Elise to Exige - how do they compare on the road?

First post over here so hello!

This is a bit of a x-post from seloc but I could do with some more opinions.

I currently have a '97 S1. It has a few 111s mods as far as styling is concerned. It also has hurricane induction, exhaust and Nitrons. Engine wise, it’s still the bog standard 118bhp k series.

I’ve had the car over 5 years now and could do with a change. That could either be in the form of an engine conversion or to an S1 Exige. I use the car for about 4 / 5 trackdays a year and a total of about 6k miles p.a. I’m not a fast driver on the road (or the track ) so don’t want something that I have to be doing illegal speeds to have fun in.

The car is just for weekend / evening fun so I’m not worried about comfort etc.

AaronF on here has kindly offered me a drive when he gets his engine back but would be interested in your thoughts. Have many done the same swap? If so, was the Exige more / less fun on the B roads? I’m thinking particularly about the engine and whether you have to keep it higher up / too high in the rev range.


Hello Ben, Welcome

I had an early Elise which I upgraded with LSS. I swapped that for a Sport 190, followed by an S1 Exige before getting my S2 Exige, so I suppose I’m fairly well qualified to comment on the differences in this range.

When I upgraded the Elise to LSS, it made a big difference to the feel of the car on the road, but it was very much the same car. The sport 190 was a massive difference. The VHPD combined with a close ratio gearbox made the car a total beast. These cars came with LSS but standard wheels and tyres (Pirelli P0). Grip was strong, but not massive with those tyres, so the car really felt lively. Definately the most fun car I’ve driven on the road. You certainly do need to keep the revs higher than the standard engine, but it’s no problem to do that, especially with the CR gearbox. A lot of people don’t really like the VHPD motor because it’s a bit rough. They don’t sound very sophisticated, they don’t idle smoothly, and they won’t accelerate smoothly below about 2000rpm. Personally, I loved all of that! Really makes the car feel ‘special’. I didn’t like the noise until I fitted the sports exhaust and the decat pipe, then I absolutely loved it

Sadly, I wrote off the 190 in a pretty big crash. Otherwise I just might still have it now.
I switched to the S1 Exige next just because it looked so damn sexy Not such a massive difference really. The bigger, stickier tyres combined with a bit of aero means the car feels MUCH more planted on the road. Only problem is the extra weight and drag combined with longer effecting gearing due to bigger wheels really takes the edge off the performance on fast A roads. I fitted the ultra close ratio gearbox on mine, which helps quite a bit. It always felt fast enough on B roads.
Looking at what I’ve written, it seems that I strongly preferred the 190 over the Exige. I’m not sure whether that’s true. I really did like the enormous grip and planted feel of the Exige.

I hung onto my S1 for 4 years. A long time for me to keep a car, which must tell you something about how much I loved it. As much as I love the character of the VHPD engine, I must confess it was the unreliability that pushed me into swapping again for the S2 Exige. It’s a lovely car, but I miss the character of the K series engine. It’s a good job the new owners of my S1 (Steve and Fiona) keep reminding me of how much trouble it can be

Thanks Brendan - just the sort of thing I need!

As Brendan said, we bought his Exige. Moved up from a standard S2.

Is it more or less fun on B roads? Engine wise it does bog down below 2500 revs but I don’t think you particularly have to be bouncing of the red line to enjoy an Exige. However, we have the UCR gearbox Brendan fitted.

For me, the level of grip is the most recognisable difference.

In the dry, I feel much more confident on B roads in the Exige. However, in the wet I have a healthy (or unhealthy depending how you see it) fear that it is going to send me into the nearest hedge.

That’s obviously down to tyres and I think you’ve really got to give the A048s the respect they deserve and the road isn’t the place to push it to find their limits.

Having done Mallory in torrential rain I was pleasantly surprised how much grip I had on the A048s so in the right environment (where you can build up some heat in the tyres) it is a joy.

I’m rambling on a bit now and I don’t think I’ve answered your question…so I’ll just say it’s more fun than the Elise in the dry. In the wet, it requires more respect. It also can’t cope with the ramps at my work’s car park so I never get a lunchtime blast in the peaks anymore

Cheers Fiona - again, all good info. I’m starting to get more of an idea of what to expect and looking forward to Aaron passing over the keys for a test drive!

When I’ve done trackdays, I’ve always been amazed at how much grip the Exige has. I could probably sort that out to some degree on my car with sticky tyres I guess.

Still, you did go from an S2 to an Exige Fiona, so the handling was always going to be miles better!

I’d be interested to see whether an Elise with same tyres and susp as an Exige would be much slower through the corners?

I’m guessing it would be pretty even on slower corners, but the Exige would have the advantage on more open sweeping bends

To be honest Dave, an elise with sticky tyres, good suspension, stronger links and a working spoiler would be the same round the corners as the Exige. It just won’t look as cool

Elise should have it at the top end (assuming same engine) due to less drag.

Well have to see at Cadwell eh Steve!

Still, Nitrons seem to help cornering, have trouble keeping up with Wayne now!