All right! So, I am fired up to get some good car dialog going. What is the purest sports car available today? Let’s say money is an object in this debate and therefore the Ferrari 430 Scuderia or Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera are out of the question for the moment. Would the Porsche 911, built for 40+ years, be the purest? Maybe the new Porsche Cayman S or even the revised Porsche Boxster S? The light weight and rev happy Honda S2000? The new and incredible Audi R8 or maybe a “regular” F430 or Gallardo?
All those are great cars but…the Lotus Elise takes the prize. I’ve driven almost every sports car out there with few exceptions and the Elise packs punch…and I don’t mean torque. I mean smiles per mile and bang for buck. One other thing I love about the Elise is that it certainly is not designed for everyone – minivan drivers slogging along in the fast lane need not slide in behind the wheel. It is raw, light, agile, loud, jarring, fast and rarely spotted on the road. That is a great combo of adjectives for $50k new at a dealer or even less when pre-owned.
Club Sportiva bought its Elise with the hard top, stage 2 sport exhaust and chrome orange at South Bay Lotus near Los Angeles in fall 2005 and it has held up solidly for 20,000 miles and looks and runs as it did the day it was new. Sure, we’ve had our share of warranty issues, but no worse than any other high-end sports car. I drove it from L.A. to San Francisco straight through and arrived at the Clubhouse surprisingly ready to continue rolling north for another day if needed. I wish we had a Club location in Seattle, or I would have kept driving!
It also looks great in orange, which frankly, only Lotus and Lamborghini can get away with where it actually helps resale value. Try an orange BMW or Ferrari at trade-in. You’ll be seeing red – both in depreciation and frustration.
The Elise truly embodies Collin Chapman’s philosophy that to make a car quicker you add lightness. Think about that statement for a moment. Some people say the Elise is too insect-like in design. To those people I say drive it and then tell me if you really care that the radiator grill looks vaguely like a praying mantis. Blip the throttle, heel-toe on a down shift, take an apex hard, lay on the brakes, take a few s curves fast and then say “I don’t like the Elise because it looks different from all the aerodynamic drones out there” and I’ll know you’re not a car enthusiast. Seat time is the solution for those who debate the Elise.
Is it a torque-monster? No, it is not. If it had a big torquey engine, then the chassis would be heavier to support the engine, the transmission would be heavier to manage the power, the brakes would be bigger to handle the weight, and suddenly, you’ve just blown the beautiful simplicity and balance the Elise exhibits. I say, torque not needed on this car. For the power mongers, get the Exige or get something else, but don’t be surprised when the Elise leaves you behind on a mountain road.
Ultimately, the question really is, are you a torque-head who needs brutal acceleration on the straights who cares less about finesse, or are you a person who wants to carve up a long, twisty mountain road? In California, we have mountain roads galore, so give me a light, nimble, high revving sports car any day!
My thoughts for the day! Comments desired…