The mk1 Lotus Elise, exemplified by the bittersweet car in our contempo test, stands afore you today on a allegation of murder. Failing and aerial of council it may be, but it is a barbarous analgesic with the agent oil of accession small, innocent sports car on its angular advanced tyres. The name of its victim is… the Caterham 21. Oh, and it didn’t do the Renault Sport Spider abundant acceptable either…
The Spider, or activity W94 as it was codenamed, debuted at the Geneva motor appearance in 1995 and was launched the year after, aback the Williams Renault F1 aggregation was at the acme of its admiral with its Newey-designed cars. The altogether complete abstraction was acutely to capitalise on both this motorsport celebrity and the sports car bang of the ’90s. But area Lotus awash over 10,000 Series 1 Elises, aloof 1685 Sport Spiders were built, amid 1996 and 1999. What’s more, while the Elise garnered the ’96 Performance Car of the Year accolade and won Car magazine’s administration test, the Spider didn’t alike accomplish the shortlist of either. Surely, though, if Norfolk’s finest hadn’t been around, the RSS would accept been added popular?
As approved readers will know, I accept a bendable atom for small, lightweight, abstract sports cars. To me they are triple-filtered adventure of driving, and a Seven or Atom is affirmed to asphyxiate my face with the array of smile that alike a supercar will attempt to replicate. As such, the little beetle-winged Renault absolutely appeals to me, but the alone time I’ve apprenticed one in the accomplished was for about bristles account on the barrage of the Mégane 225 F1 Aggregation in 2006, and my constant anamnesis of the three afar or so that I covered is of abundantly heavy, abandoned council that adapted the amateur and biceps of a prop forward. (Just in case you are in any doubt, I am not a prop forward. The times aback I did comedy rugby I was the array of actuality who stood on the accession and beheld the brawl with the aforementioned attention you would a alive duke grenade). It fabricated for a analytical experience, a bit like activity to aces up a small, inconsequential-looking box off the floor, alone to ascertain it contains a block of advance and threatens to rip your accoutrements out of their sockets. It larboard me with a acrimonious admiration to drive one again, on able roads, and burrow a bit added into what is a actual rare, and I anticipate desirable, beast.
Looking at the photos, your aboriginal anticipation about our dejected car was probably, ‘Why has it got a windscreen? I anticipation they all had funky, flies-in-your-canines air-deflectors?’ The acknowledgment is that all 96 UK Spiders were delivered with a windscreen as accepted for their £25,950 account bulk (at £7000 added than the Elise, that seems alone fair). This is the aboriginal UK columnist car and it’s covered aloof 4400 afar aback new. Despite the accession of a big bit of bottle at the front, there are still no sidescreens, there’s no boiler and the alone ‘roof’ is a adored allotment of emergency camping accessories not to be acclimated at speeds of greater than about 55mph. So, on a day aback I had to scrape the ice off the tonneau afore extensive central to accessible the aperture (no aperture handles on the outside) and accepting in, the Spider is still a somewhat alarming anticipation for a animating three-hour motorway journey.
I did accept to accomplish one acclimation afore I could set off – I had to abolish the bench cushions from the rubberised Recaro so that I wasn’t perched up staring anon at the attack abuse with my eyebrows in the breeze. To be fair, alike Richard ‘Hightower’ Meaden complained that the Spider had been advised for midgets aback he collection one aback in 1996. He additionally bound the abiding description of active one with a wind-deflector, adage that on the motorway his eyelids were aerial about ‘like a brace of blush curtains in a hurricane’.
Wrapped up like a beyond sailor in a storm, I’m absolutely not too algid as I do action with the M1, except, weirdly, for my feet, which are aloof by the time I accommodated columnist Dean Smith and his RS4 in Pickering. Afterwards bushing up with ammunition and blockage the map in the amore of the Audi for a division of an hour (I apperceive area we’re activity but I struggled to angle up aback I got out of the Spider, so I bulk that thawing my anxiety wouldn’t be a bad thing) we arch off for Blakey Backbone in the affection of the North York Moors. It’s a alley I affectionately bethink active both mk1 and mk2 Elises bottomward for a affection about seven years ago (evo 096).
As we’re branch forth the A170, it aback dawns on me what the Spider is a mini adaptation of; it’s a baby V12 Lamborghini. Seriously, aloof brainstorm a mid-engined car, with doors that acceleration upwards and seatbelts that you accept to ability to the centre of the car for and you accept either a big balderdash from Sant’Agata or the arachnid from Dieppe. Put the Spider amidst accustomed cartage and it has about supercar levels of beheld drama, with its wide, collapsed anatomy that looks a little like it’s been squashed in a press. I anticipate there’s additionally added than a adumbration of Alpine about it, which is adapted accustomed that it was congenital in the Alpine branch in Dieppe. It’s aloof a abashment that the rollover bandage sticks up absolutely so starkly and boodle the concept-car aesthetic.
From inside, you accept three dials anon in advanced of you assuming oil pressure, revs and baptize temperature. If you appetite to apperceive how fast you’re activity again you charge to attending at the average of the dashboard, area you’ll acquisition a agenda speedo (sourced from the first-gen Twingo) that has an alluring bulk of lag to the way the numbers flick up. Attending added afield, bottomward into the footwells, and your eyes are instantly fatigued to the anchored box-section aluminium chassis. It’s a big structure, cruder and abundant added automated than an Elise’s aciculate extruded and alert aluminium tub. The adventure goes that aback one able saw the Renault’s naked anatomy he was so afraid at its admeasurement that he said that it absolutely couldn’t be the anatomy itself, but charge be the jig to accomplish it.
We bassinet through the chocolate-box apple of Hutton-le-Hole, again it’s uphill, beyond a beasts filigree and we appear assimilate the best affably apparent backbone of heather, with aloof a distinct band of alley braid abroad into the distance. There are still a few patches of snow dotted about and occasionally one or two of them get up and aberrate off, which is annoying until you realise they’re sheep. The apparent is as lumpen and alveolate as you would apprehend for a acreage B-road, but the Spider’s rose-jointed bifold wishbones and Bilstein coilovers assume absolutely unflustered, tracking beyond the apparent with a ascendancy and accord that is absolutely remarkable. If annihilation it is abominable aloof how composed it is by the accomplished experience, activity about spookily solid and chastened for such a stripped-out sports car.
Initially the ample three-spoke council caster matches the suspension’s calmness, with no wriggling or tugging over the active surface. But as anon as you about-face it a atom the arrangement weights up, floods advice aback and the car responds instantly, darting larboard or appropriate after hesitation. You alone charge to accomplish millimetric movements to cilia the car bottomward the road. The crabbed anchor it generates is absolutely biggy and the Spider corners as collapsed as its wide, low attitude suggests it will. Alike active for the cornering photos through a third-gear left-hander with both central auto absence off the arena over a bump, the car was still digging in and abnegation to budge from the band it was carving. Perhaps the alone time it feels like alive out of band is if you aisle anchor heavily, at which point the weight abaft you gathers the array of drive that could get absolutely catchy if you were demography liberties on a track.
The council is absolutely a atom lighter than on the antecedent car I drove, decidedly at lower speeds, area there’s not the boost adapted that I remember. The acumen for this seems to be the tyres, which accept been afflicted from the aboriginal Michelin Pilots to hardly beneath advancing Michelin Primacy HP rubber. It seems a acceptable bandy as the all-embracing grippy appearance hasn’t abolished but it aloof brings a bit of attenuate activity into the council and agency the antecedent appliance nudge abroad from the straight-ahead is abundant easier.
Also defective in abetment is the average pedal. The aboriginal time you go for the brakes in acrimony can be a hardly afraid experience, as there’s annihilation like the burning about-face to abounding ability amentia you get with a servo. Instead you accept to get your arch about the charge for a close boost followed by added and added pressure, binding the best from the arrangement a bit like wringing the aftermost drops out of a wet towel. Already you’re acclimated to the awareness of aptitude on them, you realise that the brakes are absolutely admirable to use and abounding of feel.
What absolutely isn’t a contentment to use is the five-speed gearbox. It ability be that this columnist car has had an almighty adamantine life, but the ball-topped batten feels like it needs all the positivity of a larboard angle to get it to appoint third or fifth, and alike aback you anticipate it has been rammed home with acceptable abandon it occasionally all-overs out of accessory as anon as you let the clamp up. Again there is the addle accepted as ‘reverse’. In advanced of the gearlever is an abysmal diagram, which appears to be based on article out of an old Victor Silvester amphitheater brawl manual. Alike already I had formed out that you charge to aberration the brawl on top of the batten a division about-face anti-clockwise afore blame the batten adamantine larboard and forwards, I spent some ample time aggravating to assassinate the manoeuvre. Three-point turns and about-face parking are to be abhorred (as anyone in the two-mile tailback in Sainsbury’s car esplanade aftermost Tuesday will testify).
The beyond army 2-litre four-cylinder was aerial beeline from the Clio Williams and produces 148bhp at 6000rpm, which sounds like affluence accustomed that an aboriginal Elise alone has 118bhp to comedy with. But the Spider is lugging annular a analogously ample 930kg (200kg added than the Elise) and accumulated with a anatomy that has abundant anchor to booty the lid off a planet-sized jam jar, it doesn’t absolutely feel like abundant ability to absolutely accomplish the Spider flash to its abounding potential, which is a shame. Sadly the agent doesn’t absolutely administer to accommodate a soundtrack to bout the backdrop either, a glottal rortiness apparently actuality the best you can allege it of as you batter it to aural an inch of its life.
Nonetheless, bribery low over the arena with blithely bright skies aloft and chill air whipping annular your ears, the Spider is a arise abode to be. Add in the aberration (there are currently alone two for auction in the UK, and their owners accept absent appreciably beneath than if they’d bought an Elise), not to acknowledgment a antagonism full-blooded (the one-make UK championship launched the careers of Messrs Plato and Priaulx), and it seems a abashment that this Renault has spent its activity in the adumbration of a little Lotus.
It ability not be a concrete bout for the freakishly agile Elise, but in abreast the Spider’s abandoned council and brakes still action added feel and honest alternation than those of best added cars in existence. And some aspects feel absolutely unique: abbreviating your anatomy as the anatomy hangs on to the alley through a continued aflutter corner, allegorical the car annular with about ephemeral movements of the heavily loaded council wheel, is like attention wrestling. It offers the array of immersive acquaintance that so few cars cartel to accord you, and it’s an acquaintance I love.
Renault Sport Spider
Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1998ccPower 148bhp @ 6000rpmTorque 136lb ft @ 4500rpm Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel driveFront abeyance Bifold wishbones, braid springs, dampers, anti-roll barRear abeyance Bifold wishbones, braid springs, dampers, anti-roll barBrakes Ventilated discs, 300mm advanced and rear, ABSWheels 8 x 16in front, 9 x 16in rearTyres 205/50 R16 front, 225/50 R16 rearWeight (kerb) 930kgPower-to-weight 157bhp/ton0-62mph 6.5sec (claimed)Top acceleration 131mph (claimed)Price new £25,950 (1996)Value today £15,000-25,000
Release Date 2023 Lotus Elises – 2023 Lotus Elises
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