by: Mike Ginsca
I thought I had experienced an exhilarating car when I test drove the Corvette Z06 with its raw V8 power. I thought it offered unfiltered simplicity but the series 2 Lotus Elise is on the other end of the spectrum and takes simplicity to another level.
Performance – In today’s modern times, auto manufactures have got it into their heads that more power means more excitement. Now that is true if a car has 500+hp but those type of cars usually cost more than an apartment. This little Elise makes due with just 189hp from a Toyota engine that once called the Corolla home. That doesn’t sound like much power but this Lotus can accelerate just as quickly as cars with twice the power, 4.9 seconds to 100km/h. In this car the sensation of speed is much greater than in any other car because you sit very low to the ground and even normal sedans look like SUVs next to this little mosquito. Speaking of mosquitoes, the engine with the sport exhaust sounds like one happily buzzing away at rpms higher than 3000.
Power though is not what Lotus is known for but rather handling. Its superior handling comes from the fact that this car weighs just over 850kg. In comparison, “normal” sports cars weigh anywhere around 1300-1600kg. The compact design and superb handling means that the car can be thrown into corners at what feel like breakneck speeds. The steering response is so quick that it almost feels as though your driving this car by telepathy rather than with your hands. Every minute movement of the steering wheel is precisely mimicked by the front tires. The steering feel and feedback is sublime and it’s as though you can feel the texture of the road through the steering wheel. Apart from proper race cars, the only car that even comes close to having the same steering sensation is the iconic 911.
Comfort – In terms of comfort, it has none because it’s basically a track car. The interior is completely gutted of any creature comforts to keep the weight as low as possible. The seats are of one-piece design and only have a thin layer of foam and leather overtop to provide a small cushion between the hard seat and your bum. Along with the stiff suspension, driving on city streets should be done only when it is necessary to avoid any injury to oneself. To my surprise I actually managed to fit in the Elise, all 6’5” of me. I could only see directly in front and around me but when arriving at a set of lights, I found my vision obscured by the windshield frame and I had to duck down to see the light. Also getting in and out of this car should be considered a gymnastic sport in the Olympics because tough would be an understatement.
Odds and Ends – Most cars that have monumental performance like this Lotus, usually have fuel economy that is worse than poor. With the 1.8L Toyota engine that powers this Elise and its light weight, the fuel economy is similar to that of a regular compact sedan from the same year. 11.2L/100km in city and 8.7L/100km on highway can be called almost economical.
If you do find yourself in a city, everyone will be looking at you. The car looks like no other car on any street. People will want to talk to you at stop lights, when you park, or as you just pass by.
In today’s world of 500+ hp cars with adaptive electronic controls, the Elise offers pure and simple driving fun that no other car can match.
Thank you to Autofrom Performance Inc. for the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.