Lotus Elise versus Porsche Boxster
Both the Lotus Elise and Porsche Boxster offer an incredible driving experience. They each provide a somewhat affordable (or very affordable on the used market) mid-engine performance roadster . But that is where the comparison largely ends. They are both fast and ready for a curvy road, but they use very different methods of accomplishing this.
The Elise truly harkens back to the philosophy set by the British sports car maker’s founder, Colin Chapman, of adding lightness. This is what makes the small Elise great as it provides an excellent power-to-weight ratio even without much horsepower.
The Boxster is on the other end of the spectrum. It is a comparably heavy car, but it offers a more refined drive with much more horsepower. From a power-to-weight ratio it is very close to the Lotus, but in a more livable package.
Let’s take a look at some of the comparable variations of each model and see just how close or far apart they are.
Lotus Series 1 versus Porsche Boxster 986
The Lotus Elise first appeared in the 1996 model year. The Series 1 used a 1.8-liter in-line 4 cylinder Rover engine. This power plant produced just 118 horsepower, but thanks to the Elise’s curb weight of just 1,598 lbs. performance was great for the time. The small roadster could launch from 0-60 mph in just 5.8 seconds, but flat out the top speed was just 126 mph. The top speed is not a huge factor on roads in England, but on the German Autobahn you would want a little more.
You can tell that the Boxster was produced in Germany. It is a much more livable and comfortable car. Where the Elise makes very few compromises, the Porsche is quite practical for a sports car. It offers two trunks (one in the front and one in the back). This means you can easily go away for the weekend, but in the Lotus you pretty much just need to plan to buy your clothes at your destination. Even getting in and out of the Boxster is much easier than the Elise. This is thanks to its taller ride height and the fact that the Lotus Elise forces you to climb over the door sills. There is simply no graceful way to get in our out of the Elise, although once in all is good.
While the interior of the early Boxster, first introduced for the 1997 model year, received some criticism for its plastic trim pieces, it is much more luxurious feeling then the Lotus. With the Elise things such as carpeting are optional to keep the weight down as much as possible.
As a daily driver most people would go for the Boxster as even just opening and closing the top takes a fraction of the time in the German sports car. Of course all of this luxury means more weight. Were the Elise comes in at just 1,598 lbs. (just a couple of hundred more pounds as the legendary Porsche 550 Spyder that the Boxster was designed after) the Porsche Boxster in manual form comes in at 2,822 lbs. While this isn’t much by today’s standards, it is just about 400 lbs. away from weighing the same as two Series 1 Elises combined. Where Porsche makes up for this is in the 2.5-liter flat-six engine that makes a comparatively high 201 horsepower. With nearly 100 more horses the power-to-weight ratio because very close to the Lotus Elise. In the Elise each horsepower needs to push just 13.54 lbs. The Boxster isn’t quite as good with each horse needing to push 14.03 lbs. To put this in perspective, the Boxster would need to loose about 100 lbs. (weighing 2,722.01 lbs.) to have each horsepower push the same amount of weight as the Elise.
Because of Porsche having the Autobahn readily available, the Boxster has a much higher top speed of 149 mph versus the 126 mph for the Lotus. For the 5-speed manual 2.5-liter 986 Boxster, Porsche claims a 0-60 mph time of 6.7 seconds (the Tiptronic transmission takes about a second longer). That’s nearly a full second slower than the Elise. However, Porsche tends to be very conservative with their 0-60 mph times. With a 1997 manual model, Road and Track managed a time of just 6.0 seconds flat. Motor Trend managed the same time in a 1998 manual version.
So, from a performance stand point the Series 1 Elise is a little quicker thanks to its better power-to-weight ratio. It also feels more purposeful with its lower stance and uncompromising interior. However, for those wanting a higher top speed and a more livable sports car the Boxster is the better option. You give up a little bit of quickness, but for many this is a fair trade.
Lotus Elise 111S Series 1 versus Porsche Boxster S 986
For the 1999 model year Lotus released the more powerful Elise 111S. The new model continued to use a Rover in-line four cylinder engine. This time a Variable Valve Control (VVC) Rover K-Series motor. The power plant now used a reworked head and Variable Valve Timing (VVT). The power output grew to 143 horsepower, but Lotus managed to retain a weight of 1,598 lbs. The claimed 0-60 mph time improved to 5.4 seconds and the top speed went up slightly to 132 mph.
For the 2000 model year Porsche introduced the more powerful Boxster S. Powering the S was a 3.2-liter flat-six pumping out 250 horsepower. In the 6-speed manual version Porsche clocked 0-60 mph in at 5.9 seconds, but some magazines managed times closer to 5.5 seconds. Flat out the Boxster can hit a top speed of 160 mph. The weight of the Boxster grew slightly at 2,855 lbs.
Even with the larger weight, the more powerful power plant helps each horsepower need to move just 11.42 lbs. in the 986 Boxster S. This is very close to the Lotus Elise 111S that needs each horse to push 11.17 lbs.
Which of the two you choose once again depends on your preference. The Lotus gets you no frills, but you are more connected to the road. The Boxster S still provides a connected feeling, but where the 111S is normally used as weekend driver, the Porsche Boxster S can be used daily.
Lotus Elise SC Series 3 1.8 versus 987 Porsche Boxster Spyder
For the 2011 model year Lotus unveiled the Series 3 of the Elise. The new model had redesigned styling with a single light cluster unlike the previous two series. The Lotus Elise now used a Toyota sourced in-line four cylinder engine. The 1.8-liter variant used a supercharger to offer 218 horsepower. For 2011 the Elise 1.8 weighted in at a comparatively heavy 1,984 lbs. thanks to its higher horsepower rating the Lotus could launch from 0-60 mph in just 4.3 seconds and can hit a top speed of 143 mph.
For the 2011 model year Porsche introduced the Boxster Spyder. For the Porsche Boxster Spyder, the German performance car maker took a book out of the Lotus playbook. Over the Boxster S the Spyder received an increase in power up to 320 horsepower from its 3.4-liter flat-six. Weighing in at 2,811 lbs., this represented 176 lbs. of weight reduction over the 2011 S model. While not Lotus light, in this day and age this is an incredibly low weight. All of this helped the Boxster Spyder launch from 0-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and flat out it could hit a top speed of 166 mph with the top off (only 125 mph with the top installed).
Thanks to its lower weight the 2011 Boxster Spyder 987 needs each horse to only push 8.78 lbs. This is one of the cases when the Lotus Elise doesn’t fair as well with the power-to-weight ratio. The Elise needs to have each horsepower to push 9.10 lbs.
Lotus Elise Cup 250 Series 3 versus 981 Porsche Boxster Spyder
In 2016, the Series 3 version of the Lotus Elise Cup 250 made its appearance. The Elise was always a track ready machine, but the Cup 250 took this to the next level. Powering the Elise Cup 250 was a 1.8-liter supercharged Toyota in-line four-cylinder engine. The power output was 243 horsepower and with a dry weight of just 1,944 lbs. the Lotus could rocket from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. Flat out the Lotus Elise Cup 250 is capable of a top speed of 154 mph.
The 981 generation of the Porsche Boxster Spyder received a slightly detuned engine from the Porsche 911 Carrera S. The power plant offered 375 horsepower (versus 400 for the 991 Carrera S). Once again the Boxster Spyder was on a diet. While it did weigh more than the 987 Boxster Spyder, the added power helped overcome the bit of added pounds. The 981 Boxster Spyder’s dry weight is just 2,899 lbs. which is great by today’s standards. The 3.8-liter flat-six engine helped the Spyder launch from 0-60 mph in just 4.0 seconds with some magazines claiming a quicker time. With a long enough straight the Porsche Boxster Spyder can hit a top speed of 180 mph.
The Lotus Elise Cup 250 has a great power-to-weight ratio. Each horsepower needs to push just 8 lbs. However, thanks to the extra horsepower and relatively lightweight of the 981 Porsche Boxster Spyder, it only needs each horsepower to push 7.73 lbs.
Lotus Elise or Porsche
Choosing between the two roadsters is a tough choice. The Boxster is the better car for someone wanting a sports car that they can live with. This also shows that the Porsche Boxster Spyder is just a brilliant machine. However, if you want something that is completely different and is just about the raw driving experience, then the Lotus Elise is probably the car for you. Of course in a perfect world you would just have one of each.
Which would you prefer to drive? Scroll down to the comments and let us know.
Picture Source: Wikimedia Commons