The Truth About Cars » Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:05:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/lotus/ Elon Musk Buys 007 Submarine, Will Attempt To Make It Functional http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-buys-007-submarine-will-attempt-to-make-it-functional/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/elon-musk-buys-007-submarine-will-attempt-to-make-it-functional/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 13:42:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=626753 Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark of our times, has quite the extensive résumé: Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors; billionaire investor of projects and businesses such as SolarCity and the preservation of Nikola Tesla’s lab; inventor of the Hyperloop rapid mass transit concept; 007 cosplayer… Yes, you read that right: Musk is a […]

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800px-TSWLM-LotusEsprit

Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark of our times, has quite the extensive résumé: Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors; billionaire investor of projects and businesses such as SolarCity and the preservation of Nikola Tesla’s lab; inventor of the Hyperloop rapid mass transit concept; 007 cosplayer…

Yes, you read that right: Musk is a huge fan of the man who loves his martinis shaken and his women to have double entendre naming schemes. So much so, in fact, that he now has one of Bond’s most awesome vehicles ever conceived.

In a double exclusive with our friends over at Jalopnik, the secret buyer of the Lotus Esprit Mk I-cum-submarine from the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” was Musk himself, who paid nearly $900,000 for the privilege of owning one of the most famous vehicles in the history of film, beating out another bidder in a duel worthy of a Bond film (or so we would hope). The star car — or, rather, the star submarine — was originally lost in storage limbo, then discovered, spruced up, and put up for auction by Canadian auction house RM Auctions in early September of this year.

Alas, Musk was a bit disappointed that all the Esprit did was look pretty and float, but since this is Musk we’re talking about (via Tesla’s PR department)…

It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.

If his SpaceX can successfully dock with the International Space Station, and his Tesla can make EVs cool (the first was based off the Lotus Elise, no less), then Musk can make this impossible dream possible. We look forward to seeing his car arrive at San Diego Comic Con 2014 via Pacific Beach in all of its glory.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Exotic Cars: Buy, Or By The Hour? Today: Lotus Elise. A Future Writer Story http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/exotic-cars-buy-or-by-the-hour-today-lotus-elise-a-future-writer-story/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/exotic-cars-buy-or-by-the-hour-today-lotus-elise-a-future-writer-story/#comments Sat, 09 Feb 2013 15:55:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477034 Remember TTAC’s Future Writers Week? You chose the writers. The writers wrote. The stories are in (well, most of them …). Here is the first one. Do you like it? Tell us. The stories will be published in the sequence in which they arrived in TTAC’s mailbox. I thought I was hard-core. People who complain about the […]

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Remember TTAC’s Future Writers Week? You chose the writers. The writers wrote. The stories are in (well, most of them …). Here is the first one. Do you like it? Tell us. The stories will be published in the sequence in which they arrived in TTAC’s mailbox.

I thought I was hard-core. People who complain about the Lotus Elise’s lack of creature comforts or suspension compliance are wimps I thought. Many of us would agree that pure driving pleasure outweighs most other considerations. The Elise is the ultimate test of this idea.  Buy or by the hour? Let’s do the test.

I had lusted after the Elise ever since seeing one in Europe in the late 1990‘s. Everything I had read about it perfectly meshed with my ideas about sports cars. After owning a ’91 Miata for almost ten years, owning the Elise was the next logical step. When I first sat in one in 2005 upon its release in the U.S., I knew I would own a used one someday. The styling was to die for, the cockpit was starkly beautiful in its own way, and the mechanical-feeling shifter was a joy.

Renting The Elise

Around 2007, my wife and I rented one in Vegas for the day and drove it hard for many miles on great twisty roads. It was my favorite bright red color and drove like a dream. As both a driver and passenger, I was pleasantly surprised that the car was not as rough or noisy inside, as I had been led to believe.

In 2009, after owning several Porsches and various BMW’s, I again rented an Elise in Vegas. Another red beauty, this time for 4 hours. I spent the entire 4 hours driving with only a 15-minute break for food, and loved every minute of it. Again, I had no issues with the noise or the firm suspension.

Renting verdict: Can’t possibly have more fun when paying by the hour.

Buying The Elise

Forward to 2012 and I finally bought an Elise (bright red of course). On the 5 1/2 hour drive home through Pennsylvania from the private seller’s house I had a great time but I also noticed that the interior noise level & ride were more intense than I remembered in Vegas. Hello reality — in the Northern Virginia / DC area where I live the roads are nothing like the smooth Vegas roads. Are there any other negatives? There sure are.

Big Negative #1: Parking Paranoia

Physically, I was the perfect Elise driver: I’m only 5’6” tall and very skinny, so climbing in & out of the car was no big deal (but hugely entertaining watching others try), and I fit well in the narrow seats. These seats however started to become a bit painful on my back after a few months of daily driving. Yes, I drove the car almost daily into DC to work (only one way during rush hour) and actually parallel parked it sometimes on those mean streets. I had fabricated a front license plate bracket to screw into the front tow hook hole and mounted it when parking to avoid tickets. Once I returned to my car to find this front place bent as someone had backed into it but luckily no damage to the all-one-piece front fiberglass clamshell piece.

Big Negative #2: Interior Noise Levels.

The engine sound was enjoyable but loud even with the stock exhaust — especially on the overrun. I would even sometimes shift to neutral to enjoy the silence while coasting to a stop. Sounds wimpy I know but we’re talking almost-daily driver here in heavy traffic and it was still just a massaged Toyota 4-banger not some exotic powerplant.

Complementing the engine sounds were massive amounts of interior road & wind noise. The soft top leaks air quite a bit at highway speeds and combined with the engine made the stereo pretty much unlistenable on the highway.

Big Negative #3: Unbelievably Bad Stereo

Anything above crawling speeds made the stereo virtually unlistenable. I immediately upgraded the stock front speakers which helped some, but it was still just a mess. I know that in a car like this listening to the stereo isn’t really the point but in a daily driver it’s a bit different. Many owners upgrade the audio but with such high interior noise levels this seems pointless.

Big Negative #4: Unbelievably Rough Ride

As mentioned, on my two Vegas joyrides I had no complaints, but on the rough streets in my area it was shocking how shocking the bumps were. Hitting large bumps or potholes produced such a loud & jarring shudder that I began to (rather unsafely) dodge such hazards at the expense of level-headed driving. Such bumps made me think that the car was being damaged every time — this feeling did not go away with familiarity even though I knew that the car could (probably) take it. It was just so unsettling to have the whole car crashing around me sounding like it was about to break in half.

Big Negative #5: Rough Road Handling

It is said and often written that “The Elise is one of the best handling cars ever made.” Any enthusiast has read such words many times, and yet my experience was quite different. The stiff suspension, low weight and short wheelbase are ideal for the track or smooth roads. However, in the real world of crumbling roads, mid-corner bumps would case the rear end to bounce sideways, thus eroding my confidence in the car’s abilities. Combined with the lack of stability control, the skittish rear end put a damper on some of the fun factor whenever I would push the car a bit. I have owned and driven many other sports cars and the Elise just didn’t make me feel like I could push too hard in my normal driving. For those of you wondering, the car had low miles, was never tracked or crashed and after purchase I had my dealer check all suspension bolt torques which were fine. One possible caveat is that the fairly new rear tires were not OEM but were some obscure brand I’d never heard of installed by the original owner. To me this would only apply to cornering grip and not bouncing around in a corner however. Cornering grip was still outstanding on smooth surfaces.

 

Big Negative #6: Wind Noise With the Top Removed

The Elise has no topless air management whatsoever. I’ve owned & driven many convertibles and the Lotus has the worst wind-management I’ve ever experienced. With the targa soft top removed, highway driving is almost unbearable from the wind noise unless you put the windows up. Removing & installing the top is just enough of a pain to encourage you to leave it on most of the time, and when removed, it’s difficult to stow in the trunk so it takes up the passenger footwell.

I owned the Lotus for about 7 months and am very glad I did, but the driving experience along with the practicalities (Parking! Fiberglass body! Backaches!) just weren’t working for my driving in my area with heavy traffic & poor road conditions.

I still think it’s one of the best-looking cars ever made, and I loved the shift feel (which is strangely criticized by many owners on the LotusTalk forum). I also enjoyed the unique interior and overall “exoticness” of the car along with the direct unfiltered mid-engined driving experience.

Buying verdict:  Definitely not a hassle-free marriage

The Final Verdict

Elise is fun by the hour, but a drama queen in daily life. I highly recommend renting the Elise when visiting Vegas or LA, but owning it should be approached with caution…

Jeff Snavely lives in Northern Virginia (suburban Washington DC) and is a military musician by trade. A lifelong car enthusiast, he has owned many used cars over the years – mostly German along with a few Saabs and some Japanese as well.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll. The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely The Elise. Picture courtesy Jeff Snavely Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2009 Lotus Elise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/06/review-2009-lotus-elise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/06/review-2009-lotus-elise/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2009 10:28:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=318410

They say that “Less is more”, whoever they are. The Lotus Elise would seem to be a reasonable proof of that statement. Most of the Elises sold in the United Kingdom are 134-horsepower models powered by the same Toyota engine which, bolted to a base (in all senses of the word) Pontiac Vibe, permits America’s daytime strippers to make their late-morning commutes without mechanical incident. From what I’ve read, the base Elise is a stimulating, wonderfully balanced sporting car that permits man and machine to operate in perfect “B-road” harmony.

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They say that “less is more” (whoever they are, and however much they weigh). The Lotus Elise is automotive proof of concept. Most of the Elises sold in the United Kingdom are 134-horsepower models powered by the same Toyota engine which, bolted to a base (in all senses of the word) Pontiac Vibe, permits America’s daytime strippers to make their late-morning commutes without mechanical incident. From what I’ve read, the base Elise is a stimulating, wonderfully balanced sporting car that permits man and machine to operate in perfect “B-road” harmony.

Here in the United States, however, we believe that “more is more.” So our base Elise has 189 horsepower, from the same Toyota engine which used to power the very fastest Pontiac Vibe. For those thrill seekers who want even more velocity, there’s the Elise SC, which has an amazing 217 horsepower to push just 1900 pounds. That gives you the power-to-weight ratio of a Camaro SS, you know, and you can buy one for just fifty-five grand.

Or, for those who want the true “more is a hell of a lot more” experience, PRI will rent you a turbocharged, Ohlins-shock-equipped, carbon-fiber-laden, 310-horsepower Elise for just under six hundred bucks per diem. When you ask them, “Where the hell should I drive this thing?” expect that they will recommend the twisting roads around New York’s Bear Mountain. Which is how I found myself heading directly at a hundred-foot dropoff into a lake at the kind of velocity that would permit a Boeing 747 to clear the runway, with only a low stone wall between myself and disaster.

The Elise driving experience is usually described as “go-kart-like” by jerkoff auto-journos who have never turned a single lap in a true racing kart. In reality, it’s nothing like a kart, because it has a suspension, doors and a distinct lack of imminent ribcage trauma. But it’s very much like what you expected from cars as a child. Seated in the surprisingly roomy cockpit, snuggled down between the boxy aluminum spars that make up the car’s frame, it’s difficult not to feel an immediate connection with the road. After all, your bottom is only about eighteen inches away from it.

The controls, from the little aluminum knobs which operate the auxiliary functions to the close-set pedals, operate with ball-bearing precision at all speeds. Steering feel is good but not perfect, surprisingly; although it’s a racing-style wheel, one has the feeling of rubber bushings between you and the tires, making it possible to occasionally dial in just a bit too much turn at higher speeds. As with the other PRI cars, there’s a complete audio system including a JL subwoofer strategically placed in the passenger footwell. It’s better to listen to the unearthly hiss of boost in each gear followed by the rude honk of the blow-off valve on corner entrance.

I’m running the Elise in convoy with a well-driven single-turbo Supra pushing out over 500 horsepower. Around Bear Mountain, I can toy with the Supra at will, carrying ten to fifteen miles per hour more into every turn and picking up throttle midcorner with insouciant ease, but I’d expected that. What I didn’t expect was the PCP-laced hit the turbocharger provides beyond 7000 rpm, and how little the big Supra could pull away on the straights. Even a blast down a straight four-lane couldn’t shake my little Lotus from the Toyota’s heels.

It’s frankly difficult to think of any faster dry-weather method for getting down twisty roads than this pressurized Radio Flyer. There’s enough power to spin the wheels in the dry almost everywhere, matched to the aforementioned Ohlins suspension to ensure maximum corner speed. I’d run this car against all comers on a road like the infamous “Tail of the Dragon”, for money, and I’d include motorcycles in that statement. The bikes couldn’t do enough on the straight to make up for the Elise’s superior broken-pavement grip.

Thirty miles of twisty roads into our test drive, I’m almost ready to forsake my long-held allegiance to Porsche, almost ready to forget the miserable experience I had owning a Lotus Seven clone back in 2002, almost ready to consider adding an Elise just like this one to my little fleet back home. And then we get on the freeway. Within minutes, my back has started to hurt, the blown Toyotamotor’s noise has changed from charming to oppressive, and the thrill of treating each pothole like a slalom cone at the SCCA Solo Nationals has become rather passé.

There’s a reason the Porsche Boxster outsells the Elise everywhere, even in the United Kingdom. The Lotus is a one-trick pony. The extra power, refinement, and conveniences added by PRI don’t change that one bit. Still, for those bright days and curvy back roads, there’s satisfaction to be found here like nowhere else.

[Performance Rentals Incorporated provided the vehicle tested, insurance and gas.]

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Lotus Elise S2 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2002/03/lotus-elise-s2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2002/03/lotus-elise-s2/#comments Sun, 10 Mar 2002 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=335  Driving a go-kart is something of an acquired taste. You sit on a dinner tray, a few inches off the ground. You get a steering wheel, an engine, four tiny tyres, rudimentary suspension and… that's it. At speed, the forces of acceleration, de-acceleration and lateral G's are unfiltered, and vicious. Nannies have been jailed for shaking babies less violently. But if you love to drive, a go-kart unleashes a flood of adrenalin-crazed endorphins that makes it hurt so good. After haring around in a go-kart, driving a 'normal' car feels like, um, nothing.

I'm sorry, did I say go-kart? I meant to say 'Lotus Elise'. Read the above paragraph again, substituting the word 'Elise' for 'go-kart'. The differences between the two are both obvious and unimportant: size, doors, roof, gearbox and top end. The similarities are startling. Ride height low enough to scare a limbo dancer. A tiny engine with a narrow but brutally effective power band. Steering and suspension so direct you wonder where the machine ends and your nervous system begins. Put it all together, and you've got a road car that you can drive like a go-kart, using your entire body to aim the machine with zero-delay, laser-guided precision.

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 Driving a go-kart is something of an acquired taste. You sit on a dinner tray, a few inches off the ground. You get a steering wheel, an engine, four tiny tyres, rudimentary suspension and . . . that’s it. At speed, the forces of acceleration, de-acceleration and lateral G’s are unfiltered, and vicious. Nannies have been jailed for shaking babies less violently. But if you love to drive, a go-kart unleashes a flood of adrenalin-crazed endorphins that makes it hurt so good. After haring around in a go-kart, driving a ‘normal’ car feels like, um, nothing.

I’m sorry, did I say go-kart? I meant to say ‘Lotus Elise.’ Read the above paragraph again, substituting the word ‘Elise’ for ‘go-kart.’ The differences between the two are both obvious and unimportant: size, doors, roof, gearbox and top end. The similarities are startling. Ride height low enough to scare a limbo dancer. A tiny engine with a narrow but brutally effective power band. Steering and suspension so direct you wonder where the machine ends and your nervous system begins. Put it all together and you’ve got a road car that you can drive like a go-kart, using your entire body to aim the machine with zero-delay, laser-guided precision.

 Cornering is its forte. One sharp corner in an Elise and you’re hooked. A serious speed merchant can exploit the Elise’s sublime, sweet-handling chassis and slide the car around a bend with one finger. Mere mortals can enjoy the car’s talents just as much by keeping everything smooth and steady. Fast in, fast out. Shake it all about. Get into a rhythm down your favourite road, and you’ll believe a man can fly. If you enjoy driving fast for the sheer bloody hell of it, the Elise is just about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.

There are only a few mechanical shortcomings that interfere with your pleasure. The engine note lacks charisma. A car this sensual deserves some kind of signature howl, to remind drivers and their audience that Major Fun is in the house. The brakes need more bite and feel; they’re effective rather than impressive. And the suspension crashes over potholes with so much force I checked the rear mirror for missing pieces. All that is nothing compared to the Elise’s feedback, poise and death grip on the tarmac. Even an MPV-driving school-run-Mommy could extract maximum pleasure from every one of the Elise’s 120 horses.

 Wait! Don’t laugh. I know that’s less horsepower than an entry level Honda Accord. But the fibreglass Elise is a featherweight: only 750 kgs. Provided you don’t have a large lunch, the Lotus’ superb power-to-weight ratio means you can mix it with the big boys. The sprint from zero to sixty takes 5.8 seconds—less than half a second behind a Porsche Carrera. Besides, when your butt’s two feet off the ground, anything more than a walking pace feels fast. Sixty feels like 100. One hundred feels like . . . you’d be lucky, mate. The Elise tops out at 118. And very nice it is too.

Anyway, you get the point: the Lotus Elise is the finest road-legal driver’s car ever made. Now let’s look at the practical side . . .

 There isn’t any. The Elise is a sports car from The Old School; the one with drafty classrooms, rock hard chairs and no AV equipment. In the relentless pursuit of weight reduction (and profit margins), Lotus has equipped the Elise with bugger all. There’s a decent heater . . . and that’s it. The radio is a small, fiddly thing that can’t compete with the engine at full chat or the wind at cruising speed. Carpets? Central locking? No chance. Boot space? What kind of handbag does the lady carry? Fuel or temperature gauges? We don’t need no stinking gauges! Where other manufacturers woo buyers with creature comforts and hi-tech toys, Lotus offers you a Zen rock garden and dares you to complain.

Purists wouldn’t. Why would they? But there’s no getting around the fact that the Elise is too damn small. In fact, unless you’re supple, there’s simply no getting into the Elise. Period. I’m serious. Anyone who can’t do the Yoga position known as ‘the bow’ should not attempt to post themselves into the four foot slot between the Elise’s roof and doorsill without their chiropractor’s number teed-up for speed dial. Middle-aged extraction is equally perilous and inelegant. You don’t sit in the thing as much as wear it.

There’s only one solution: put the roof in the boot and stand on the seats. Much has been written about the difficulty of convincing the Elise to go topless, and all of it’s wrong. Once you slip the canvas tabs off the end of the flying buttresses, removing the canvas and rubber and metal and mesh thingy is easy. Replacing it is the bitch. A teenager losing his virginity would have an easier time figuring out which bit goes where, and what you’re supposed to to do with it when its in place. But even that (the Elise’s roof) gets easier after a little practice—and a phone call or two to Lotus’ PR department.

By far greatest sacrifice demanded by the Elise’s design is the driver’s proximity to the pavement. It’s like sitting in the second row in a cinema. If there’s a car in front of you, there’s a LOT of car in front of you. A proper truck appears no less epic than Moby Dick. Combined with a cramped cabin, it’s enough to make you feel like a five-year-old. Die-hard drivers who suffer from even mild claustrophobia will not be well pleased.

The rest will. The Elise is a genuine classic that does both Lotus and its discerning (if rabid) owners proud. The car’s ergonomic limitations mean the Elise is really only viable daily transport for slim-line twenty or thirty somethings in a hurry. The rest of us can and should view the Elise as a weekend or track day toy. As such, it’s the best car money can buy. Despite the obvious styling cues—a pastiche of every supercar cliché ever made—the Lotus Elise is not a miniature Ferrari. Oh, no. It’s a lot better than that.

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