Externally, the Croft is identical to the European car with the exception of modified lights and the twin rear exhaust pipes that emerge centrally from a modified diffuser.
Our drive begins on the twisting, bumpy backroads that surround the Lotus factory. These roads have been sued to fine-tune every Lotus since the '50s, but Adams is anxious to point out the car has also been tested in Phoenix and L.A. The spring and damper rates have been changed to take into account both U.S. conditions and the car's increase in mass.
One of the finest features of the orginal Elise was it's ride quality. Its minor bump absorption and compliance was nothing short of extraordinary, but the Croft takes this to a new level.
In the Celica, this enige's dearth of low-rev torque can make it a frustrating companion. But the 1,984-pound Croft weighs 25-percent less than the Toyota so the engine's torque deficiencies cease to be a major concern. The six-speed gearbox also swaps ratios with a more satisfying, mechanical clunk.
Back at the test track, the engine's top-end histrionics become a virtue. Well-chosen ratios and a slight retune of the engine's variable valve timing make it possible to keep it on the higher cam, between 6000 rpm and the 8350 rpm cutoff, where the engine's strident note is matched by it's thrust. Second gear no longer feels too tall as it does in the Celica. Lotus claims 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
The increased thrust also makes it easier to exploit the brilliance of the Elise chassis. The Series 1 had brutal lift-off oversteer at the limit, but the second-generation car is more bnign. It's now easier to drive, but no less exciting. Although the traction is such that power oversteer is almost impossible to achieve in the dry, a skilled sheelman can still adjust its trajectory on the throttle and prompt the car into a glorious four-wheel drift.
Tactile controls have been a hallmark of every great Lotus and this is no exception. The steering and throttle feel are both first rate, without the car ever feeling nervous. The brakes are equally terrific. The ABS has been tuned to engage only in extremis and its operation is much softer than it is on a normal production car. It's fair to say that the system is an aid to enthusiastic driving, rather than a necessary evil that detracts from the pedal feel, which is some achievement.
At the end of the day we're still a bit bummed the Federal Elise isn't the stripped down, raw road racer the Series 1 was, but we also realize it would be wrong to describe it as a pastiche of the original. With the help of the new engine, Lotus engineers have achieved their objective and developed a more complete package without destroying the soul of the original. This is a brilliant sports car. We can't wait to flog one on American soil.
#somethingwickedthiswaycomes... the new Origin Noble M and the Origin 7
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There are some very shady dealers in the Lotus business.
2005 Lotus Elise, 1993 MR2, 1995 MR2, 125cc Shifter Kart, Toniq (in build), 2018 Origin 7 (waiting), 2018 Origin Noble M (waiting)