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Discussion Starter #1
If you have also driven the demo at Criswell, please post you own review in here.

I am going to be a bit more critical than most of the reviews I have seen so far. While I am bowled over by the car and definitely want it, it is not by any means perfect (such as my review will be I am sure :) ).

So, here we go.

Silver Elise- Touring, Hard Top and Clear Shield

First thing : Appearance. We all know my affinity for Alcantera. I remain steadfast on this, even now. While the interior really is nice, the alcantera would be a great option for those of us who really want it.

External: From the outside it is amazing as ever. Exhaust, while I like the euro styling more, the center placement does not bother me as it doesn't scream "Look at me!" Side markers were not noticable at all, they are there but not obtrusive like they appear in the pictures, and never even saw the clear shielding. Color is... uninspiring. I am not a big fan of silver, and it does nothing special on this car. It looks good mind you, but it does not snap like it should considering how amazing it looks in other colors. I wish I could have seen Tim's chrome Orange, but evidently he pulled out 15 minutes before I showed up. Another couple was there putting down a deposit (over 200 deposits now at criswell), and said "We saw something orange zoom on out." :)

Panels fit perfectly and the paint looked great. Nothing can be said that everyone else hasnt said already.

Internal: Aside from the alcantera, it is just about perfect. Now mind you, I am not talking porsche boxster style perfection with multiple vents directing perfectly cooled air at you, or s4 style gauge work that tells you tons of stuff, or mercedes style with heated/cooled seats. I am talking about form following function perfection. Everything is in its place because it needs to be in that place. The seats are very comfortable, and they hold you tightly in place. I would say 4-5 hours of constant driving and you will definitely need to get out and stretch, but you would not be in pain. The guages are in the perfect location and all info is readily available like it should be.

Radio? Never even thought about it. Its easily within reach though, as is the AC unit. Now I have to say with the ac, I really would like an auto temp setting similar to the porsche. I know this is a minimalistic car, but I have to say I am totally spoiled by the climate control in the boxster. I have tried many other CC systems in other cars, but the porsche system is done RIGHT. I never have to mess with it at all. I would take the 1lb extra weight if there was an option for it. (My guess would actually be about .25lbs for the extra sensors/wire required)

Gear shifter. I would say 100x improvement over the euro shifter, though it is nowhere near as tight as the shifter in either my boxster or my old third gen rx7. Both of which were/are equipped with the stock lever. A shorter shift lever will be a required aftermarket upgrade IMO. Throw force should not be a problem, as it is quite easy in stock form. The other issue I saw here was the plastic shifter area cover moves around a bit. Not a big deal, but it might catch people off guard.

Passenger seat. Not designed for anyone over 4'3" in height. Ok, maybe 5'3". At 5'11" tall I was not terribly comfortable sitting over there, due to the angle and how I had to keep my legs away from the shifter (6th gear intrudes on passenger space.) It will be an absolte requirement

that you tell all passengers to keep their legs to the right, unless you are trying to get "friendly" with them. Fortunately for me, my girlfriend is within that arbitrary height limit I mentioned, but if your signifigant other is fairly big/tall keep that in mind for long trips. Short trips should be great even if you are quite tall fortunately enough. If you must take a tall/big passenger on a longer trip, I suggest skipping the straight boring US highway system and somehow hit some mountainous twisties. The speed/altitude/g-force loading will keep your compainon from concerning themselves with something as mundane as momentary comfort. Come to think of it, I would ALWAYS suggest skipping the superboring slabs of convenient travel, and heading out to find something more interesting!

Ambience: This is a racecar through and through, with a very nice interior. It never lets you forget its roots, or what its purpose in life is. When you start it up, it seems humble enough with a hint of "something" back there that just isn't normal. Though really, when the top is on you already know you are in for something as you attempt to figure out a way to get in that little opening the door creates for you. With any low rpm operation, the car booms quite audibly, though again not at idle. As you start moving it drops down to a slight background noise, and is pefectly comfortable at 70 on the highway in 6th. Hard on the throttle and it all comes back with a vengance. The sport exhaust might be a bit much for most americans, as the stock exhaust is already louder than the euro exhaust was.

I will admit, we had the hard top on, so I cant say how this all changes when topless. My guess is the booming would be reduced, and the exhaust would sound a bit sharper though quieter at the same time. Stage 1 might be perfect like that. As for the feeling when the top is on, its fine. Does not feel claustrophobic at all to me, though I am used to small car cabins such as my boxster.

So, at the beginning I was commenting on my "critical" review. So far it sounds pretty normal of course, and its pretty much what has been said

before though hopefully I have added a bit more data. The problem comes down to possibly "americanizing" the car a bit too much.

Driving the car: So you sit down in the near perfect interior with the slightly sloppy (though much improved) shifter, grab the perfect steering

wheel, hit the starter button and prepare to move. It all feels so nice. Push the gear lever forward into first and give it a bit of gas. This is when you discover the flywheel is fairly light, anchoring the idea this is a race car and letting the engine comes up to speed VERY fast. It also brings up the booming bass note of the elise engine. When the clutch comes out fully the car starts moving and the bass note drops down to acceptable levels by 10mph. Driving in traffic may be an issue due to the interior noise, but then again it may reduce a bit over time. By 20mph the exhaust is "noticable" but not overwhelming. Otherwise tooling around in traffic, the elise is a car. That sounds like an ungrateful comment, but I really mean it as a good thing. It is more than capable of taking you from point a to b when required, or maybe even coming and going every day (as mine will be doing.)

Seriously, the engine is great. What can I say? It doesn't have much down low, but the high end is really nice and it definitely lets you know "Here we go!" when you get to the cam switchover. Easily powerful enough to get a powerslide going and your heart racing.

Here comes what I would describe as "the issue."

The steering. Yes, I know it does not have power steering, and I also know what the reviews say about the handling on this car. I am also quite aware of how a car should feel without power steering, and this is not it. Point it a direction, and it goes, but there isn't as much feedback as I am used to. The euro car did not have this issue when I drove it around. Picture this, you are driving at 25mph and there is a strip in the road, on this strip is printed something in braile, on the UK car you could read it through the steering wheel. The US car would give you maybe a sensation of something, but nothing concrete. Steering was "straight ahead" to a fault and not quite as "telepathic" as I assumed it would be. When I setup my car I normally go for neutral toe on the front, with some negative camber, or maybe a small amount of toe out on the front, although that reduces tire life by a bit. This gives you a bit of tramlining and a decent turn in alogn with a nice "crisp" feeling of the road. This elise feels like it may have a slight amount of toe in and positive camber?! I don't know enough to say that for sure, maybe its just the tires being used stock here in the US. Whatever it is I am not terribly enthusiastic about that feeling. What I will say is that going around a parking lot it felt good when pushing it, but still not quite how I like my steering to feel. Hopefully the LSS tires/setup will be going a bit more towards going fast vs keeping everything conservative for the superslab only drivers out there.

Can it be corrected? Yep I am positive on that. Will it hamper your diving on the track? Probably not, mostly its a matter of preference. Track requires special setup for maximum speed, and that setup can differ track by track, day by day. Figure out whats right for that day, and I bet it will be magic.


When we got back to the dealership, I had a smile on my face and no qualms about the deposit. The car is definitely worth the cost, and I can't wait to get mine! Now to decide on a color.,,
 

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maybe it just needs an alignment

here's the stock toe/camber settings--front toe set at 0, extremely slight neg camber



 

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My perceptions have been somewhat different Scot, I felt nearly as in tune with the road surface as on a sportbike, I feel it really communicates what's going on with the surface rather well. Of course as with all observations this purely subjective on my part.
Chris
But if that's as negative as negative review gets, I'll take it.
 

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My fiance is setup for a ride tomorrow, I'll post her thoughts. It might just be the first woman's perspective on a test drive....haven't seen anyone else post.

And yes, she is a car enthusiast and will be driving the Elise after we get it, albiet not as much as me :)
 

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SCOT,
A very nice honest report... I too will adjust the setup per the need and not rely on the factory to figure out my demographic..
 

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cranium said:
My fiance is setup for a ride tomorrow, I'll post her thoughts. It might just be the first woman's perspective on a test drive....haven't seen anyone else post.

And yes, she is a car enthusiast and will be driving the Elise after we get it, albiet not as much as me :)
If she says anything about the lack of cup holders, we'll never let you hear the end of it!

:D
 

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Discussion Starter #11
johnny: I made a quick joke about my girlfriend being the cupholder... Hopefully the bruise should go away soon :)
 

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She already knows about the cupholders, and could care less. I just hope she returns the Elise, she is ready to rip up The Dragon. She already did it in the WRX.

A shame that my fiance gets a test drive before I do, I am on an assignement in NY and won't get my Test Drive till Saturday.:(
 

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scot said:
johnny: I made a quick joke about my girlfriend being the cupholder... Hopefully the bruise should go away soon :)
Nice. You're just like me. I don't put my foot in my mouth, I put the whole leg in there! :D
 

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cranium said:
...the first woman's perspective on a test drive....
So she got her test drive today, her first comment was "Wow. The car is awesome. " Here is the rest (secondhand, easier to write in first person):

I am absolutely amazed at the lack of body roll taking turns at speed. The bumps were no problem (non-LSS). Ingress and egress were not problem, although it was more difficult on the passenger side.

I was a little nervous at first, and it took a couple shifts to get used to the clutch differences between the Elise, WRX and the civic. After I got used to it a bit, no prob. No second cam, car's not broken in yet.

I was worried a bit about the power steering. Our WRX has PS, but the civic did not and it definitely needed it. But the Elise does not need it at all. At any speed, 1mph or more, you can just twist the wheel and it goes exactly where you want it.

You definitely need to keep an eye on the speedo, it comes to speed quick and you don't realize it at all. I was followed by a cop (luckily not pulled over) for doing about 80 in a 45.

I now really understand how much being light really matters. When we first started discussing the car, Iwas excited, but more for the fact it was a new, exciting car. I now have no question in my mind whatsoever that we will get this car. It was that fun to drive. It is definitely a "go-cart on steroids". The WRX felt like a family car, even after I whipped a Mustang on the steet on the way home.
 

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I took the demo out with Tom Thursday for a test drive. It was a nice long drive into the country, some nice twisty roads. I think Lotus nailed this car. I couldn't believe how much nicer it was than the euro Elise I drove last fall. The controls were perfect, engine smooth and flexible, tranny perfectly matched, heel toe downshifts second nature. The car has the best ride/handling combo I have ever driven. I will be spoiled for life. The stock suspension has slight understeer tendencies on turn in, but is neutral when on the power. Probably safer that way.

Fit and finish were excellent (except for the center console which has been mentioned elsewhere). Doors close with a thunk like a benz. Soft top easy to put on, looks like a bit of Lotus' clever engineering at work. I liked the driving position and seats were comfortable once in them. Controls were for the most part easy to read and use. AC worked great.

I was really impressed how flexible the powerplant is. Even lugging to 2k in 4th the car pulls smoothly - no need to upshift as in my miata. Sounds were great - car was much more relaxed at highway speeds than my miata, while a nice engine note eminated from behind the seats when the revs are higher.

When I got back in my Miata, I felt I was driving a buckboard (although it is set up for autox) - the Elise is so much more solid and refined. I originally did not think the Elise could threaten the Boxster and Z4, but I have changed my mind. I think the level of refinement approaches those German machines (not quite the same but in the same range) in a higher performance package.

Now if I could only make my color choice!

Steve Brown
'94 Miata
'05 Elise (color?) Touring/LSS
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thats actually a good point I did not consider all that deeply. The lotus elise definitely can compete with the boxster, in its current form.

I know some people on this board ridicule the boxster, but as one who has experience, I know better. The boxster is composed, calculating and fast. A true "gentleman's" racecar. While Porsche has provided zero support for the boxster on the race track, many people still decided to give it a whirl. It is amazingly balanced, and I have passed right on by many people in "supercars" who just couldn't understand how a little boxster could do that. When you are done for the day, drive home in the same car and it feels great.

Driving around town the car is almost supple, the seats comfortable, and the top easy with no worries about water coming in. The steering is nice and communicative along with the rest of the car, without being overly so. It is also quiet, though to a fault IMO.

The elise feels very similar, but only on the surface. It is comfortable to sit in, the engine works well etc. The difference is, well hard to describe. The boxster gives you the same ride on the track or on the road. Clean, comfortable and confidence inspiring, with nice high limits all in an easy to use/learn package. Its great fun, oh yes, but the elise offers something slightly different. Its kind of like an ooey gooey candy treat with a habanero center. It lulls you into thinking this is a normal car, even though you read the package and know there is some heat in there somewhere. You can almost forget about that "extra something" waiting for you just a few rpm higher as you are cruising down the highway. Then you see the twisty bits and you get on it. You scratch through the outer candy shell and hit the habanero inside. At that point all you can do is hold on for the ride and point it the right direction.

If I never, ever, went on the track, the elise is a great car, but the boxster is slightly better for the street. It has a bit more grunt, and creature comforts galore and the factory supports that use. Of course if I ever wanted to go on the track, or feel like I was on the track, the elise wins hands down. It has high end power, the exhaust is audible, and just enough creature comforts to get you by every day.

Porsche has created a mythology about their cars and racing, which has put many of its owners in a quandry. Porsche states over and over the boxster is not a racecar, that is the purpose of the carerra series. Unfortunately that means the Boxster/midengined fans have not had a low cost option for racing. Lotus is providing exactly what the racing oriented boxster owners have been asking porsche about for a long time now, and I for one am switching.

Scot
 

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I drove the demo car on Wednesday. I also went with Tom down 270, onto 121 then back on 124. Some of my impressions of the car are the same as others reported here, some different.

Regarding the exterior, this silver car looked pretty good. The clearbra was applied much better than the press car examples I saw at Criswell earlier. The line across the hood was still visible, but not too bad, and you had to look hard to see the slight color difference it makes on the hood.

Interior things I hardly noticed. Didn't play the radio, and, since the top was off, couldn't tell how good the AC was when Tom turned it on. I did notice that the driver's visor would not stay in the up position, it would only flop down.

The engine in this car is nice. It revs fairly quickly and it was smooth up to the 5k line; didn't push it as it had less than 500 miles on it. Torque seemed to be spread evenly throughout. The engine gives the car quickness, though it didn't feel really fast. Oh, for just 50 more horsepower!

Shifting gears is certainly an improvement over the previous Elise. Not notchy or vague, though also not the "snick-snick" variety that you will find on a Honda S2000. I do like the safeguard for reverse, so that you have to pull up on the piece below the shifter knob before you can engage reverse. On my other car I always fear that I will one day put the car in reverse while downshifting. The plastic console-type thing around the shifter does shift too, but after the first couple of times I no longer noticed.

On 270 I took it up to about 95, still careful with rpm. It got there easily. I was surprised at how little turbulence there was in the cockpit. Many cars with both front windows wide open create much more air movement. Tom's hair hardly got messed up. :) We had to raise our voices to communicate, but certainly did not have to shout.

The clutch on this car has a fair amount of travel. It doesn't need to be all the way on the floor to shift.

For a production car, the steering was very quick and precise. The steering and handling on curves were both very good. At about the midway point on 121 there is a 25-mph curve. I approached this at 50-mph as though we were doing just 25, and the car behaved as though we were only traveling at 25. Sure, most modern cars could have taken the curve at 50, but most would still have some body lean or something that would tell you that you took it a little fast. The Elise really did feel like it was on the proverbial rail.

One thing that bothered me was the feel in the brake pedal. Not so much that there was some travel in it, but it didn't communicate much information to the driver. Braking itself was very good; the car stopped quickly and in a straight line. I just couldn't tell by judging with my foot. A friend told me that a larger master cylinder and stainless brake lines might improve pedal feel; does anyone else have information they can share on this?

My friend drove the car immediately after I did, and I know he drove it much harder than me. He took a different route, and took the 270 exit ramp onto 370. Taking this curve hard, though nowhere near the limit, he reported a very noticeable understeer. I presume the LSS setup, with its wider front tires, would reduce this tendency and make the car more neutral.

Overall I think this is a pretty fun car to drive, and an easy one to get accustomed to -- maybe too easy. I found myself having to readjust my driving back to my regular ride.

Tom mentioned that Criswell was having a meeting with Lotus USA reps on Friday, the 13th. Criswell may now have a better idea of what their allocation will be, at least over the near term. Perhaps someone who is in regular contact with Tom can ask him about it and post it to the board. I would, but I figure I shouldn't bug him more than once a week.
 

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I drove it on sat. in the rain!

since it was raining the rules were "take it easy" here is what i noticed.

-The top does not leak

-with the ac on in summer rain, the windows do not fog (about 20 mins of driving)

-with the top on getting in and out was no problem, never even really had to think about it (but i am a fitness nut and 5'10 at 155 lbs so... take that for what its worth!)

- i think lotus spaced the pedals out for the us, and i did not like the new position, the gas pedal felt a bit too far away from the brake, wish it was a bit closer, but like any car, after a while my ankle will figure it out...

-the sun visors were thin hard plastic "boxes" ?? yuk - again i liked the older cloth visors better (not a big deal though)

-personally didn't like the silver, especially on a dreary day, and espcially not next to a chrome yellow gallardo!!! woo hoo waay sweet. ...Hmmm... maybe just maybe, i mean they got lazer blue after all!!!

-the feedback on the wet road was almost "too much information" :) the amount of water on any road is constantly changing, and you could feel the difference, something you would never notice in most anyother car.

-the (standard) suspension is not harsh at all, very compliant, LSS would be no problem. however, the minimal padding may make some people confuse the 2 things. really it was not harsh over rough roads, you just feel the seat kicking you because there is no cushy.

-rear vision was not bad for highway driving.

Mmmmm... all the other stuff has been said

wonderfull car!!!!

Thanks to the guys at Criswell !!
 

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fit,
FYI, the sunvisors are actually leather covered, and look quite nice, now the pre production visors on the LA cars were hideous vinyl clad pieces!
Chris
 

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scot said:



If I never, ever, went on the track, the elise is a great car, but the boxster is slightly better for the street. It has a bit more grunt, and creature comforts galore and the factory supports that use. Of course if I ever wanted to go on the track, or feel like I was on the track, the elise wins hands down. It has high end power, the exhaust is audible, and just enough creature comforts to get you by every day.


So you want something that makes the right noises and has some creature comforts, yet still feels like a race car with a high-reving engine. Hmm....


Originally posted by lotus1 The engine gives the car quickness, though it didn't feel really fast. Oh, for just 50 more horsepower!

Shifting gears is certainly an improvement over the previous Elise. Not notchy or vague, though also not the "snick-snick" variety that you will find on a Honda S2000. [/B]
...and you want an extra 50bhp and a shifter like the S2000 has.

...

I think you guys want exactly what I want....


... I want my '04 to look like an Elise and be called a semi-exotic car like a "Lotus". Simple as that. The S2000 does all of the things I (and apparently some others) want, but it's "just a Honda" and doesn't look like a baby 246 Dino.

Maybe Honda can up the ante in 2006 by restyling the S2000 a little and cutting a little weight. The heart of any car (in my opinion) is the engine and the gearbox, and I think the S2000 wins hands down in those categories. It's a shame the S2000 doesn't have the "WOW!" looks that the Elise has.

I guess it all depends what's more important to you...
 
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