Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 18:18:45 -0400

From: "Chris Smith"

Subject: Prototype US Elise test drive

Well, about half hour ago I was given the OK to release this, so here it is::

In early Sept. on a visit to LCU, while talking with Arnie and Clyde. A car transporter pulled up with two Elises on it. One Aztec Bronze the other Starlight black. Then I noticed something different about these cars as we watched them unload. They had the twin tailpipes exiting from thediffuser.These were US prototype test cars! You guys can't imagine my excitement.

As the cars were unloaded and gassed up I looked them over quite thoroughly. They were test mules of course so final edition may vary from
these. Both cars were loaded with testing, diagnostic electronics. The black car had leather seats, and the bronze had fabric/leather. First thing I had to do was open the boot. Nestled nicely in there was the Yota motor with the "LOTUS PERFORMANCE" on the valve cover as pictured in Road and Track. The twin tailpipes looked really good, very understated but gave it that racer look. The build quality even of this test car was exc. the panels fit well and the seems well-aligned.

Climbing into the car as with the 111S is not a real problem once you get the hang of it. We took the top off of course as it's the only way to experience this car!! Climbed in and looked around. I noticed immediately the windows were tighter with the electric units (UK owners of the manual wind windows felt the electric windows would be less prone to rattling)and a very satisfying "thunk" when the door is closed.

The dashboard has been redesigned and this was obviously a prototype piece, but I liked the layout of the stereo and the vents, it had a very integrated feel to it. All controls were easily reachable from the driver's seat. I was pleased to see the steering wheel was compact, it appeared to be the same size as a 111S wheel even with airbag, this again was a prototype piece.

Key on, the engine comes to life. A nice pleasant exhaust note at low revs. The gearbox felt very tight, with relatively short throws, it took a few times for me to get the 1 to 2 but after that no problems.(mostly my fault as it's been some months since driving a stick). Acceleration was wonderful. Not earthshattering like an Esprit but very quick and steady. The acceleration isn't as quick as my 2 liter caterham was (low 4 sec. car) but I'm quite sure 4.8 is attainable as stated in Road and Track.

Of special note, many people were concerned by the flat spot or lump in the 6000 rpm range on the > > Toyota engine, I can tell you quite conclusively, THEIR (sic) IS NO FLAT SPOT, NO FLAT SPOT. Acceleration was linear and smooth all the way up to 7000 or so rpm (I didn't want to be too aggressive with this test car). The Lotus engineers did a great job on the ECU.

I found the braking to be quite good and felt connected with the road. The car handled bumps, etc, with firmness but no rattling. I could detect no appreciable difference in the suspension of this car and a 111S, ie the quality and firmness of the ride was still there, this is no land yacht! Looking at the car I could see no change in the ride height from the 111S. I think the daily driver and occasional track day participant will be quite happy with the standard suspension.

On returning to LCU, my ear-to-ear grin certainly told Arnie what I thought of this wonderful car.

Spent a good 30 minutes driving the car around, it was a blast.

Immediately upon return I took the 120 hp S2 out for comparison. Development of the Elise has been a progressive improvement in build quality and performance. I enjoyed the S1, Spor 190, S2, the 111S I've driven, this prototype Elise is the best one I've driven yet! I'm glad my deposit is already in place, I can't wait!!!! Many people have voiced concern about
ruining the car to adapt to the US market, that hasn't happened, this car retains all the magic that is the Elise!

Let me tell you guys, this car is worth the wait! This car is going to change perceptions and expectations here in the US of what a sportscar is supposed to be! Destined to be a landmark car.

Do I sound excited, you bet I am. BTW> Please note this was a test prototype, some components may differ on the final car that we get.

(A later response to a question)

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 22:18:19 -0400
From: "Chris Smith" <>

Subject: Re: Prototype US Elise test drive

HI Jeff,

Thanks for your email. I had no chance to try the understeer thing out, don't think the Atlanta public was ready for that. Also, for whatever reason my car did not have Yokohamas mounted.

Comparing the car to a Sport 190 (ridden on city streets again). Didn't find the ride to be nearly as jarring. In actuality, the ride of the US test car felt to be nearly identical to the 111S s that I've driven. ie, handled road bumps well, still a firm ride, but not the jarring noted with the sport 190. It also didn't have all the rattles and creaks of the 190. In short, the US elise could easily be a daily driver whereas the 190 in all practicality could not. Unfortunately never driven the 190 on the track so can't provide input from a track perspective. I do think the Sport 190 is a bit quicker off the mark than the US car, but that's just a gut feeling.

As you pointed out Jeff, the key factor is that Lotus was able make all the changes to the car for the US market and still managed to keep the grin factor firmly in place. Those of you who plan to track the car can feel free to pull off lots of the extras, much easier for you guys to take it off then for me to put it on. I really think the extra year they had to develop the car helped them to offer us a better package.

As an aside, the door/roof seal has been redesigned and is supposed to be extremely effective at preventing leaks.

It's going to be a long several months.


PS>Big launch is to be the LA Auto show in January. I'll be flying out for sure.