Fans of the highly regarded Lotus Elise were disappointed for years because the compact two-passenger sports car had been sold in Europe since 1996 but was not exported to the U.S. That disparity disappeared in the 2005 model year when the Elise began arriving at U.S. dealerships.
For 2006, LED taillamps are standard, and the air conditioning system can be deleted to save weight. Traction control and a limited-slip differential are optional. Equipped with a six-speed gearbox, the Elise promised a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of less than 5 seconds.
Based in Norfolk, England, Lotus was founded in 1952 by Colin Chapman. Group Lotus has a formidable reputation for engineering innovation and racing victories. Currently, 32 U.S. dealerships distribute Lotus sports cars.
Countless cars are described as "aggressive," but the Elise truly looks the part, with its huge air intakes behind the doors, long sloped headlight covers, ground-hugging stance and businesslike demeanor.
Lotus says the Elise was the first production car to have a bonded, extruded aluminum chassis; it weighs just 150 pounds. Composite body panels are used, and the entire car weighs slightly less than 2,000 pounds. A black cloth top is standard, and a body-colored hardtop can be installed.
The four-wheel-independent suspension features Eibach coil springs and Bilstein gas shock absorbers. Standard eight-spoke cast-aluminum wheels hold Yokohama tires that measure P175/55R16 in the front and P225/45R17 in the rear. AP Racing supplies the twin-piston front brake calipers, while Brembo provides the single-piston rear calipers. The optional Track Pack includes an adjustable track suspension and an adjustable front anti-roll bar.
Two occupants fit in composite sport seats. An aluminum gearshift knob and handbrake sleeve help keep the Elise's weight down and complement the aluminum chassis. The driver faces a leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel. Air conditioning, a CD stereo and power door locks are standard. A starter button fires the engine, and an immobilizer alarm is installed. The optional Touring Pack includes full-leather seating, power windows, an upgraded stereo and a double-insulated fabric top.
Under the Hood
A Lotus-tuned 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that incorporates Toyota's Variable Valve Timing and Lift with intelligence technology produces 190 horsepower. Peak horsepower is derived at 7,800 rpm, and the engine delivers 138 pounds-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. A C64 six-speed-manual gearbox is supplied by Toyota, and Lotus engineers designed its shift linkage mechanism.
Dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard.