To start with I’d stress I’m no racer or regular track day attendee, I have however done around 10 tracks days over the years and a number of Car Limits sessions at North Weald, I’ve driven Elise (S2 & S1) for over 8 years. I’ve not as yet tracked the Caterham so I’ll be re writing this when I have I’m. When I first tracked an Elise the sensation of realising there was so much more to the car was overwhelming. Anyone that has an Elise and has not taken it on track is truly missing out on what these cars are really about!
“The Elise is a road car for the track, the Caterham is a track car for the road . . ”
The car was purchased in Sept of 2015 as a standard 118bhp car, a Janspeed Supersport oval exhaust and ITG Maxoxegen airbox had been fitted by the previous owner.
Work undertaken – cosmetic, S2 seats, harness bar, 4-point harness, side scoop (on induction side) 111S headlight covers
Engine and chassis – Nitron NTR Fast Road, VVC head ported by Sabre, 52mm Throttle body, S2 exhaust manifold and flexi pipe to the Janspeed, std ECU and original VVC cams and mech
Rolling road results 18th November 2017 169.6bhp
725kg and 169.6 bhp = 234bhp / tonne
Caterham Roadsport 150 SV
The car was purchased in August 2017 and remains standard. The weight is 575kg however on my car the screen has been removed along with the spare wheel on the back of the car (don’t think the spare was part of the 575kg advertised weight so I’m not deducting this). Only mode is to remove the headrests (they get in the way of my crash helmet), replace the screen with a Perspex aero screen and replace the cat with a decat pipe. I’m taking off 6 kg for the screen and the decat replacement of the heavier cat.
569kg at (book) 150 bhp = 263bhp / tonne*
*I suspect it’s more like 140 bhp therefore around 246 bhp / tonne
Looks and first impressions
These are my own opinions so are totally meaningless and subjective in what I hope will be an objective review. I dislike the old flared wings on the Caterham so much I would never entertain owning one. The change to cycle wings makes the car more modern looking.
I also dislike the screen, large chrome headlights, doors, roof and two-part exhaust (the cat and the heat shields look fussy), with all these things fitted I can only look at a Caterham and appreciate it for what I know it is as a driving machine, aesthetically its ok.
With cycle wings, roof, doors and screen off, a decat pipe and the heat shields removed, black smaller headlights add an aero screen now that’s a different matter . . . .
The Elise is another story, it’s now 20 years old and has retained its aggressive beauty, the design cues from the Ferrari Deno are everywhere whilst retaining its own character. To this day the Elise will turn heads wherever it goes, I was in Reigate two days ago, in the high street with the roof off, wrapped up and a man in his 60’s, turned, looked at the car, looked at me and gave me the thumbs up and smiled. Can’t say any more.
Inside the Elise is snug and functional, the driving position, pedals, gear stick position and main instruments are positioned perfectly. The pedal box is the best I’ve experienced (but wear driving shoes is a must), the braking point is perfectly positioned to facilitate a rocking of the foot for “heal & toe”. The luxury of a footrest is missed in the Caterham.
In the Caterham there is less room, the high gearbox tunnel creates two clear compartments for driver and passenger. The driving position is offset slightly to the right, the pedal positions are slightly closer together and there isn’t the space for a foot rest. Whilst they can be adjusted (I’ve not tried this yet) the brake bite is a lot lower than the accelerator in my car and make the “heel & toe” awkward for me. The main dials are clear and the instruments and short gear change (very short throw) come to hand easily. The standard seats are more padded than in the Elise however you don’t loose the connection with the car, all in all still a great place to be driving!
Steering and Handling
Probably the hardest comparison to make at this time given I’ve no track time in the Catherham.
The immediate difference between the two is the overall modern feel of the Elise and “smoothness” of the drive which leans itself to more easily allowing the car to “flow”, the communication from the chassis is clear and crisp through the steering wheel and the “seat of the pants”. The Caterham is far more agricultural in feel and the lack of independent suspension at the rear is most noticeable with transverse transmission of suspension impact across the car.
It is however that “twitchiness” of the Caterham and the need to keep focused, more on your toes that is the difference between the two cars – lest we forget they share the same automotive genes, the Lotus 7, begat the Elan begat the Elise. Every time I take out the Caterham for the first 15 minutes or so there a re calibration of what’s normal in terms of steering feel, required inputs, then it slowly start to all feel normal, the reduction, almost total removal of small steering inputs that are required in a normal car stop as you realise these will take the car into a ditch in the Caterham. Replace these with small precise movements, a realisation that a 1/4 turn will get you through all but the tightest corners and allowing the car to move around on the road a little it all settles in to a crisp, flowing drive where all your senses are treated and combine to create an all round feel that I think you’ll not find in any other car.
The Elise is more inclined to understeer when pushed too hard into a corner (a lot of people counter this with a slightly wider set of front boots) and is better suited to “slower in fast out”, close to the limit lift off oversteer can catch you out, power on correction has it limitation with only 118bhp on the standard car. Lower speed oversteer induced by agresive steering or if caught out by wet surfaces can be easily corrected.
My limited experience of hard driving in the Caterham means I don’t feel I can make a clear comparison on handling however the steering feel is significantly different, the Caterham’s standard 260mm Momo is much smaller than the 320mm wheel. The direct, precise steering combined with the small wheel requires next to no smaller corrective movement that are instinctive from driving normal cars and has to be unlearned for driving the Caterham. Due to the wheel size the steering is heavier at very low speeds.