Thanks for your input everyone. I've test driven 2 elises but only for < 10 minutes and never got out of maybe 2nd or 3rd gear or hit the 2nd cam or went around a turn fast so I don't have a great feel for how it really drives. I'm going to tell my bud that he's out of luck, I really don't want to settle on a Type-R.
Believe me, I get that an Elise isn't an all-purpose car. My wife (with spine trouble) still hasn't been even around the block in mine and I've had it for a year. I do DD it as a commute car on an admittedly short and predictable commute with covered parking at both ends. Big trips for the car so far have been 180 mile round trips for work to our colo facility (yes, it's fun, and yes, I'm usually hauling some server hardware when I do it) - get to write mileage off on the toy car.
Another thing that will happen with an Elise that won't happen with any current Japanese car short of a GT-R, or just maybe a Supra: Conversations with random strangers about the car when you go pick up some groceries at Trader Joe's. I think it sort of blows peoples' minds when I put four bags in the boot, one in the pax seat and one in the pax floorboard and drive the groceries home in my impractical, exotic English sports car. For extra effect, put the interior bags in through the roof hole because you have the top off. No, I don't park by the door...
Things you should do before you put the Elise on or off the list for good: Take the top off. Take it out long enough to get it warmed up - 15+ minutes. Once warm: Accelerate hard onto the superslab. Make telekinetic lane changes. Discover how bad your steering wheel balance technique is on an offramp or onramp (the Elise does not reward heavy hands). Take it up to 8500 in third with the top off. Then you will have some idea if this car is a 'must have' or a 'can live without.' If you can
live without it, you probably will eventually choose to do so if you buy it. I will note that if you had an MR2 turbo you might already be spoiled for anything but another mid engine sports car. I have been ever since my X 1/9 25 years ago.
You can do all of this on a test drive, although the last one requires appropriate conditions and may violate local laws.