side view, American car

The Car: All About the Lotus Elise, Design, Engines, Performance, and Suspension

The Lotus Elise is a car, a very unique car. This section attempts to explain why.

Design - It was designed and built as a show case for the technologies developed at Lotus and to show how bright the engineers are. It was a reward, a fun project, and only a small number of cars were to be built. No one expected the success. Julian Thompson and Richard Rackham led the effort.

Body - The body also is innovative. The style is as if a tarp were thrown over the mechanicals. Little space is wasted, aerodynamics are considered, and some art applied. Even the construction of the body employed some new technologies.

Chassis - The chassis was an engineering marvel with the design of interlocking aluminium extrusions and the glued (bonded) pieces forming a rigid platform for the Lotus designed suspension.

Engines - The engines were sourced from Rover and Toyota and were selected because of their light weight and high specific output. They each have unique features and have been modified by Lotus for use in their cars. Later models were modified to increase their output and racing versions were developed.

Performance - The Elise was designed and built for performance. Few consessions were made if they compromised performance or the driver's experience. While people can scientifically measure the performance of the car, it is difficult to describe the driver's experience.

Series - As the car grows older, Lotus continues to evolve the design and release different series and models based on the original chassis and suspension.

Suspension - How the car handles and how it communicates to the driver are the first indication this car is different. It is this ability of the car and the driver involvement that makes the Elise so amazing. The suspension plays a large role in making the Elise unique.

Technology - The new technologies used to manufacture the chassis and suspension are included. Much of what was used gained benefits in weight reduction.

Alternatives - You can often measure a car and how unique it is by looking for other cars that are similar. The Elise did not come to America for almost ten years and so we were always searching for alternatives and finding few. The alternative section is an attempt, sometime humorous, at proposing other cars that might amuse us while waiting for the perfect car.

The information below is organized very much like the information about specific parts of the car in the Shop Manual.

Table of Contents

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Design - the look and feel, as opposed to the technology.

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Alternatives - what you can buy if not an Elise.


Body - disassembly and assembly instructions, aerodynamics, crash testing, and manufacturing.

Chassis - the aluminium extruded and bonded chassis.

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Engine - the Rover K-series and the Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine.


Modifications - changes people have made to their Elise.

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Performance - varied, depending on the suspension, chassis, and engine.

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Series (models) - the different versions and colors, with different options.

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Suspension - the suspension that makes the Elise handle.

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Technology - the Elise employed many different technologies.