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Auto Express has reviewed the U.S. Elise, and it is "Today's Top Story."
The waiting is over! After months of rumour and speculation, Lotus has finally pulled the wraps from its new Toyota-engined Elise - and Auto Express is the first British magazine to get behind the wheel.

Powered by the Celica's 190bhp 1.8-litre VVTL-i unit, the car will appear at the Geneva Motor Show in March, before going on sale in the UK next summer. Designed as a flagship for the Elise line-up, it will sell alongside the Rover K Series-engined version and is expected to cost £30,000.
For the moment, Lotus is concentrating on getting this more powerful, more luxurious newcomer ready for the company's push into the US market. However, this version is likely to have an equally big impact here, so we had to try it out - and brought along a current Elise for comparison.

Expectation is high as we head out on to Lotus's private test track. We've been huge fans of the Elise ever since it was launched in 1998. In our opinion, each evolution of the car has improved the design and driving appeal - so can the latest machine maintain this reputation? In short, absolutely. But the new Elise is a very different sort of car to its Rover-engined brother. Although it's more powerful, the Toyota unit adds weight, as do the twin airbags, anti-lock brakes and six-speed gearbox.

In fact, the newcomer is 90kg heavier. Lotus says this won't matter, as it's targeting a different breed of driver. To prove this, climate control and a Blaupunkt stereo feature, while the floor has been carpeted and there's a start button to the left of the steering wheel. The instruments are all different, too, reading bright white in the day and streetlight amber by night, instead of cobalt blue. Fuel capacity is up, and there's a half-leather interior and remote locking.

Fortunately, all this doesn't seem to have slowed the Elise's pace much. Dashing round the test track at Lotus's Hethel HQ in Norfolk, it feels responsive and lively. Under hard acceleration, the VVTL-i is extremely exciting. Thanks to its hi-tech variable cam technology and 8,500rpm red line, it's more versatile than the lower-revving Rover engine. It's also smoother at idle and cruising speed.

Another welcome change is the six-speed gearbox. However, the additional kerbweight is noticeable, particularly under braking. The suspension is far softer, too, although Lotus says the Elise we drove was a US-spec model tuned for uneven roads. When the UK car is finalised, the double wishbone set-up is expected to have been revised.

Ultimately, the new Elise represents another significant step forward for the British company. We look forward to trying one on the open road.
 

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Are you sure that's what that is? I don't like the button down there. How come they didn't put it on the dash? :(
 

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Nope,
The starter button (at least on the test cars) is on the dash to the left of the steering wheel towards the bottom of the dash.
Chris

I can't remember what the central button is, perhaps the central locking switch.
 

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I like the new interior. Hey, I notice speakers up on the dash to. Does this Elise have a six speaker sound system?

We can only hope that the car has not lost any of its excellent performance and handling.
 

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Sounds good.

By the way, did I miss any discussion of the 2-page story in December's Car and Driver? Pretty much a rehash of the November Road and Track article, and the Elise is not even on the cover.
 

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xfactor said:
I believe that is the passenger seat eject button. :D
Eject or Jettison?? I can't imagine anybody wanting to get out of this car but I can picture myself launching the passenger if some good corners are coming up:D
 

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I am really getting excited about that interioir. It is pretty damn cool. The Lotus badge on the steering wheel really makes it look great!!!

Great work Lotus!!! :) :) :)
 

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The point of a starter button (if there ever was a practical reason) is that you could start the car and shift into first at the same time for quick getaways. I think that must be the cigarette lighter outlet.

These are the first pics of what the completed U.S. interior will look like, isn't it?
 

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I think they've done a great job on the dashboard, it was hard to tell exactly how it'd turn out on the pre production cars.

BTW> Here's a pic showing where the start button is located. I lightened the pic to enable seeing it. As I recall it says "push to start" on it, but not sure.

I think it's actually slightly to the right and a bit lower than arrow indicates. At least that's the position on the test cars.

Chris
 

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Wow. Thanks for the pics. The interior looks great IMO.

I like the starter button over there. One more line of defense for the casual opportunistic but dumb thief.

The dash looks good.

Aluminum sills? If so, I like it.
 

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Note the Lotus badge on the rear and not the lettering. The only other obvious change is to the area in front of the windshield for the brake booster/ABS. And the car has silver wheels.

Also on the rear the exhaust is not visible in the rear shot as opposed to the visible center tips in another photo taken in US.

The shifter appears to have a lock out ring to pull up to engage reverse (Celica owners should know the answer to this).

The interior looks good. This car has fabric seats and carpeting on the floor and extending up the sides of the chassis. I am wondering what the difference will be for carpeting between the std and touring pkg? The new dash looks good - this is the best picture I have seen to date. The smooth part over the passenger airbag(?) does not look consistent with the textured surfaces over the instruments and around the vents. And there appears to be much bigger speakers on the dash.

Of course, it is hard to tell how much is the final spec of the US car.
 

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Rear view
 

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Looking at the rear, I think it may be cool not to have any visible exhaust now that every car is adding big exhaust pipes (look at a Murano!).

We don't need no stinkin' coffee can exhausts:cool:
 
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