By KBB.com Editors
Since the 1982 passing of its founder, Colin Chapman, Lotus has endured a number of economic perils and ownership changes. But through it all, the quintessentially British marque has remained true to its core values of producing light, quick and superb-handling sports machines. Presently, the micro-scaled Elise and its equally diminutive cousin, the new Exige S, are charged with carrying on Chapman's legacy in the U.S. Simply put, the Elise is a modern-day benchmark for those who revere the sports car in its purest form. While nominal rivals span everything from a BMW Z4, Honda S2000 and Porsche Boxster to drop-top versions of the Chevrolet Corvette and Nissan 350Z, none really comes close to matching the sheer visceral thrills provided by this phenomenal featherweight champ.
If you're a hard-core enthusiast who'd be thrilled to drive a Formula One car to work everyday if it were street legal, the Elise is a stunning alternativeespecially as your weekend getaway machine. You won't be pampered, but you will be exhilarated every time that you slip behind the wheel.
If you're not a hard-core enthusiast who's fully prepared to trade off just about every luxury convention in return for brilliant vehicle dynamics, steer clear of the Elise. Those lacking the personal flexibility to negotiate its narrow door openings and wide side sills also should consider a more mainstream two-seat alternative.
Under-skin reinforcing and subtle rear "bumperettes" make all cars built after early January fully compliant with U.S. crash regulations, but the real change of note here is new and far more effective projector-beam headlamps. Also on hand are raised chrome L-O-T-U-S letters on its rear fascia and a smaller inside mirror.
Driving Impressions Matching racecar-like reflexes with decidedly taut but livable ride quality, the mid-engine Elise displays incredible balance and control responses. Its non-assisted rack-and-pinion steering provides great feel and feedback, allowing you...to hustle the car through corners almost intuitively. While not exactly brutal, acceleration is plenty quick, helped in part by the Elise's miniscule 1984-pound curb weight andsave for a touch of notchiness in the linkagea nicely-sorted clutch/shifter combo. However, the high-winding engine's high-intensity exhaust note reverberates through the car's diminutive cockpit in a way that can become a bit wearing on longer runs, particularly when you're touring with the top in place. Halting this lithe Lotus are potent anti-lock brakes (ABS) with large vented and cross-drilled rotors that deliver short, straight stops with reassuring regularity.
The Elise epitomizes why Lotus remains a revered name in the in the world of performance cars. Its unique combination of light weight and superb balance makes the Elise a world-class corner carver and more than a match for even the twistiest backroad.
It's a Lotus, and for anyone who knows or cares about legendary automotive marques, that fact alone speaks volumes. Only about 2200 Elises will be heading to the U.S. in 2007, so there's no danger of you ever being lost in a crowdor in a parking lot.
Spartan with style, the compact cabin of the Elise displays lots of bare aluminum, exposed fasteners, hard-touch surfaces and a Momo sport wheel that leaves no doubt about its true purpose. While able to accommodate the proverbial six-footer, even with the top element removed entry or exit remains more of a process than an act. Torso-hugging competition-style buckets lined with ProBax anatomical padding offer fore and aft adjustment but, like the steering column, you must adapt to their fixed seatback angle. The Elise does offer a few conventional creature comforts, notably an Alpine sound system and air conditioning, but its mini side mirrors do little to enhance the already restricted sightlines and, with only a tiny trunklet directly behind the engine bay, you'll always be traveling light.Exterior
The Elise wraps its composite fiberglass body around a light but extremely rigid bonded aluminum monocoque chassis. Despite a bumper-area beef-up, the look carries over unchanged for 2007 with all of its sensual cuts and contours intact. Crowning the package is a removable black cloth soft-top insert that can be replaced by an optional color-keyed fiberglass unit. Up front, revised projector-beam headlamps provide better illumination and are easier to maintain, while the tail of the Elise sports high-intensity LED brake lights and a pair of boldly upswept aerodynamic diffusers that flank its dual center-mount exhaust outlets. The car's purposefully bulged fenderwells are nicely filled by staggered-width alloy wheels that wear 175/55ZR16 front tires and 225/45ZR17s in the rear.
The Elise complements its enthusiast-grade powertrain, ultra-responsive suspension and powerful anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with a driver-centric cabin dominated by a leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel and deeply contoured, cloth-covered bucket seats. Comfort and convenience touches are modest, but do include a four-speaker Alpine AM/FM audio system with a single-slot CD player (and arguably the world's worst-designed control set), air conditioning, intermittent windshield wipers, a single 12-volt power point, easy-to-stow black cloth soft top insert and a factory anti-theft/immobilizer system with remote locking. Also in the mix are dual front airbags and your choice of Ardent Red or British Racing Green exterior colors.
Key Elise extras include the Touring Pack (leather upholstery, upgraded sound system, power windows, carpeting and additional cabin and soft-top sound insulation), Premium Pack (Alpine AM/FM/XM stereo system plus various trim upgrades; requires Touring Pack), Forged Wheel Pack (lightweight forged aluminum wheels), Sport Pack (forged aluminum wheels with 195/50ZR16 front and 225/45ZR17 rear Yokohama Advan A048 LST tires, Sport Tuned Suspension and twin oil coolers), Track Pack (driver-adjustable Bilstein shock absorbers, five-position front anti-roll bar, rear chassis reinforcement and provisions for bolt-in harnesses; requires Sport Pack), Lotus Traction Control, a limited-slip differential, a weight-saving air conditioning delete, bolt-in fiberglass top insert and 18 Metallic or Lifestyle paint colors.
Sitting amidships in the Elise is modified version of a Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter DOHC in-line four that makes 190 horsepower at 7,800 rpm and 134 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. Although fitted with both Toyota's Variable Valve Timing and Lift with intelligence (VVTL-i) system and a custom-designed Lotus electronic control package, it still remains most energetic between 6,000 rpm and its lofty 8,000 redline. Motive force heads to the rear tires via a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox, also supplied by Toyota. Although fully mastering the shift linkage does require some finesse, the throws are short and the clutch take-up is progressive, allowing this petite road rocket to hit 60 miles per hour in a claimed 4.9 seconds (4.7 seconds on cars fitted with the optional Sport Pack) and reach a top speed of 150 mph.
1.8-liter in-line 4
190 horsepower @ 7800 rpm
134 lb.-ft. @ 6800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/29
By 4NZix (GA) on Sunday, March 17, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drive control, turning, gas mileage, looks"
Cons: "Getting in/out, cheap parts, not very comfortable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"1st, This is not really a daily driver car. If you are single, 25, average height and weight, with a girlfriend who is under 150 lbs, maybe. 2nd, most women (and I have had several in the car - relatives and the like) find this car to be BRUTAL to ride in. It attracts them like flies, no doubt, but honestly, this is a harsh car. 3rd, it is rudimentary at best. There is no adjusting the steering wheel, there is no adjusting the passenger seat, there is no adjustment of the upper torso part of the driver's own seat - just fore and aft - that's it. 4th, this car is an eye-catcher and that is no lie. Having owned corvettes, Porsche 911 and ridden in a Lamborghini Gallardo and Mercieliago (sic), nothing gets the looks like a LOTUS ELISE - not even the Evora. 5th, great gas mileage, but tiny tank. It gets 20-22 city and 26-30 on the highway. 7th, entering and exiting the car SUCKS! If you disagree you don't own this car. It is terrible to exit, a 1/10 and if you are overweight, forget this car entirely. Entering is okay, you can slide in, but this is where the ladies hate this car. 8th, cheaply made parts tend to break. The plastic inside is cheap, no storage space (save 2 bags in the trunk) and not even a glove box. 9th, music is terrible regardless if you dump $2000 into a system - the car is LOUD. The engine roars behind your head and you feel every bump, even the year of that penny you just rode over is easy to feel. 10th, driving control and turning is where this car excels, but does it outweigh everything else? Maybe. It is a go-cart sized car, literally waist high if you are 6' tall. The car needs to be really revved to make power and you will get killed by even a regular Mustang GT on a straightaway. Cornering is its best asset, bar none. So, overall, it is a terrible daily driver, period. It will get you from Dallas to Houston maybe on a tankful, but you won't like getting there if its bumpy. HARSH ride is being nice, after all, you are sitting in an aluminum tub surrounded by fiberglass. There is no comfort here. The seats are terribly uncomfortable over 75 miles and if you have a bad back, it will get worse with this car. Is it worth all this? Yes, if you buy one used around $30,000 and the ECU shows it hasn't been abused. Most of these cars are tracked, so be wary. Avoid LOW LOW mileage Elise's - lots of engine problems with seals. I'd buy one with 90,000 before one with 12,000 if it is a few years old. These cars are meant to be driven, but not beat on. I would recommend this car as a collector car, to be driven sparingly (3-5k miles a year). If you want a commuter, this is not for you. It can be embarrassing getting in and out at times. Drinking coffee or talking on the phone? Not in an Elise. No cup holders and no real room for error. Use 2 hands on this little beast."
By Robert (FL) on Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, great styling"
Cons: "Hard to get into/out of, interior doesn't hold up"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car is difficult to get ina and out of, and some of the materials used in the interior have not held up well considering the age of the vehicle, but the Elise is by far the most fun of any car I've owned. If you want a car that is quiet, comfortable and easy to get around in - this is not yoe vehicle. If you want a car that has a great HP/weight ratio, handles and brakes like a $300k exotic and makes you feel like you are driving a F1 racer every day - this is your car."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Georgia dawgs (FL) on Monday, January 23, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "Nothing unless you are fat and can't fit in it"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My 2011 Elise R is the best car I have driven in my entire life. I had before porsches, BMW, audits and a mustang gt500 and those care are like driving crown Victoria's next to the Elise. The information this car send to the driver is amazing! Super fast acceleration for only 192hp, the BEST handling than any car out there including ferraris and lamborghini, and I know this because I was a test driver for this two companies when I lived in Italy. The only issue is the small cabin but that is what lotus is all about, low weight, superior handling and great acceleration. The Toyota engine is not a Celica engine, it is just the bones/shell, it is all lotus engineering. Until you drive an Elise you'll understand it, and if you are able to get those revs all the way close to the redline you will hear a sound that releases the monster that Elise is all about. It gives you the chills! It is like you are inside a race car video game."
10 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By s2000imp (FL) on Friday, December 23, 2011
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun, responsive"
Cons: "hard to exit"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is a car that successfully connects the driver to the road while most cars insulate the driver from the road. I had a Honda s2000 and loved it. This car is less luxurious but much faster and more responsive. The price of admission for connecting is difficult entrance and exit. If you are not too heavy and in reasonably good shape this is a small price to pay. If you want fun even at low speeds, this is the car. Yes, I use it as my daily drive."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By LGT SPD (KS) on Sunday, November 06, 2011
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun is an understatement"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The first time someone hung out the window on the highway to take a poicture of the car I thought it was weird, then I got use to it. This car stops people. They all ask about it. Nothing I have ever driven comes close to getting the looks. And it is so fun to drive. only issue is getting in and out of it. Not easy. Once in, it is comfortable."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful