Lotus Elise S 2008 review: road test
May 20, 2008
$22,770 - $28,050
It was just as well we tasted the Elise S before having the chance to drive the Exige S.
The Elise would have felt like a pedal car by comparison on the track.
Seriously, though, the Elise is an everyday sort of sports car.
Where the Exige has some traction and launch trickery, there is no fuss or fanfare with the Elise. Nothing to program, just hop in, fire up the ignition and enjoy.
A joy to drive, the Elise is a reflection of pure sports car fun. It runs the same 1.8-litre mid-mounted Toyota four-cylinder unit without the supercharger and can crack 0-100km/h in 6.1sec, slow by comparison but still quicker than many recent model big-engine sedans.
There is more gear now standard such as dual front airbags, central locking, electric windows and new ProBax seats.
The chassis of bonded and extruded aluminium weighs 68kg and is tuned to a stiffness of a massive 9500Nm per degree.
It is one of the world's lightest cars, tipping the scales at 860kg, whereas the Exige S is nudging 1000kg.
On this test car the Elise was fitted with AP Racing callipers at the front and Brembos on the rear.
In traffic, the Elise S is slightly more comfortable, in that at least you have vision out of the rear glass. You still feel like you are in a remake of the TV series Land of The Giants.
Against the hordes of four-wheel-drives, trucks and vans, the little Lotus feels like a midget.
Even among the small to mid-sized sedans the Lotus looks like a Matchbox toy.
It is best to take it easy on busy roads because being such a small car, other road-users can have difficulty seeing it as it zips along.
On the track the Elise has phenomenal levels of grip, even with the traction control deactivated.
Steering is razor-sharp and the balance of the whole vehicle seems to have hit a sweet spot.
Inside the cabin the less-is-more principle on which the marque was based continues.
There is no aeroplane-style cockpit housing banks of knobs and switches here.
The layout is frugal and restricted to the essentials – switches for fans, airconditioning, heaters and the neat little Alpine CD/MP3 audio system.
The face can be detached for safety, which is not a new concept but remains an effective deterrent to would-be thieves wanting to slash into the targa-top version.
$22,770 - $28,050