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Honda K20A Powered Elise S2
Back in the day, a few nutters got together and decided to graft a Honda K20A engine into an Elise. It was called Linda. I was there (or there abouts) and had a ride in it not long after it's conception. I remember Jonny driving it out of Coppice at Doninington, pulling along side a 911 and, to the amazement of the 911 driver, continuing to pull past it as we both giggled at the absurdness of it. You've got to bear in mind at this point in time, Elises had all of about 112hp. 200hp in 750kgs of Elise S1 was not just potent, it was perfect. Thus it became a very popular conversion.
Moving on many years, and I was offered a loan of a K20A S2 Elise from Jon across the road. Much as I don't miss Elise ownership, I really miss driving them. So I couldn't say no really.
Soon to be blue, or yellow. It should be yellow.
It's been a while since I drove an Elise and this one certainly sits at the more hardcore end of the spectrum. There's no soundproofing at all. A journey up the motorway with the roof on being akin to being inside a large biscuit tin full of bees. Not intolerable, but getting towards wanting headphones on. Lid off it's much, much better, but it's not a motorway car, so let's move on.
On the road, with the lid down as it's meant to be, the character of this car really starts to shine through. It's noisy, but it's all mechanical noise. It whirrs, squeals, thunks, vibrates, clacks, sucks and thrums. You can hear and feel everything it's doing. Which rather than being draining, is actually quite addictive. When you do unleash it, everything hardens into an loud metallic howl. There's nothing artificial about it, it's honest, and it's screaming IAMBASTARDFAST! I stand by that this is probably the best sounding production 4 pot ever made.
Power delivery is surprisingly linear and not at all scary. It's just the right side of bonkers. Give it some poke and the needle shoots round the dial with incredible urgency. It's properly quick, but not unexploitably so. Throttle response is instantaneous like no forced induction car can ever be. Indeed all the controls are borderline telepathic. The steering is ultra communicative without being too sensitive. Brake weighting is perfect and pedal positioning nailed on for heel and toe. Nit picking, the gear selection is as you would expect from a cable system. But it still has that mechanical feel that I'm liking here.
This is where this car is different from most road cars. It's a living, breathing thing that responds to your every input. Get in sync with it and I can't think of much outside of a Caterham that is as rewarding to drive. That said, this sort of raw, unfiltered driving experience isn't for everyone. Hell it's not really for me any more. But by god it feels good every now and again to drive something so real. It's like a cold shower when you're half asleep. You feel awake, alert and alive driving it. Most modern cars are just numb in comparison.
Many thanks to Jon Seal of Lotus Hardtops for the loan of his car.
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