Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 2009 Dream Car of the Month - Lotus Elise

"Adding power makes you faster on the straights; subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere."

That's it. That's all you need to know. The above quote is attributed to Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus Cars and it represents the prevailing design philosophy of the company he created. Although he has been dead since 1982, Chapman's ideals continue on through the cars manufactured with his name on them. None more true to his philosophy than the Lotus Elise.

Series 1 Elise

The Elise was conceived and designed in 1994 and released to the public in 1996. It's simple design consists of a fiberglass body attached to an aluminum chassis, all bonded together by adhesive rather than welding or metal fasteners. The result is a small two seat sportscar that weighs in at only 1600lbs. The original Series 1 which was built from 1996 - 2001 featured a power output of only 118HP from it's 1.8L Rover 4 cylinder, but it could still accelerate from 0-60 in about 5.8 seconds thanks to that low weight. The low weight also provided another benefit, amazing go cart like handling.

Elise 340R

The Series 1 design spawned many special models throughout it's production run such as the 111S, 340R, and the Exige. The 111S was powered by a 143HP 4 cylinder and was fitted with a close ratio gearbox. Externally, the 111S featured headlight covers, new wheels, a spoiler, and upgraded brakes. The 340R was a special limited edition model that weighed just 1250lbs and was powered by a 177HP version of the Rover 4cyl engine. The body was also radically redesigned from the standard Elise. Only 340 of these were made, hence the name. The Exige is the only "special" variant of the Elise that lived on and became it's own continuing model. It basically a hardtop version of the Elise with a more powerful, 177HP, engine (from the 340R) and some exterior restyling.

Series 2 Elise

The Series 2 Elise debuted in 2000 and was a redesign of the Series 1 on top of a modified chassis. The Series 2 model continued to use the K-series Rover 4cyl until 2005 when it was replaced by the aluminum Toyota 2ZZ-GE 4 cylinder and 6 speed transaxle. Power output from that motor jumped up to 189HP allowing the Series 2 to accelerate to 60mph in as little as 4.7 seconds. Part of the change to the new Toyota powerplant was due to the fact that Lotus was bringing the Elise to the US. Because of some added safety and amenities, curb weight rose to 2006lbs for the US version of the car. In Europe, the base Elise can be had with a less powerful Toyota 1ZZ-FE engine producing 134HP and weighing 1896lbs.

Elise SC

In 2008 Lotus added some new models to the US lineup, the base naturally aspirated 4cyl with 189HP and the Elise SC featuring a non intercooled supercharger which pushes output to 218HP. Curb weight remains around 2000lbs. The SC can run from 0-60 in about 4.3 seconds. The Exige continues on as well in Series 2 guise with various special models producing up to 260HP in some cases making the Exige a potent track weapon.

Exige Cup 260

The great thing about the Elise beside the fact that you can actually buy one here in the US is that they are fairly reasonably priced. Used examples are now dropping into the mid $20,000 range. That's a whole lot of little car for the money.

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