Finally Coming to North America
by Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
When thinking of Lotus, what cars come to mind? Maybe the cute little 1962 Elan, that vicariously reignited the latter day roadster movement via the me-too Mazda MX5 Miata, or possible the venerable Esprit Turbo, made legendary in the classic James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me," and now in its last year of production.
Currently only available in Europe, the featherweight Lotus Elise is finally expected to arrive in North America next year. (Photo: Lotus)
Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman's sports cars incorporate a rich history born and bread in motorsport, fostering an automotive philosophy that eschews excessive luxury features, and the associated weight penalties, for low mass.
Few Lotus cars have remained as true to the brand's tenets than the featherweight Elise, currently only available in Europe but finally expected to arrive in North America next year.
After severing ties with Rover, the new engine for the Elise comes from the Toyota Celica GT-S, sporting 190-hp in tuned Lotus trim. (Photo: Lotus)
In order to mandate it on this side of the Atlantic Lotus had to sever ties with British automaker Rover, after a seven year cooperative partnership for engines. The Rover inline 4-cylinder unit, ranging from 118-hp to 190-hp, served the Elise well, that is until now.
Out with the old and in with Toyota, a wise choice for sports car enthusiasts appreciating reliability and low fuel consumption as much as performance. The new engine, already emission tested in Canada and the United States, comes from the Japanese company's Celica GT-S. Sporting 190-hp in tuned Lotus trim, the Celica GT-S delivers 180-hp at 7,600 rpm and 130 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm, the Toyota engine is a perfect fit for the sprite Elise. What's more, a built in parts supply comes via the Toyota network of distribution centers and dealers.
A short-ratio 6-speed manual transmission takes care of gear changes, set up to slingshot the Elise to 100 km/h from standstill in a scant five seconds, or less, with its terminal velocity exceeding 225 km/h.
Virtually no exterior changes from the 2003 to the 2004 Elise, bar slightly larger wheels and a revised air dam. (Photo: Lotus)
As far as styling goes the 2004 Elise remains much the same as 2003 version, with a modified lower fascia and larger diameter wheels and tires.
For North America the Elise will come equipped with safety and performance enhancing features such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) and a tire pressure monitoring system, as well as convenience items like air conditioning, power windows, keyless remote locking, a high-end audio system plus, and the wonders never cease, carpeting.
A lightweight, high-performance sports car boasting economy car fuel efficiency, ULEV emissions and stellar reliability? Where do I sign up? (Photo: Lotus)
Does the opportunity to own a lightweight, high-performance sports car boasting economy car fuel efficiency, ULEV emissions and stellar reliability, along with a noble English pedigree, turn your crank? Lotus is confident that the Elise will be enticing enough, paving the way for what the European automotive press has deemed the sports car of sports cars to enter Canada and the U.S. This is a very good day for motor heads.
* Price Range (MSRP): N/A
* Body Type: 2-door convertible
* Layout: front engine, RWD
* Engine (est): 190 hp, 135 lb-ft of torque, 1.8-L, DOHC, 16-valve I-4
* Transmission: 6-spd manual
* Acceleration (est 0 - 100 km/h): 4.9 seconds
* Top Speed: 225 km/h
* Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS
* Seating Capacity: 2
* Cargo Volume (trunk): N/A