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http://www.mlive.com/business/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/business-0/1084098280158670.xml


Lunatic Fringe
Rare and racy Lotus Elise not for everybody - but will make 2000 somebodies very, very happy
FLINT
THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
Sunday, May 09, 2004
By Todd Seibt
[email protected], 810.766.6315

Lunatic fringe, Lotus Cars USA knows you're out there.

Well, maybe not lunatic.

How about track maniac? No?

Sports-car aficionado?

Performance purist?

Edgy trend setter?

Whatever.

Just put it this way: The new-to-America Lotus Elise is not for the faint of automotive heart.

The mid-engine Elise, sold in Europe for eight years, packs a totally remapped Toyota four-banger pumping out 190 horses, a specialized riveted and epoxied (yes, say it, glued) chassis, extravagant body lines and price tags ranging from about $41,000 to $46,000.

And, oh yes, only about 2,000 copies are floating toward our shores, starting next month.

Want one? The line starts back there -- no, back THERE -- and some people have had deposits down for years.

What do you get for all that?

Not much. And plenty.

First, the not much. The Elise is incredibly tiny and light at 1,975 pounds. Think Acme rocket-powered roller skate, in fact.

And it's pretty well-stripped -- a Lotus representative held up his hands, barely 12 inches apart, to demonstrate the amount of carpeting in the "touring" package.

And a bolt-on hardtop is a $1,475 option.

But the Elise is about performance, not pampering.

Think of it more like a high-tech tool, a precision instrument, than a modern, muffled, muzzled, comfy, cozy people-hauler. The Elise version heading for America is 10 percent heavier but 50 percent more powerful than the European version.

Sitting outside the Detroit Athletic Club in Detroit, the Elise's nipped and tucked Coke-bottle bodywork made most men react as if a beach bunny in a bikini were sunning herself at the curb.

That's right -- they sucked in their guts and puffed out their chests. (And, that's right, they did look pretty silly.)

But that's the kind of a chord the evocative Elise strikes, even at rest. From its rakish nose and predatory headlights and marker lights, the Elise simply appears purpose-built for outrageous speed. (But Lotus says its proprietary engine management software makes the Toyota mill -- which normally lives in Celica GTs -- tractable and fun at "normal" speeds and rpms, too.)

Lotus is actually part of Proton, a Malaysian firm, and is one arm of a two-pronged approach to automotive engineering. Lotus Engineering, in fact, serves nearly every other automaker in the world, doing engine and component work.

Lotus Cars builds a small number of specialty performance rides.

In North America, Lotus has headquarters near Atlanta, as well as small engineering operations in Ann Arbor and Plymouth.

That small footprint is just lovely with Lotus, said company spokesman Mark O'Shaughnessy.

"We really have a unique product," O'Shaughnessy said. The company is pursuing customers who treat "performance driving as entertainment," he said.

Many Elise buyers already have one or more performance-prepped and track-tweaked cars in their stables, he said. But they are looking for something even more sharply focused -- without tipping completely over into the $100,000 exotic car range.

That means the Elise won't make some middle-of-the-road buyers happy, O'Shaughnessy said, and it's why it will be sold through a network of exotic car dealers, rather than higher-volume, more pedestrian dealerships.

Competition? There's plenty -- and not much -- at the Elise's price point. Think Honda S2000, BMW Z4, Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, BMW M3. And all of those are built with more creature comforts or carry significantly higher sticker prices.

"You really have to make some cold, hard decisions at the front (end of the vehicle design process)," O'Shaughnessy said. "Does it have cruise control? Well, no, it doesn't."

But what the Elise does have works very, very well.

For that little lurking lunatic in nearly all of us.

***


QUICK FACTS
2005 Lotus Elise

Base price: $40,780

Options: Sport -- better wheels, tires, suspension -- $2,480; touring -- full leather, power windows, sound insulation, etc. -- $1,350; special paint colors,

$1,200; hardtop, $1,475.

Engine: Toyota-supplied

four-cylinder, DOHC

with variable valve

timing.

Displacement: 1.8 liters

Horsepower: 190

Torque: 138 foot pounds at 6200 rpm

Weight: 1,975 pounds

Transmission: 6-speed manual

0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds (4.7 with sport tires)

0-100 mph: 13 seconds

Top speed: 150 mph

MPG: 26.1 city, 37.5 highway

Dealers: 39 in 29 markets.

Availability: 2,000 units,

most spoken for already.

Source: Lotus Cars USA, www.lotuscars.com
 

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Thanks for the post.

I'll have to voice my disagreement with someone placing the Elise and M3 in the same category. Uhhhh... not even close.

I just drove my buddies 04 SMG Convertable... Uhhh, while it's fantastic, it's not in the same class. No way...
 

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When you are following a stock M3 around the track being driven by a great driver, and they stay ahead of you no matter what you try, you will realize they are in the same ballpark. While I agree that overall they are not the same type of car, but in terms of what buyers are thinking about and what they can be used for they are at least similar. When I purchased my boxster s back in 2001, I was looking at two cars, the z06 and the boxster. These are two cars that people wouldn't really put as direct competition, but you would be suprised at how many people came down to these two cars.

Scot
 

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shay2nak
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originally posted by scot
These are two cars that people wouldn't really put as direct competition, but you would be suprised at how many people came down to these two cars.
right here, for me it's between the elise & M3. i was already set on buying an M3 until the elise came along. i'm glad that it did, i like the elise more than i like the M3.
 

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scot said:
When you are following a stock M3 around the track being driven by a great driver, and they stay ahead of you no matter what you try, you will realize they are in the same ballpark. While I agree that overall they are not the same type of car, but in terms of what buyers are thinking about and what they can be used for they are at least similar. When I purchased my boxster s back in 2001, I was looking at two cars, the z06 and the boxster. These are two cars that people wouldn't really put as direct competition, but you would be suprised at how many people came down to these two cars.

Scot
Unless you are also a great driver and you're on a tight twisty track. In that scenario you will own the M3:)
 

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I agree with Derek, I don't think the M3 is going to be that close to the Elise on the track. They have similar accelaration but the Elise will definately have the advantage in transitions and braking. I know the M3 is not in the same catagory with my Seven in track days or autocross, it just can't keep up. I think it would take some suspension and braking mods to get the M3 up to where the stock Elise is.
Shay, very different cars the M3 and Elise, I would definatley take the M3 for a daily commuter, but the Elise for the fun factor.
 

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Derek hit the nail on the head. If you clone the driver of the M3 that scot references, the Elise will out lap the M3 all day long. The only thing that the M3 and the Elise have in common is tha they have 4 wheels, an engine, and a driver.

We are talking about 2000 lbs, vs 3700 lbs. One has a nav system, nappa leather, heated seats, cup holders, power seats, front engine, traction control, and 4 seats... the other... well you already know.


To say it's in the same class is much like saying an ant is in the same class as a lobster.

My 2c..
 

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I put the M3 and the Elise in the same class in that they appeal to drivers. I own a E36 M3 and love the car. On the other hand I am buying an Elise because it is so different than the M3. The M3 has a fantastic engine and great handling, but it is definitely hampered by its weight. But as a daily commuter that I can take my two kids in it is great. I do not consider the Elise as a daily commuter (YMMV) while my family often takes the M3 on trips.

Bottom line is they compete because they are both great cars, just like an Elise competes with Boxsters and Z06's. They all have their plusses and minusses, and every driver will make their own decision based on their needs.
 
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