Home » First Drive: InoKinetic Turned a Lotus Elise Into a Featherweight Fury You Can Drive Every Day

First Drive: InoKinetic Turned a Lotus Elise Into a Featherweight Fury You Can Drive Every Day

by multimill
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Starting up the InoKinetic 111RS on a quiet Saturday morning, I notice the exhaust sounds pretty tame at low revs for such an eye-catching sports car. InoKinetic’s founder and CEO Shinoo Mapleton explains from the passenger seat that he developed Helmholtz chambers for the muffler, which deflect pulses of air to stay at neighbor-friendly volumes until the engine opens up around 5,000 rpm.

Dialing in a Helmholtz resonator requires extensive computational fluid dynamics modeling, then plenty of prototyping—far too complex and costly for a production vehicle, especially from a small company like Lotus. But the brand’s low-slung sports cars drew in devotees regardless, including Mapleton, who has built solutions and upgrades for the storied British marque’s Elise, Exige, and Evora models since 2003.

InoKinetic's 111RS, an aftermarket Lotus Elise.

InoKinetic’s 111RS, an aftermarket Lotus Elise.

Michael Van Runkle

“Lotus engineers are brilliant, they kind of boiled this car down to the essence,” says Mapleton. “They focused on the things that truly mattered and then they homologated it to the best of their ability to meet the road requirements in this country, which are really difficult.”

Based on a 2005 Elise, the 111RS puts two decades of aftermarket expertise on display immediately. One single detail entirely transforms the driving dynamics at all times: the addition of a rear sway bar. Surprisingly, the Elise and Exige only left the factory with a front sway bar, no rear (other than on dedicated race cars). Past road-going cars from Lotus used extremely stiff springs to prevent body roll while cornering, which resulted in a harsh and uncompromising ride. But the 111RS gets a hollow 22 mm x 3 mm cromoly rear sway bar and an upgraded front unit, which allow for the installation of much softer springs. Speed bumps, sharp dips, and expansion joints now all but disappear in perfectly un-Lotus-like fashion.

InoKinetic's 111RS, an aftermarket Lotus Elise.

The 111RS’s steering toes the line between touchy and telepathic.

Michael Van Runkle

InoKinetic, based in Murrieta, Calif., also works over the original 2ZZ-GE inline-four engine with the team of SoCal engine builders at Mountune. Areas of refinement include pistons, springs, motorsport bearings, and a crankshaft balanced to only half a gram (that’s F1-level precision). Bolting the Harrop TVS900 supercharger back on showed the rev-happy 1.8-liter mill putting down 233 wheel-horsepower and 155 ft lbs of wheel-torque on the dyno, or a conservative estimate of 260 hp at the crank.

If those numbers sound meager, keep in mind that power-to-weight ratios work exponentially. And the 111RS now tips the scales at only 1,900 pounds, thanks in part to a turn signal delete on the custom front clamshell (in favor of halo indicators around new LED headlights). 

The interior of an InoKinetic 111RS, an aftermarket Lotus Elise.

The minimalist interior features contoured carbon-fiber bucket seats.

Michael Van Runkle

When the power plant starts shrieking on cam above 5,000 rpm, the next 3,500 revs simply fly by all the way to redline, but the Elise was never about straight-line speed. Without power assist, the 111RS’s steering toes the line between touchy and telepathic, requiring only a short adjustment period to the physical effort of hard cornering. Once in the zone, just point and go—but prepare for even harder acceleration and braking as confidence builds and builds, while perfect hints of body roll communicate every millimeter of balance shifting along the way.

For both Lotus and InoKinetic, form always follows function. That gear lever is more than just a beautiful conversation piece—it might well be the best I’ve ever experienced, with substantial precision that requires only fingertips to snick perfectly into each shift gate. Mapleton even revamped the original pedals to improve heel-toe ergonomics, the brake pedal controlling a set of InoKinetic rotors that vent in the proper rotational direction while reducing unsprung weight by a total of 10 pounds.

The interior of the InoKinetic 111RS, an aftermarket Lotus Elise.

The gear lever’s substantial precision requires only fingertips to transition perfectly into each shift gate.

Michael Van Runkle

After our morning run, I hesitatingly hand the keys back, wanting more time with this beast that simply scoffed whenever I came anywhere near what I thought were the limits of traction. “We wanted to create a car that you could take in the canyons, but it wouldn’t beat you up,” Mapleton says. “You’d get out feeling exhilarated because you had to interact and make the car do what it was doing, it wasn’t doing it on its own.”

Climbing in and out gracefully is a different story, but once inside, a 111RS takes the Lotus experience to an entirely new level of handling, confidence, and reliability. Compared to the current Boxster or Cayman, the lightweight, analog style of this vehicle is more akin to the best air-cooled Porsches.

InoKinetic's 111RS, an aftermarket Lotus Elise.

Based on a 2005 Lotus Elise, the 111RS incorporates two decades of aftermarket expertise to bolster the drive experience.

Michael Van Runkle

Pricing starts at $85,000—including the base Elise, which InoKinetic can help source—and lead times are currently around two or three months. With three builds completed and a fourth underway, InoKinetic has found that a market clearly exists beyond Mapleton’s original goal of supporting enthusiasts who want to drive optimized versions of previous Lotus models on the street or track. The 111RS now delivers all the engrossing fun of a race car for the road, yet without requiring serious sacrifices that would prevent it from being a spirited daily driver.

Click here for more photos of the 111RS, InoKinetic’s aftermarket Lotus Elise.

The 111RS, InoKinetic's aftermarket Lotus Elise.

The 111RS, InoKinetic’s aftermarket Lotus Elise.

Michael Van Runkle

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