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purveyor of lightness
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2005 Lotus Elise
Program #2337



<table border=1><tr><td align=center colspan=2>2005 Lotus Elise</td></tr><tr><td>Engine</td><td>1.8 liter 4-cylinder</td></tr><tr><td>Horsepower</td><td>190</td></tr><tr><td>Torque</td><td>138 lb feet</td></tr><tr><td>0-60 mph</td><td>4.8 seconds</td></tr></table>
Say the name Lotus and automotive purists think of simple, lightweight sports cars, cars that over the years have evolved into true exotics, like this Esprit S4, complicated in style and substance. That is until 1996 when Lotus introduced the Elise, a sports car that harkens back to founder Colin Chapman's seminal ideas of simplicity and light weight. And now that the Elise is finally available in America, it's time to find out if those values still hold true.

We spent our time doing preliminary testing on the 2005 Lotus Elise at Birmingham, Alabama's Barber Vintage Motorsports Park. And while it has taken Lotus over eight years to bring an Elise to our shores, the wait appears to be well worth it.

The basic shape of Elise hasn't changed since MotorWeek drove a European spec car back in 1997.With its short 90.5 inch wheel base, the distinctively styled Elise is an extremely compact, clean, and sexy package. Out back the US spec Elise is discernable by its closely grouped, twin exhaust pipes, centered between aero diffusers.

And those pipes expel gas from what proves to be the biggest change since we tested the first Elise. Gone is the weak-kneed Rover powerplant, replaced by the strong and reliable Yamaha engineered 1.8 liter Toyota 4-cylinder derived from the Celica. With its twin cams, variable valve and lift control, it delivers 190 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque with a Lotus designed engine management system. The Toyota sourced 6-speed transaxle has well placed gearing, perfectly matched to the torque curve. Our one complaint is that the shifter, while improved over the first Elise, is still vague and notchy.

And since the featherweight Elise tips the scales at under 2,000 pounds, the high revving powertrain makes for one rapid takeoff. One reason for the light weight of the Elise is its extruded and bonded chassis tube which weighs in at only 150 pounds. Combined with a body constructed with a closed mold composite material and you have more real weight savings than a room full of Jenny Craig clients.



Interior ergonomics are well, what can we say? it's a pretty tiny sports car. The Elise sits low, very low. A Miata feels like a 4x4 compared to the Elise. With the top off, one doesn't so much get in as insert one's self into the seat. Once in, the seat is surprisingly comfortable even with minimal adjustments. And while this is a purist sports car, it is a pleasant environment as well. Standard air conditioning makes for a very modern driving experience. The extruded aluminum clutch, brake and gas pedals are not designed for big feet, but the standard 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS will help keep even the most ''clod-footed'' driver out of trouble. Our test vehicle came with the optional ''Touring'' pack which includes a Blaupunkt CD/MP3 player with equalizer. But, true enthusiasts will simply enjoy the sound of the internal combustion symphony playing only inches behind their head.

Of course, as expected out on the track Elise returns a stellar performance. Barber Motorsports Park has many tight, low-speed turns. Elise's broad power band mated with the well-spaced six-speed transaxle makes this an enthusiast playground. Lotus claims this power propels Elise from 0 to 60 in 4.8-seconds, with a top speed of almost 150 miles-per-hour. The Elise, with 16-inch rims in the front and 17-inchers in the back, is also very stable at high speeds. The non-power steering is light and delicate.

Now if high-speed stability is excellent then low-speed agility must suffer, right? Well, no. The precise low-speed steering response and low polar movement of this low weight mid engine design make Elise razor sharp. Even on a tight autocross, we found Elise a blast to drive. Simply point the Elise, grab a gear, and pull the trigger. It's very forgiving. Elise is a shifter cart on steroids.

But with all this on track prowess, how does the Elise work on real world roads? The answer is surprisingly well. Even with its short wheelbase, the ride quality is as comfortable as most small commuter cars. With the top off and the hypnotic sound of the mid-engine at full howl, the Elise is a true reminder of the sheer joy of owning a sports car.

Base price for all this joy, however, is not cheap: $39,985. With the optional Touring Pack, which includes power windows and an upgraded stereo, add $1,350 more. Enthusiasts will likely spend another $2,480 to get the sport pack which includes a track tuned suspension, lightweight wheels, and stickier Yokohama tires.

So, has Lotus managed to take a lightweight British sports car and successfully Americanize it with a dose of Japanese power? You bet! Despite federalization, it retains the nimbleness and response that one expects from a car that has its heritage rooted to the race track. The simple, lightweight 2005 Elise is a car that begs to be driven fast, but does not demand speed to show off its best values. In short, for this Lotus, it's mission accomplished!

{ed: enjoy!}
 

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Did you see the tester getting into the car hanging on the windshield? I was watching to see if it flexed much, didn't seem to.
 

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"Elise is a shifter kart on steroids"

:drool:
 

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huggy bear said:
Typical MotorWEAK CRAP.
A bit boring when you compare it to the Top Gear Exige review.

That was probably one of the best Top Gear reviews I've ever seen.

Any word when they will do the 111R?

I doubt there is much performance difference between a Sport pack 111R and an Exige.
 

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shay2nak
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that was a stupid review. they didn't push the car or test braking, 0-60, quarter mile, or mpg. They didn't show the orange one, and barely showed kermit. They just lightly revved the engine and that was it. Retarded, at least they showed the silver, storm, green, tiny bit of yellow. I was dissappointed. No new info or real third party test results. Even if they did, they had the softy red one with touring. Now i have to wait until R&T or whoever comes out with their review. Next month? God only knows.
 

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shay2nak said:
they had the softy red one with touring
It's going to be fun seeing you get passed by non-sport/touring package cars at track days. :bow: (You're right though...I'm a softy)

Still, some nice track footage and something to watch.
 

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shay2nak said:
that was a stupid review. they didn't push the car or test braking, 0-60, quarter mile, or mpg...
MotorWeek Review
We spent our time doing preliminary testing...
I doubt they could have even if they wanted to (why would they not want to?). Remember that this was coverage of the Alabama event, not a test at their Maryland facilities.
 

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Personally I enjoyed the review - I'll watch just about anything showing one or more Elises and won't complain about it, too much. The one thing that struck me as odd was the comment about the shifter - how can it be both vague and notchy ? Seems contradictory, to me, but maybe just caught up in semantics ...:huh:

Anyway, it really doesn't matter what Motor Week thinks (they pretty much love everything anyway, with qualifiers) - what matters is that it won't be long now - and the waiting just gets harder the closer we get.
 

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shay2nak
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well, i did enjoy the show also. I recorded the show and watched it several times. I was just dissappointed that they didn't provide more performance data. I realize that it's preliminary but...

I really like the red that they drove, especially the instrumentation. I really like the gray and white look on top of the compressed 1-2-3k tach.

I also had wished they showed the orange one.
 

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The one thing I noticed that kind of scared me

The housing that coveres the bottom of the gear shift looked like is was moving as the guy went throught the gears. It looked kind of cheap.
 

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shay2nak
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originally posted by Buck Dharma
The housing that coveres the bottom of the gear shift looked like is was moving as the guy went throught the gears. It looked kind of cheap.
it is cheap looking, it does move around a bit. the housing is made of plastic. I originally thought that piece was aluminum, but it's not. That is the only part of the car I don't like cuz it does look cheap.
 

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Re: The one thing I noticed that kind of scared me

Buck Dharma said:
The housing that coveres the bottom of the gear shift looked like is was moving as the guy went throught the gears. It looked kind of cheap.
It's a purely aesthetic piece that is made with lightness in mind, just like the rest of the car. Here comes more of that Lotus "character"...you gotta love it sometimes.
 
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