Subject: More Elise details

From: dneely
To: removed to protect from spam
Date sent: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 10:15:43 -0800
Subject: SI vrs federal elise

(some administrative stuff deleted...)

But oh............... those trips I took in the S1!!! I drove across West Virginia one Sunday morning. Six hours from Pgh to Roanoke, going the wrong way.... the way no one in their right mind goes, across the mountains rather than longways down the valleys. I made 360 mile in six hours, without exceeding 63 MPH significantly. I can only recall three times that I dropped below 55 MPH, in true hairpin turns. Even then I'm not sure it was necessary. What a memory. A lovely cloudless July morning, Old growth forest, winding mountain roads, all to myself. I only came up behind three cars the whole way thru the mountains. . I saw three police cars going the other direction but I was within the 55 = 63mph speed limit and was not accosted. It was as memorable as a night with Sherry _____ when I was a teen in High school and I was introduced for the first time to to the one thing that fit better than the Elise.

The Elise is a special car. I have driven cars that were not mainstream all of my life. I made a car in my foolish young days, an Aztec.... Vw chassis, GT-40 clone body, Porsche brakes, Turbocharged Corvair Engine w/ a 40DCOE weber. Probably 200 HP & 200 ft lb of torque. The clutch would only hold about 150 ft lb so at about 13 psi of boost it would let go. 1400 lbs. About 300 lbs of which were on the front wheels. It went like a rocket. handled like the wheels were mounted in jello. Scary. I lived thru it.

There were many other cars in my life... Alfas, Porsches, Lancias, Fiats (x-1/9) Miata, and a Lotus Europa TC special. They all seem much the same uniform distant second when compared against the Elise.

One dark night we unloaded the Elise off of a hauler in a bank parking lot and I drove it the last 3 miles to home. It was different! Three miles in the dark at less than 40 MPH and it was clear that it was not like the others.

What struck me first about the SI Elise, after all of those other cars, was the security of the precision of handling. It felt light and exact in it's handling. It was effortless to put it where I wanted and to hold it there. The major difference between the Elise and the Europa was that the stablity held regardless of the road surface or other external forces. It just went where it was directed. No fuss, no quavers, wavers, wanders, or wobbles. It just follows directions. Point it. If you don't screw up it doesn't. What more could one ask.

The brakes stopped. If there are better brakes, I suspect that god kept them for himself. they aren't needed here anyway.

The Elise was the best handling vehicle that I had ever encountered by a long measure. This is most evident when on a steep uphill serpentine road. The lightness of the car allowed so much extra traction to be available for turning the car that the result going uphill was stunning. It is a difference that must be felt to be believed. The seemingly unbalanced weight distribution of the SI seems to be the magic perfect ratio for handling.

So what is different about the Federal Elise. I was prepared for the worst. I had it upon good, but tainted authority, (the USA lotus field rep) that the the Fed E (for short) was "better than the SI. He is biased, but a British gentleman never lies. He seemed such. But the weight of the fed E is 33% more. The BSME in my history induced scepticism of even a British gentleman. So I began my adventure with Fed E with some reservation of affection. My E was received in Pgh Pa. For a day I doubted the wisdom of my choice of the sport suspention. In Western Pa most streets have 25 to 35 MPH speed limits. They might as well be 15 mph and unmonitored. The roads are so potholed, patched, (seemingly by pitching asphalt and gravel mix out of a passing satellite to form haphazard ballistic clumps on the highway), and rumpled by frost heaves that it was beyond my sense of cruelty to machinery to exceed the ridiculously low speed limits imposed by the spritless PA regulators.

The next day I left western PA, the roads became smooth and my concerns about the wisdom of choosing the sport disappeared. The sport suspension option is stiff but very nice. Unless you live where the roads are horrid, go for the sport option. The car is surprizingly satisfying on the interstates. I've yet to find a road that outside Pennsylvania that was rough enough to make the ride unpleasent.

Some seemingly minor problems in the SI Elise have been remedied. The long loose shift mechanisim, and the weak 2nd gear syncronizer problem. The jumping out of 5th gear problem. The elaborate roof erection scheme which on the one instance when I truely needed the roof, raising it took longer than the thunderstorm.

The SI had 118 Hp. It was enough. More would have been nice but to be honest would have been of trivial value. The Rover engine became harsh and more than noticable as the revs grew. At 60 Mph it was hard to hold a conversation. The engine noise was bothersome with the roof up. With the roof off, it was not so noticable due to the wind noise. It tended to make the vehicle seem more of a top off only toy. The thin black seats and Southern sun made it seem not so pleasant in July and August.

The fed E has and ABS. I loath and fear ABS. If I die in a car it will probably be because of ABS. It will distract me at a critical instant and I will do the wrong thing becuase the pedel went to the floor and I feel no brakes. I got into the fed E ABS brakes within the First 400 Miles. They worked great. They are not oppressive. They do not take over braking or control. The ABS system is co - designed and tweaked by Lotus and it works naturally and well, allowing normal brake feel and control while preventing lock up. It is even possible that the ABS sytem might help an experienced driver. There is no feel of power assist to the brakes. They feel the same as the original SI Brembos.

The engine is a surprise. 190 hp. Thus far my car is still in the break-in process. I have not yet exceeded 6K rpm (Redline = 8500rpm for brief periods) and mostly have kept it below 4.5 Krpm. So the legendary push after the valve timing changes at 6.2 K rpm is yet to be felt. My experiance is that of a smooth, quiet, silky engine that pulls the Fed E as well or better than the Rover pulled the SI in the lower range. Between 4K and 6 K rpm it smoothly and flawlessly exceeds the acceleration of the SI. Above 6 K rpm, rumors are that it is very fast. The engine is 70 lbs heavier.

The handling, with the sport option seems the same or better than the SI. It is very light effortless and precise. Nothing I've done has induced a loss of tractionin either Elise. Even tho I tried and expected it in some places. Even tho some friends called me crazy. It just turned with no fuss no drama. I have yet to push the fed E on a steep uphill serpentine where the performance advantage over conventional sports cars is the most noticeable.

Given what I have donewithout breaking traction, it seems a bit unnerving to consider the amount of energy that would be pent up in the vehicle if one did manage to get it to let go. Sometimes that engineering degree gets in the way of the fun.

Look for an update. It will stop raining here eventually. There is more to learn.


The fed E has an air conditioner. It is embarrasing to admit liking that. Howevre it doubles the time that the car can be happily used here during the year. One can go for a nice morning drive and limp home in mid day under the cover of the roof and air conditioner from the brutal sun and humidity here in the SE. It's not so much heat stroke as melanoma that merits the hiding. I choose to accept that weight burden. Of course the AC system is a Lotus weight- managed system that is incredibly light. Up north the equation would be different. The heater is adequate. It is still effective with the roof off but only for about 10 degrees cooler than unheated. The X 1/9 would stay comfortable almost 20 degrees below roof off weather with the heater. I've not had occasion to use the AC yet so there is no comment regarding it's cooling output.

To avoid black red or blue seats in my titanium Elise, I had to go for the biscuit leather.... hence the touring option, hence getting the padded roof (sound deadening) and the radio as well. Again, I hate to admit it.... but I would do that again. Black seats, coupled with shorts in the summer would take the skin off the backs of a hippo's thighs. The radio is excellant. If you get it, figure it out the menus and settings before starting the engine. Those damn computer menus are death traps. Much more so in a responsive car such as the Elise. A minor twitch of the wrist makes the car do what it was told, ... wobble from ditch to ditch. Watch the road when driving... You will find yourself giving the car direction unwittingly and it will respond exactly. The reduced road noise is nice. That added feature can't weigh a pound. The roof is a vast improvement over the SI. It goes on in a couple fo minutes rather than 15. It only has three parts instead of about seven. It seems less likely to leak and it is much better looking.

The Fed E has airbags. There is no way to disable them from the factory. The dealers will not help you. Adding a switch is needed if one had a small wife or a child passenger that one did not want killed by it. there is no seat weight or presence sensor. Even if the seat is empty the passenger bag would blow in an accident or a malfunction. You can read a note about an airbag malfunction below. *

Thankfully Lotus retained the Stack gauges. The fuel gauge has been changed to a bar graph. In the SI, it was a numerical readout that a person who needs reading glasses could not resolve. So my only serious complaint about the instruments has been remedied. The dash and interior have been raised from Sparten to a classy version of austere. It'sa nice improvement. Sparten seemed very righteous in the SI. But the fed E interior is sort of a Kate Moss interior. As her husband once commented, there isn't much there but what is there is prime. The Fed E is is still that kind of a car. One oddity which is a whimsically oversized joy little joy for me is the fact that the starter can be used without need of the left foot. The starter is not activated by the key but rather by a button on the dash.

Oh yes.... the SI got a true 50 mpg. The Fed E perhaps 30. Perhaps less. Where did the mileage go? Can some illuminati from the DOT comment here and enlighten us ignorant peasants regarding the method by which burning twice as much fuel per mile reduces the total mass of pollutants emitted per mile? Or is pollution measured using the same voodoo accounting that is used for social security funding, federal budget surplus estimates, and economic status reports? How did it come to pass that we let a dHummer or a Ford 350 with a 7 liter turbo diesel that gets 3 mpg and blows county sized clouds of carcinogens out every 15 miles pass here and block entrance to the benign little 50 mpg Elise? Not to mention that the dHummer pulls 0.62 gee on the skidpad vrs 1.06 for the Elise. Most dHummer owners cite safety as a major factor in choosing the vehicle? Why is the d silent?

One addtional detail warning for the new Elise owner is to allow for the LDF.

The Lotus Delay Factor.

Both of my Elises were social events. Both have sucked elderly female conveinence store clerks out into the parking lot, farmers from out of their pickups, pickups from out of their cosmetic Mustangs, and conventions of cops away, en-masse, from their yuk it up ticket tales conferences, leaving the coffee to cool and the donuts to stale, in order to have a chat with me. I like people. so it is mostly a nice side benefit. People really like the car, ant to know all about it. They ask what kind of car it is. Upon hearing It's a Lotus, most ask "Who makes it" Repling Lotus brings a confused stare. form there it drifts to Lotus England Indianapolis and 1965, Colin chapman, sometimes as far as polar moment of inertia, Lotus history, something that all see is a joy to drive. If you like people, it is a charming addition to the joy of driving, large people attemping to see if they can fit in. Not yet has a svelte miss in a short skirt, but I will be standing, ready to help her in and out if one ever wishes to try the entrance and exit challange. Men live by hope.

Not everyone is an easy fit on the drivers side. One applicant, a lean fellow of about 75 inches and 65 years, could not make the necessary bends with the roof on. It might also be hard for those who are both quite heavy and not very flexible.

I have not had any trouble with either Elise. I never did even a minutes maintenence on either. My dealer said that none of the 17 cars that they sold have had service calls of any kind to date.

The pros outweigh any cons in the federal Elise. It is a very nice and clearly the best car ever built for the reasoning public to drive. There are cars that do one thing better than the Elise does it. There is no better combination of power, speed, handling, comfort, style, safety, economy, reliability and just sheer ready fun. It is a tribute to the skill and devotion of the good British gentlemen at Lotus who follow Colin Chapman's lead. Get one if you can.

On Nov 20, 2004, at 9:25 AM, Derek Neely wrote:

> Having driven both a 98 SI elise and my new federal Elise for
> thousands of miles and just under a thousand miles respectively,

> I found that my worries of federaly required bloating of the Federal
> version come to nothing. Although I am an absolute purist regarding
> weight and handling performance, I would take the 2005 Elise over the
> SI. How those Chapman graduates managed to out engineer the fed
> bureaucrats is beyond me, but their magic put one over on the
> Evildoers of Axles at the DOT. The car handles as well and it goes
> faster. Congratulations Lotus! Score one for the good guys.>
> So if you have been hanging back with worry about it not being up to
> the European measure, don\'t! Trudge over to your nearest Lotus dealer
> and plunk your name down on the waiting list. It won\'t be getting
> shorter for a long time.

> The Elise is so unique that I finally sold my 74 Europa and my X 1/9
> (with 39K miles ) is on the block, as well as 4 of my 6 Lancia Scorpians.
> It was hard to part with the Europa TC special after 24 years, As one
> of the last \"unsafe\" cars brought into the country it symbolized the
> end of the era of freedom in this counry when a person make ones\'s
> own choice between performance and safety. It is a tribute to Lotus
> that the Elise well outperforms the Europa and is also a very safe
> vehicle.