2006 Lotus Elise

2006 Lotus Elise Prices
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2006 Lotus Elise Fuel Economy
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2005 Lotus Elise

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

First new Lotus sports car in a long time is a blast to drive.
Pros:
  • Race car performance
  • Wild styling
  • Docile
Cons:
  • Small
  • Scant cargo room
  • Tricky getting in and out

British sports car builder and Grand Prix racing champion Lotus has come up with the small, wild-looking Elise sports car, which is a blast to drive with its race-car performance.

As with a good sports-racing car, the Elise almost seems to know what a driver wants to do before he makes a move. There is no hesitation when the mid-engine two-seat convertible is given steering, braking and throttle commands, making it fun to drive even to the local 7-Eleven.

The Elise is perhaps the closest thing to a modern sports-racing car that can be legally driven on roads. But it has standard air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, anti-lock brakes, dual front airbags and an anti-theft system.

Two Versions
My test Elise was the "luxury" version with its $1,350 Touring option. It contains power windows, leather seats with perforated trim, an AM/FM/CD stereo with an MP3 player, additional sound deadening and a double-insulated soft top.

You also can get the Elise with a $2,480 Sport Pack, which contains light forged alloy wheels, track-tuned suspension and super-high-performance Yokohama LTS tires designed for the Elise.

The quick manual steering is heavy at low parking speeds, but lightens up as the 150-mph car gets moving. It has a Lotus-modified 1.8-liter 190-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing from the Toyota Celica GTS coupe.

Sizzling Performance
If that doesn't seem like a lot of power, consider that the rigidly built Elise only weighs 1,975 pounds. The Elise is nearly as fast as the larger, heavier, far more powerful Chevrolet Corvette. It can hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and reaches 100 mph in about 12 seconds.

Despite the sizzling performance, fuel economy is relatively high, at an estimated 23 mpg in the city and 27 on highways. Moreover, there should be no question about reliability of the high-revving Toyota engine.

The Elise has a Toyota 6-speed manual gearbox with an ultra-precise Lotus shift linkage. The shifter works with a decent clutch and enhances driving enjoyment. I can't image this car with an automatic transmission.

What's a Lotus?
People looked puzzled when told the Elise is a Lotus, although Lotus has been selling cars here intermittently since the 1950s. The recently discontinued Lotus Esprit was built since 1976 and used in the 1977 James Bond movie "The Spy Who Loved Me" and in the 1981 Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only." In one of them, the Esprit turned into a submarine.

The award-winning Elise has been sold in Europe in different form since August, 1996, and is the first computer-designed Lotus, with a chassis made with aluminum alloy extrusions and aerospace bonding techniques. It's the best-selling car in Lotus history, with more than 17,000 purchased.

American car buffs have been crying for a street-legal version of the Elise for years; Lotus brought a race version to America in 2000, but it could be only driven on a track because it didn't meet government regulations for street autos.

Underestimating Price
The Elise is the first all-new Lotus since the automaker's 1990 Elan, which wasn't well received. Many folks were surprised when I said the Elise cost $39,985, which lets it deliver more performance per dollar than any sports car in its market segment. Most guessed that it cost at least $50,000.

Lotus Cars and its innovative sister company, Lotus Engineering, which has done work for the world's major automakers, are owned by Group Lotus PLC, headquartered in Norfolk, England.

Lotus was founded in England in 1952 and headed by Colin Chapman, who died in 1982 at age 54. His cars won international Grand Prix racing championships and even the Indianapolis 500, where the winning rear-engine Lotus changed the traditional design of heavier, front-engine Indy 500 cars.

Lotus Tradition
Chapman would have loved the Elise because he produced super-light race and road cars with small, potent engines. Like the Enzo Ferrari, he mostly was concerned with winning races, and thus road cars were an afterthought.

Small Lotus often lived hand-to-mouth and had little sales success with road cars, although nobody questioned their performance. Poor U.S. dealer and distribution networks were a drawback, as was marginal quality. The fist Mazda Miatas were a close copy of the 1962-73 Lotus Elan road car, but had much better construction.

Waiting Lists
Lotus hopes to annually sell 2,200 Elise models in America—at least initially. It could sell more, judging by long waiting lists for the car here, but must meet strong worldwide demand. There are 41 Lotus dealers in about 30 major U.S. markets.

The Elise is only 43.9 inches high, which means it's the lowest sports car sold in this country. Even the low-slung Porsche Boxster stands 50.8 inches high.

Getting in and out over the wide door sills calls for athletic moves, and occupants sit virtually on the floor in race-style bucket seats. There's decent room for two tall medium-weight adults, although the no-nonsense interior is rather narrow. Narrow shoes are called for with the small pedals. The engine is started with a dashboard starter button after the ignition key is turned.

A large, single wiper clears the sharply raked windshield of rain water, and the rear roof hoop has fixed glass.

Easily Installed Soft-Top
The canvas soft-top can be quickly installed by hand, and it rolls up and fits neatly into the trunk. A $1,475 body color hardtop is available.

The small cargo compartment next to the rear-mounted engine has room for a few pieces of soft luggage.

The Elise could be used daily if its driver didn't carry much because it has none of the rough edges and quirks of most other exotic foreign sports cars. But it's more of a car for tackling winding roads with a flourish or for track competition.

Feeling Bumps
Bumps and potholes can be felt at low speeds, partly because the Elise has a short 90.5-inch wheelbase. But the faster you go, the more the sophisticated suspension smoothes out road imperfections.

As has been the case with all Lotus sports cars sold in America, there is nothing quite like the Elise offered here. It can be had with a variety of exciting colors, but rest assured that it will attract stares and smiles no matter what color it's painted.

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BB01 - 7/29/2014 8:59:29 AM