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This is a total newbie question, but does the current (in the last couple years) Elise tend toward understeer? I saw a video clip from Top Gear where they had terrible understeer on a 111 Elise (I think) as the result of narrower tires to keep novice drivers from swapping ends. Is that still the case?
 

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The only experience I have had with plowing is when I try to make a quick turn at low speeds (5-15 MPH) when I am off the throttle. My car will plow straight ahead for about 1-2 feet then turn.
 

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I've done quite a few autocrosses (though I'm no expert) and found that the Elise (with standard suspension tires) does understeer quite badly if you enter a corner much too fast and my experience was much like Clarkson's. Once you're in that state, giving it more gas doesn't help balance things out at all, it just keeps plowing until you slow down. However, if you enter a corner at a more reasonable rate, it has very mild understeer and the tail can be easily controlled by the throttle (and your lap times will be MUCH better)...it's very easy to give it a slight increase in throttle to transition to oversteer, then ease off the throttle and the tail comes back inline and a more neutral to understeer balance is achieved, you can repeat this time and time again if the corner is long enough. I compare it to ballroom dancing, you're leading and the car is following, swaying its tail based on your inputs.
 

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The unmodified base suspension tends to plow.
 

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Pull the shims and get larger front tires and you're good.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
...and the tail can be easily controlled by the throttle (and your lap times will be MUCH better)...
In the Top Gear video the Lotus driver seemed to give the brakes a quick kick to break the rear loose - is my understaning of that accurate?
 

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In the Top Gear video the Lotus driver seemed to give the brakes a quick kick to break the rear loose - is my understaning of that accurate?
True for almost any car, I do it in my Integra. For serious racing though you want to do some modifications (pulling the shims is one of them).
 

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I've done quite a few autocrosses (though I'm no expert) and found that the Elise (with standard suspension tires) does understeer quite badly if you enter a corner much too fast and my experience was much like Clarkson's. Once you're in that state, giving it more gas doesn't help balance things out at all, it just keeps plowing until you slow down. However, if you enter a corner at a more reasonable rate, it has very mild understeer and the tail can be easily controlled by the throttle (and your lap times will be MUCH better)...it's very easy to give it a slight increase in throttle to transition to oversteer, then ease off the throttle and the tail comes back inline and a more neutral to understeer balance is achieved, you can repeat this time and time again if the corner is long enough. I compare it to ballroom dancing, you're leading and the car is following, swaying its tail based on your inputs.
+1 to all this.
 

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I saw a video clip from Top Gear where they had terrible understeer on a 111 Elise (I think) as the result of narrower tires to keep novice drivers from swapping ends.
You mean the video where a Lotus test driver shows how to properly induce oversteer? You must not have watched the whole video.
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Near the end, Clarkson correctly states, "If you know what you're doing, this is such a well balanced car."
 

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In the Top Gear video the Lotus driver seemed to give the brakes a quick kick to break the rear loose - is my understaning of that accurate?
I suppose that should work, though I've never tried it. Giving it some gas induced oversteer in my case, though was far from breaking the rear loose and drifting through the corner like in that video. If you want to drive at a neutral balance without under or over steer, braking isn't necessary...I think it'd only be necessary if you want to drift around a corner like in that video.
 

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Nick Adams told me to softly apply the brakes an instant before turning in, if you weren't otherwise braking, to load the front end and allow the front tires to have more grip. Exiting the corner is the reverse with a soft application of power to transfer weight just before hard acceleration. These movements should be subtle as they are just being used to setup the suspension for the next change of direction.

Jerry
 

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I always enter a corner with some form of weight transfer to the front tires, whether it is a lift, quick application (but not a stomp) of the brakes. You want the fronts to have more grip, and setting up a proper corner entry is paramount to keeping good balance mid corner, and a quick exit.

I've seen that video plenty of times, and if you watch the car movements, all the Lotus driver does is a firm trail brake with a smooth steering input so he doesn't throw his front grip away. That's something you want to do in any car. With mass market appeal though, you have to make the car approachable at many ability levels, and factoring in understeer is the easiest way to do it. Look at any modern BMW...they'll understeer till the cows come home unless you drive them correctly. Driven correctly, they reward the driver. Driven incorrectly, they try to protect the driver. :shift:
 

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Nick Adams told me to softly apply the brakes an instant before turning in, if you weren't otherwise braking, to load the front end and allow the front tires to have more grip. Exiting the corner is the reverse with a soft application of power to transfer weight just before hard acceleration. These movements should be subtle as they are just being used to setup the suspension for the next change of direction.

Jerry

I heard this second hand from someone else also. I'm not sure if its the same instructor, but a fellow Lotus owner was saying that at the driving school there was this instructor there who could perfectly execute this loading procedure, so much that if you were sitting in the passenger seat you probably wouldn't even feel it. The car behind would always see brake lights though.
 

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It understeers if you mess up. The key to neutral balance in this car is...

1) Be smooth with the pedal work as you move from brakes to throttle
2) Brake less than you probably want to (like a kart, turn-in speed is key)
3) Be patient feeding in throttle. This is where a lot of people from other sportscars criticize the Elise. One joy of track/autox is rotating the car under throttle as you exit. It doesn't work as well or as early in the Elise. Note, Clarkson prefers to Tokyo Drift out of corners but that's not the fastest way around a track.

Overall, like most midengine cars, the Elise prefers to be driven neat and tidy. Not with tire smoking oversteer or 20° of yaw. Cars with 50/50 weight dist, a longer wheel base, and preferably with tons of torque are much better at Dukes of Hazzard power slides. It's all a matter of what you prefer. The Elise is so responsive, so immediate and direct, that it's very easy to alternate between over/under steer through a long corner. The only downside is that most of the potential is in the turn-in and that's an attribute that takes large attachments to exploit fully. With a Vette, an M Roadster and even a Boxster S, you can go in slow and make it up with tons of pre-apex throttle. In the Elise, not only do you lack the torque to get away with that style, but you also have to unwind the steering wheel a lot more before you can get into the throttle.
 

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OP: Take the Skip Barber 3-day Racing School. Then take the Advanced Car Control Clinic.

After that, you will understand how to drive an Elise/Exige properly (and drive other cars more safely as well).
 

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It understeers if you mess up. The key to neutral balance in this car is...

1) Be smooth with the pedal work as you move from brakes to throttle
2) Brake less than you probably want to (like a kart, turn-in speed is key)
3) Be patient feeding in throttle. This is where a lot of people from other sportscars criticize the Elise. One joy of track/autox is rotating the car under throttle as you exit. It doesn't work as well or as early in the Elise. Note, Clarkson prefers to Tokyo Drift out of corners but that's not the fastest way around a track.

Overall, like most midengine cars, the Elise prefers to be driven neat and tidy. Not with tire smoking oversteer or 20° of yaw. Cars with 50/50 weight dist, a longer wheel base, and preferably with tons of torque are much better at Dukes of Hazzard power slides. It's all a matter of what you prefer. The Elise is so responsive, so immediate and direct, that it's very easy to alternate between over/under steer through a long corner. The only downside is that most of the potential is in the turn-in and that's an attribute that takes large attachments to exploit fully. With a Vette, an M Roadster and even a Boxster S, you can go in slow and make it up with tons of pre-apex throttle. In the Elise, not only do you lack the torque to get away with that style, but you also have to unwind the steering wheel a lot more before you can get into the throttle.
my brain's melting from all this information. rotfl Do you think there's a balance between thinking too much vs. just feeling? I actually started to get a headache on our group drive the other day because i was concentrating on every corner so much-turn in, avoiding early apexes (my nasty habit), staying away from late braking, rolling into the throttle, etc, etc. Granted, its not a closed track environment, but i still try and apply everything i read/learn on here almost everytime i take the car out. I guess repetition is the key to everything, as in this instance also.
 

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The base Elise handles excellently but you have to correct for the very progressive drift-rate. Most cars lose it when going too fast but the Elise will warn you gradually I find, and you can actually "dial-in" the steering wheel, which is a great treat!
 

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Nick Adams told me to softly apply the brakes an instant before turning in, if you weren't otherwise braking, to load the front end and allow the front tires to have more grip. Exiting the corner is the reverse with a soft application of power to transfer weight just before hard acceleration. These movements should be subtle as they are just being used to setup the suspension for the next change of direction.

Jerry
+1. This is where it's really important to remember it's a mid-engine car with a rear weight bias. Brake stab while going straight/turn in/gas is the way to enter most corners on the track. Slow in (but it doesn't have to be THAT slow)-fast out. And all with a nice smooth flow. And hands at the ready for minor steering corrections should you hit any unforseen bumps or slippery patches. It's wonderfully balanced if you don't second-guess those steps. If you're spending most of your time in a front engine/rear-drive car, your muscle memory might not believe that this corner-entering procedure will work. But it does. I watched a weekend Ferrari 360 driver fail to get back on the gas in a timely, smooth manner. The back end kept swinging out until he gassed it late in oversteer mode and it hooked up, plowing him head on into the inside concrete barrier. He would have far better off letting the car live up to its name (and do a 360 on track to scrub off some speed). He was fine. The car was not. Shims and wider tires should come after some track/instructor time. Otherwise, you may experience just the opposite problem from understeer.

Tom
 
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