I spent a day driving my 325 hp Elise and a Ferrari F430 back to back - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 07:39 AM Thread Starter
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I spent a day driving my 325 hp Elise and a Ferrari F430 back to back

I posted this for my car buddies on Facebook but a Lotus friend suggested I post it here as well and I thought that was a pretty good idea. Take a read if you’re an Elise fan.



“First of all I have to give a huge thank you to my friend Nathan W. He took out a Ferrari F430 this weekend through his car share club, Club Sportiva, and, knowing my insane love for cars, as well as my stewardship of a dangerously overpowered Lotus Elise, Nathan kindly invited me to join him on a gorgeous summer Northern California circuit drive from Petaluma, over the hills to Oakville/St. Helena, and then back over the hills to Santa Rosa and then finishing the circuit back in Petaluma again at the end. We had an absolute blast trading off driving the Ferrari and the Lotus all morning long. We both got intermittently skunked going uphill in the twisties behind slower cars but we also both got to experience motoring nirvana when the road cleared up and we could engage maximum attack hill climb mode. I’ve driven a couple of Ferraris before but they’ve been less impressive models like the 348 and California. I certainly enjoyed them and they both sounded incredible, but they didn’t really get my blood boiling, and . . . um, dare I say it, they weren’t really that fast.* Nathan's Ferrari F430 was the first Ferrari I've driven that reset my perspective and made me really, truly appreciate the Maranello masterpieces. The F430 is now two generations and a little more than a decade old but it's still a 490 hp fire breathing monster. Sweet Jesus that thing is fast, beautiful and sounds like a sex on a stick every time you hit the loud pedal. It was the first Ferrari I’ve driven that made me fall for Ferraris in actuality rather than just as magazine pinups.

My 2005 Lotus Elise in its stock form has about a 10:1 weight/power ratio, which is similar to what a base Porsche Boxster of that era has. I often say a stock Lotus Elise is a quick car, but nothing that’s going to scare the hell out of you, and it’s definitely not as quick stock as it looks. The Ferrari, which is contemporaneous with my Lotus, has just better than a 7:1 weight /power ratio, which is obviously more than a 50% improvement on the stock, non-supercharged Lotus Elise. As quite a few of my car friends know, I modified my Lotus many years ago with an aftermarket turbocharging kit and almost doubled the horsepower. Now my Lotus has about a 6:1 weight/power ratio, which is terrifying on a public road. If you’re really into cars, I’ll put that into perspective by saying that the W/P ratio on my car is better than an F430 but just short of a 458 Italia; it’s better than the whole Gallardo family but just below a Lambo Huracan. A McLaren 570S has a slightly better W/P ratio. To put those stats into further perspective, all those cars I mentioned have stability control, traction control, launch control, the Lambos are AWD, etc. In short, those cars are all high tech spaceship masterpieces that deliver on every level. They have electronic driver aids that keep you from killing yourself, working AC, and are generally able to function as a real car any time you want, even on a hot day. My Lotus has none of that. It’s a homemade hot rod. It has no cupholders. When I hit the AC button a little Blue LED turns on and the vents gently wheeze out slightly cooler than ambient air as if it was blowing on you through a skinny straw. After a long summer day of bombing up and down deserted canyon roads in the heat I get home panting like a rag doll asking for a saline IV drip, as Greg B will undoubtedly remember from past adventures. Now, all that being said, the thing my dangerously overpowered Lotus does better than any other car I’ve ever experienced is attack twisty mountain roads like an ax murderer. Or maybe I should say a scalpel assassin. It’s a question of physics. My Lotus weighs about 1950 pounds, which is just slightly heavier than a Smart Car. That incredible Ferrari I drove weighs 3350 pounds. And that Ferrari was awesome, but at the end of the day, it just couldn’t dance around tight corners and rip through S-curves at the level my Lotus can. The Lotus just devoured those tight corners again and again and then asked for more. A stock Lotus Elise has ridiculously overbuilt brakes for street use and of course the handling is world class. When I added the extra power, the chassis didn’t feel overwhelmed at all. With the extra power, the brakes, chassis and thrust finally felt like they were all appropriately matched. That car has ruined me for all other automotive dynamic experiences. I drove a 470 hp 997 turbo Porsche 911 for fun a couple of weeks ago, and because I’d driven there in my Lotus my test drive takeaway was, *this is a fantastic car but it feels kind of . . . (and I’m wincing as I type this) . . . dare I say it . . . fat and lazy.* Short of going to something like an Ariel Atom or BAC Mono, which is basically abandoning any notion of actual, functional transportation in the real world, I’ve ruined myself for all other dynamic driving experiences. It doesn’t matter if the next Ferrari that follows the 488 GTB has 850 hp. As long as it weighs 3300 lbs it won’t be any faster on a tight, curvy road, despite having more than twice the horsepower. And it certainly won’t be as much fun as a lightweight, overpowered Lotus.

It comes at a price, though. On a warm day like we enjoyed this weekend I arrived home feeling like I’d just completed the Bataan Death March after a long, hot freeway slog back to East Bay. My car’s audio system is relatively pathetic, even after I upgraded the speakers, head unit and added a small, lightweight amp. There is almost no NVH isolation in the car whatsoever, to the extent that you can’t possibly talk on a cell phone in the car at freeway speeds. The list goes on . . .

But still, if we’re talking about pure driving dynamics, (and at the end of the day that’s what pushes my buttons more than anything else) there is no other vehicle with doors, a windshield, and a semi-waterproof top that can possibly do on a curvy road what my Lotus Elise can do. My Bordeaux bomber is the devil and it wants to seduce (and possibly kill) anyone that gets behind the wheel.

I’ll never give it up.

*It is a very relative scale by which I measure that.
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'05 Bordeaux Red/Biscuit Elise
FF 275 turbo kit (actually 325 hp!)
rear panel delete & custom mesh panel replacement
painted center console & AC surround
upgraded JL/Kenwood/JVC audio
duct & panel mods to enable AC to function
touring+starshield+hardtop
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 07:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickster View Post
But still, if we’re talking about pure driving dynamics, (and at the end of the day that’s what pushes my buttons more than anything else) there is no other vehicle with doors, a windshield, and a semi-waterproof top that can possibly do on a curvy road what my Lotus Elise can do.
Drive a Noble M400. It's basically a faster Exige S260 with more interior space and more grip -- and no ABS, TC, launch control, etc.


The F430 Scuderia is still one of my most favorite cars to drive, even over the 458 -- but Lotus set the benchmark so damn high with their driving dynamics it's very hard for any company to replicate it.

"Straights are for fast cars. Turns are for fast drivers."
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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 10:29 AM
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I agree with the above write up. Nothing compares to an Elige. I wanted to buy another car comparable to the Elige but with a little more comfort. I added the Alfa 4C with a stage 2 tune!! What an animal!!! Very similar to the Lotus even tho the lotus is more Raw. Now, I own the best of both worlds.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 11:23 AM
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Was the 430 a manual? It's the last mid engine Ferrari with a manual, and the only way to fly, IMO. They're selling for double what the F1 cars sell for. Which is really crazy considering all the manufacturers claim that they can't sell manual cars.
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 11:34 AM
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Great writeup! It basically reinforces the same thoughts I've had about the Elise/exige models. As I tinker with the thought of what I could replace with the same thrill, nothing really sticks out for me except trading my Elise for an Exige lol. But even that is tough, as I put alot of blood and sweat into mine already haha. Thanks for sharing!
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 10:24 AM Thread Starter
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Drive a Noble M400. It's basically a faster Exige S260 with more interior space and more grip -- and no ABS, TC, launch control, etc.
Yeah, believe me I coulndn't agree with you more. Driving a Noble is on my bucket list. I don't think I've ever seen more than half a dozen of them after living in Norcal for 20 years. I would have seriously considered buying one but I hear very challenging stories about their reliability. Otherwise it's exactly the kind of car I love.

'05 Bordeaux Red/Biscuit Elise
FF 275 turbo kit (actually 325 hp!)
rear panel delete & custom mesh panel replacement
painted center console & AC surround
upgraded JL/Kenwood/JVC audio
duct & panel mods to enable AC to function
touring+starshield+hardtop
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
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Was the 430 a manual? It's the last mid engine Ferrari with a manual, and the only way to fly, IMO. They're selling for double what the F1 cars sell for. Which is really crazy considering all the manufacturers claim that they can't sell manual cars.
This one wasn't a manual. As you undoubtedly know, they're ultra rare. Something like 5% of the production were manuals. You mention the price differential. There's dozens of F430s on Cars.com right now for around $80K. The cheapest manual is $180K and they go up to $240K for a manual Spider! It's deceptive, though, because there are also dozens of F430s on Cars.com that are incorrectly labeled as manuals when they're clearly not from the pictures.

'05 Bordeaux Red/Biscuit Elise
FF 275 turbo kit (actually 325 hp!)
rear panel delete & custom mesh panel replacement
painted center console & AC surround
upgraded JL/Kenwood/JVC audio
duct & panel mods to enable AC to function
touring+starshield+hardtop
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 10:39 AM
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This one wasn't a manual. As you undoubtedly know, they're ultra rare. Something like 5% of the production were manuals. You mention the price differential. There's dozens of F430s on Cars.com right now for around $80K. The cheapest manual is $180K and they go up to $240K for a manual Spider! It's deceptive, though, because there are also dozens of F430s on Cars.com that are incorrectly labeled as manuals when they're clearly not from the pictures.
Yeah, automated manual transmissions have made the auto/manual differentiation difficult in ads. You have to look at the pictures.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 02:17 PM
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Looks like you drove thru my neighborhood in Santa Rosa.
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 02:43 PM
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Great write up but you can have AC and crazy power. My BOE RevX Exige is over 400WHP on pump gas and at least in Northern California the AC keeps up. It makes more HP at 4500RPM than the stock S240 does at 8500RPM. Its insanity. The brakes are way better than stock with the significant upgrades the boys at BOE did. As for the phone you have to buy the headset intended for use on aircraft carrier decks from Plantronics and your set besides if you dont you will go deaf. Now flat out it uses a gallon of fuel a minute. Fun times
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post #11 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 10:22 PM
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Looks like you live in my neighborhood (PH)?


Try a high powered Caterham, it will ruin your Elise :P




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post #12 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-10-2019, 10:25 PM
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Great post. I have had my eye on someday getting an F430 Spider, but bought the Elise as a stopgap as I continue to save and invest my "car fund." But having not yet driven an F430, I keep wondering if it's worth the *substantial* outlay to "upgrade."

Sure, the engine I'm positive is magnificent, the interior and exterior are excellent, and it's nice/comfy enough to take on a nice date. But for bombing around on an empty, twisty road, which is what I'm most interested in, I just have a hard time imagining a much bigger, 1,500lbs heavier car being as much fun as a harder-edged Lotus with a manual trans, manual steering full of feel, etc. If the Ferrari's main draw is that engine, well I do have an E90 M3 with a 414hp, 8400rpm V8 of its own and a manual... It's not a Ferrari but it's pretty damn special while taking the kid to daycare...

I'll have to drive one, but it's hard to conceive shelling out 4x the cost of a Lotus, in both purchase and maintenance, to get something much more - can't believe I'm saying this - compromised. Can't say I've ever come back from a nice drive in my Elise thinking, "well that was kind of disappointing."
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post #13 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 10:26 AM
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I agree with the above post. It’s very hard to beat the Elige for the money and the rawness experience you get when driving. I also own an Alfa 4C with a 300hp tune and I still think it’s hard to beat the Elige for the price nut the Alfa gets very close to the raw feel.
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post #14 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 08:00 PM Thread Starter
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Great write up but you can have AC and crazy power.
No argument there, but I'm referring to the fact that the Elige AC is quite poorly designed and generally sucks, independent of engine mods. I've done all the mods in this writeup-

https://www.scribd.com/document/2151...e=hp_affiliate

and my AC is still pathetic. What have you done to yours to make it keep up on a 90 degree NorCal day? Mine is nowhere near able to do that. Do share your secrets . . .

'05 Bordeaux Red/Biscuit Elise
FF 275 turbo kit (actually 325 hp!)
rear panel delete & custom mesh panel replacement
painted center console & AC surround
upgraded JL/Kenwood/JVC audio
duct & panel mods to enable AC to function
touring+starshield+hardtop
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post #15 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 08:03 PM Thread Starter
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Looks like you live in my neighborhood (PH)?


Try a high powered Caterham, it will ruin your Elise :P .
You got it, PH! I'll send you a PM shortly. I know those high powered Caterfields are pretty awesome but the front engine architecture doesn't push my buttons like a mid engine machine does. I'd still love to drive one someday!

'05 Bordeaux Red/Biscuit Elise
FF 275 turbo kit (actually 325 hp!)
rear panel delete & custom mesh panel replacement
painted center console & AC surround
upgraded JL/Kenwood/JVC audio
duct & panel mods to enable AC to function
touring+starshield+hardtop
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post #16 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 08:32 PM
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I know those high powered Caterfields are pretty awesome but the front engine architecture doesn't push my buttons like a mid engine machine does. I'd still love to drive one someday!

Depends on how sideways you like to drive


.
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post #17 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 07:06 AM
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Ariel Atom V8 is the only car that comes close to the Elise /Exige driving experience
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post #18 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 08:37 AM
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there is no other vehicle with doors, a windshield, and a semi-waterproof top that can possibly do on a curvy road what my Lotus Elise can do.
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Try a high powered Caterham, it will ruin your Elise :P
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Ariel Atom V8 is the only car that comes close to the Elise /Exige driving experience
Seems people are missing that part of the equation. Although Caterhams come with a set of doors and a fabric roof, they are like wearing a heavier jacket and a hoodie.

4C misses a key element of the Elige driving experience... a clutch pedal. The 4C is amazingly good though and feels like a spiritual successor of the Elige.
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post #19 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 10:18 AM
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Thanks for the write-up.

I rented a Ferrari 360 once and the number one thing I remember was the terrific engine sound.
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post #20 of 30 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 10:44 AM
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Drove the Ariel Atom V8, totally a blast to drive, the acceleration is out of this world.
I also want a car with a roof and AC that can be a daily driver.

Let's not forget the great handling and lightweight Ginetta G55 (best race car to work on), but no AC, not street legal. No choice but to settle for an Elise of Exige
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