2005 LOTUS ELISE
DATE IN FLEET: Nov. 5-12
POWERTRAft 1.8-liter 14; rwd, sixspeed manual
OUTPUT: 190 hp @ 7800 rpm, 138 lb-ft @ 6800 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1975 lbs
I've never had a more uncomfortable commute, nor wished more that I was driving a car somewhere else. I had to perform a contortionist's act to get in, and then found the pedals so close together that my size-10 Eccos were hitting the throttle and brake at the same time; I had to slide my right foot behind the brake pedal in order to operate the throttle. My left knee blocked th ` Of the use of the turn signal for left-hand turns, and the seat bucket, like most of the rest of the car, is a better fit for someone five-foot-six than six-one.
Still, the car is a blast to drive. The steering is as good as it gets-you feel every nuance and that little Toyota mill is ideally suited. The clutch and gearbox are spot-on and the brakes are great. I so wanted to be on an autocrossi course, or better, a nice road course. And this car is pretty darn quick, not surprising with the 190-hp engine pushing just 1975 pounds.
I finally drive the federalized Elise, and my feelings are mixed. This is a car enthusiasts have longed for, and with good reason: exotic looks, exclusivity and the heritage-rich Lotus badge, all for what seems like a relatively reasonable price. The handling and overall driving experience is about the closest thing this side of a Caterharn to a Formula Ford, and the behavior of the chassis is simply awesome. It's easy to imagine Colin Chapman looking down from somewhere with a grin plastered across his face. The Elise provides think-it-and-you're-there response, along with superb steering and brakes, decent clutch and gearbox, and plenty enough bang from the Toyota four-cylinder.
But even the hardcore may tire of its no-compromises character. It's loud, stiff and, for this six-foot-one driver, a nightmare when it comes to ingress and egress. And its seemingly decent price tag is a big chunk for a car that even young, single enthusiasts like me could not pass off as a real-world daily driver for long.