Well i went to see Pete Smiths today and had a go in the new Elise! I only had a quick go and didn't thoroughly inspect it.
My first impression on seeing it was a bit disappointing really. The only external differences between it and the 111S next to it were:
1) Bonnet where the radiator exits are - as in all the pics, higher but not noticeable.
2) Rear diffuser and central exhaust, looks quite purposful.
3) Same wheels and bridgestone tyres, no Yoko's like the cars at the shows in the states. The wheels themselves were just plain silver. The 111S are smoked and imho look nicer. So still daft looking skinny fronts!
4) Interior - Exactly as the 111S - it doesn't have the new dash layout that the yank car has. Same speaker positions, same offset radio position. NO airbag wheel. I've not really looked at the latest soft Elises with lecy windows etc. but i think this is identical. Most disappointing thing really from seeing the cars on the interweb. I asked if it was a stop gap sort of thing for demos but David the sales guy reckons not.
So off we goes for a spin, please keep in mind that i've not driven an Elise for well over a year so i'm probably not the best person to pick up on handling differences (Z4 at the moment - no comments please), besides its only done 50 miles and the roads were very greasy so I didn't give it any grief round the corners but the supposed extra weight wasn't noticeable through the steering. I must say that the car felt much better put together than the last S2 i had a go in. Very solid, absolutely no rattles from the suspension or anything.
First thing was the brakes, it has ABS and the pedal was soft, a fair bit of travel before anything happened at all. Pretty crap really - could be just that its only done 50 miles though.
The main thing though was the engine and box. It was *much* smoother than the K series. After a 3.0l bmw engine most things feel like mowers but this didn't. Gearchange was also much improved. Low rev performance actually felt pretty sharp, not 3.0l sharp but at least as good as a VVC car.
Foot down (sorry I know its only done 50 miles, but toyota engines don't mind, honest) it seems to take a while to get there but at 6000rpm it really fu*kin takes off - typical old style Vtec switch over. Its pretty bloody quick i'll tell you, much quicker than my old S160. It has real performance, even after 60mph and it makes a nice sound to go with it. The ratios seem pretty close, 3rd and 4th and its bloody flying, punches from 80-100 very quickly. Certainly a step up from my Z4. They reckon say 0-100 in about 12 secs, pretty much spot on i'd say.
Only a quick go, mainly on dual carriage way but enough to know that the engine and box are massively better than the K series. Otherwise its as the current 111S - if thats to soft for you then this won't be any different, its easily a useable every day car.
price is £27,995 which included 1/2 leather - Options I'm not too sure of I'm afraid but pretty much in line with the old 111S model.
111S is now £25,995 which includes a hard top.
base car - 111 i guess - is £22,995 which is still a VVC car but without the trim.
The Exige is due March/April - It will be launched at geneva but the dealers will have a demo before then. Price for that is £29,995.
Power is the same as the 111R but it will be track focused, 2 sets of option packs - comfort with carpets etc. and sport with harnesses etc. Comes as standard with sports suspension and sticky Yoko's, bespoke alloys etc.
The 111R is good, but i reckon the Exige will rock my boat a bit more.