteer) would be like.
 
So for GT5, I decided I'd choose a '62 Elan S1 to compete in this game's Clubman Cup. At 102 horsepower to start, this one rates just perfectly for the Clubman in this game, since the Clubman Cup doesn't require much horsepower.
 
Drove around Tsukuba while the car was completely factory-stock. Got its engine rebuilt, and oil changed, that is all. Seems a 52 year-old should get its valves replaced or reground, its gaskets swapped for new ones, and so on. First impressions at this track: definitely a shocker. The thing about this car, this true sports car, is the way it's always on the verge of something. To drive it fast is to bring it to this verge. The Elan feels like a small boat which often feels like it's about to tip over, yet it rides many waves without doing so IF the driver does not want this.
 
It's a car which is comfortable with borderline behavior, and whether this behavior is good or not depends on who is driving it. Some people will hate this car, they will hate the way it never feels entirely confident. But for those of us who enjoy where this one is at, there are many delightful things to behold.
 
Braking, steering, and throttle, always make some sort of difference. Not just with slowing, turning, and speed, but also with the entire car, and the entire way this car's orbiting through some turns. Sometimes, the Lotus Elan feels happily confident, but most of the time, it's not entirely so. Most of the time, it's feeling more 'iffy' than confident. Small measures of braking, steering, and throttle can change the car's turning arcs in subtle ways. EVERYTHING, every little thing, makes some sort of difference.
 
For instance, a lot of cars, you nudge their gas-pedals while turning, and they go a little faster. In an Elan, the same thing is true -- you nudge, you go a little faster. But the Elan always likes to throw a little extra surprises in there. You go faster, but the rear will also step out a little bit. Just a tad. Just to show you that your request has been received, but the way it's being processed is being given a little extra flair. If you desire something more drastic, this can also be served up. Brake late into one of Tsukuba's hairpins, crank that steering a bit, and give some gas ... 1, 2, 3 ... and the Elan can also put on a little show, as its rear breaks traction, and tire noise overrides this car's grumbly exhaust.   
 
Some people (like I said) might hate all of this. They might see the constant dance that's going on as they drive as more of a struggle than a dance. Because you always have to be aware of what's going on with this one, and make some sort of reply or adjustment to it. Lots of countersteer, but also sometimes, just a nudge of countersteer. All depends.
 
But one thing that I'm really digging is the way this car's power, even though it is low, perfectly matches the way this car sways and rocks and slightly, constantly slides (assuming I want it to slide). There are no grandiose burnouts as full throttle is given, this car excites in other  ways, you see. The way it twitches and rolls and simply reacts is what makes a driver like me smile. Its lack of rear-end messiness is a result of power being just perfect for this car's narrow tires. And who needs a limited-slip at this point?  Let's not kill any fun.
 
At Route 246, we get to see how much lift-off oversteer and throttlesteer make a difference, as the Elan is being flung through this track's giant curves. Throw this one in, and it's leaning on its side, slightly understeering. Release those brakes, and the understeer steps aside fully, as the front-end starts to progressively dig into the turn, causing the car to lock-in. Give a cautious amount of gas, and the rear begins to step outward; those tires screeing with some delight. 
 
Everything mentioned (all of these behaviors) is subtle, by the way. The car slowly goes from pushing to lift-off to a light rear sway. Once this one is really moving, some of the twitchiness we saw at low-speed Tsukuba goes away, you see, and is replaced by movements which are more gentle. When people talk of old sports cars, one of the opinions which comes up is that they make you feel as though the line between car and driver is blurred. That definitely happens in an Elan, even virtually.   
 
Suffice it to say, this is a very fun car while its stock, with unaided power, and cheap tires underneath. But what happens when it's finally racing?  And do you have anything bad to say about this car at all?
 
Well yes, there are some 'bad things'. Driving over rumble strips makes it feel as though an earthquake has struck. Lack of ABS brakes is not noticed much at Tsukuba, but at a track with greater speed, occasionally it's possible to get this one to slide uncontrollably. And though it is easy to take this car right to the verge, right to its very limits, bad things can happen if we're not too careful, especially at high speed, and we finally pass this limit!  My British Green-colored Lotus broke traction finally during one of Tokyo's latter curves (the ones which are below those overpasses), and it took all my concentration not to hit a guardrail. Amazingly, the Elan did not do so, probably because it's such a small car, I was able to just miss that rail, avoiding an expensive set of repairs!
 
Still, even at high speed, the Lotus Elan manages to give us a whole list of cornering options, more than some modern 'sports cars' would ever dream of. Many moderns, as great as they can be with cornering, simply hone into a turn, but don't offer up any sort of flair while doing so. *vamp*
 
While racing against some modern cars during the Clubman, I chose some medium sport tires at Tsukuba and Route 246. With these in place, our ability to take on turns multiplies. A lot of this car's former slight sliding is gone, and is replaced by pure Miata-like grip. Some of the Elan's 'personality' goes with this tire transition, but it's not a major loss, now that we're racing.
 
The car jerks and bucks over small, unseen bumps. Its ability to maintain traction & grip makes it feel more like something from an amusement park, halfway between a merry-go-round and a roller coaster. And some modern car ass, with their stupid traction & stability controls, can also be firmly kicked, and kicked hard. The Elan's agility around these luggards is amazingly fluent, as it takes corners in all sorts of fashions. Its small size often guarantees it will fit between that dopey Peugeot, and that clueless Primera. The main thing to watch for is not to get too hot out of turns. The rear might break traction, as the car is twisted and turned more extremely as I tried to hunt for some outlandish racing lines. If so, it's important to get that traction back, ASAP, just so the race is won.
 
That first race at Clubman (Tsukuba) was crushed by this car, at this track, mostly because the Elan can do so many things with its ultra-flexible handling. It took some wrangling to make it to the leading Peugeot hatch during this race, which was caught and passed during Lap 4, but that's where this one's flexibility really comes in handy. Limited-slip device? Um.. no.
 
 At Route 246, I did opt for one though, mostly to keep the Elan from getting too squirrely when braking from high speed, and this turned out to be a very good decision!  For once, I tuned a car the right way on my first try. Some understeer showed up during 246's larger curves, but it was easy to make it go away. With my setting of 5-25-45, I could use this car's 'accel' setting (25) to safely put all the power down out of turns, even if the car was starting to slide, its rear would stay rock-solid with stability. Unfortunately, the Elan only rated 3rd place here. This track's rumble strips are brutal, tossing this lightweight around like a pancake. Though my Elan could often inch by guardrails and walls, I finally tagged one a little too hard, and a BMW 1-series won this race. On the other hand, the Elan took this track's super-fast S-curve with no brakes. That has to be a first.       

elan_s4.jpg

--------------------PROS--------------------

1). Light weight, tiny car means high maneuverability. Race-kits available for the S2 or S4 in GT2 to further enhance their career. GT4 Elans can accept wing kits, as well.

2). It just looks cool. Lots of unique paint jobs (most of them two-tones) and vehicular body features on this one.

3). Engine / exhaust sample sounds great.

4). Fairly balanced and predictable handling (for those of us who expect the playful nature of a small roadster, that is).

5). Engine mods will lower pound-to-power ratio to acceptable levels.

6). 7,000 rpm redline.

7). Small size makes the Elan able to squeeze thru difficult traffic at times.

8). Excellent at sipping gas and lasting on tires during endurances (GT4).

9). A rather easy tune in GT4. Vintage Elans handle extremely well while stock, which means the aftermarket only gets even better.


--------------------CONS---------------------

1). Poor acceleration, low torque.

2). Poor stability and traction, especially over bumps. This is much truer in GT2 than it is for GT4.

3). Prone to fishtailing, sliding, and oversteer. Brakes must be handled gingerly. Again, this is much truer in GT2 than it is for GT4.

4). Transmission limits speed to about 120 mph. Get the full-custom racing gearbox to solve this.

5). Lack of power means the Elan will always be a lower vehicle. And where are the true competitors for this machine (the Alfas, MGs, Triumphs, etc) in GT2?

 
 
Originally Published: August 9th, 2004
 

 


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