I've had some experience with open-air cars, but it's been a while. At one point I swore them off and disuaded others from buying them. In Maryland, the weather is either too cold and wet or too hot and humid.
My sister enjoyed her VW Cabriolet years ago, but that's a total chick car. I was never into it, but she had fun driving around and going back and forth to the beach.
My father has an '88 Ford Mustang GT convertible. That thing has all kinds of chassis flex. It also didn't handle especially well in coupe form -- the soft-top just made it worse.
My only open-air car was an old '74 Porsche 914. That was a Targa top like the Elise. I like the feeling of having a rear window fixed in place and having a built in B pillar/roll bar. The Elise gets points for that ... BUT ... my memories of the 914 remain clear and the Elise top is not appealing to me for a few reasons:
- The 914 top was also a bit of a pain to take off and put on. You could do it by yourself, but it took a couple minutes. Like Lillie in her X 1/9, I found myself not bothering with the top when I had shorter trips to make. I wouldn't want to leave it parked with the top off for any length of time -- so taking the top off to drive 10 miles and then putting it back on grew tiresome.
- The 914 top was solid and kept the wind noise down, but it didn't fit perfectly at the corners. I remember getting water on my left sleeve as I drove through a downpour.
I chose the new S2000 over the Elise for many reasons (previously explained), but the top was a big one. I would prefer not being totally exposed, and the Elise fit the bill better in that department, but the hassle of a fiddly top was something I wasn't going to deal with. The 6 second top of the S2000 is about as easy as opening a sunroof. You don't have to get out of the car or line up a metal bar or fitting and clips, etc. You flip a clip and press a button. This means I'll actually USE THE CAR AS A CONVERTIBLE! I can drive from my house to the restaurant with the top down and then park the car with the top up while I dine. Then I can put the top down again as I drive to the movie theater...then put the top up while I see the movie. Then I can drive to the bar with the top down and put it up again while I have coffee. You get the idea. With a targa top - any targa top - you will invariably say "screw it. I'll just leave it on". And that defeats the purpose of having a convertible.
Now if your Elise is a weekend only car - you can leave the top off all the time. Just don't park it anywhere!