Lotus Elise

I bought myself a 2005 Lotus Elise for my 35th birthday (December 23, 2005). I've always wanted an exotic car. I never expected to be able to afford a new one.

lotus3.jpg

(Click on the picture to see more pictures.)

The Elise has several things going for it that convinced me:

  • 3-year warranty
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Relatively inexpensive to maintain
  • Looks exotic
  • Fun to drive
  • Dealer test-drive going 100 mph

Options

There aren't a lot of options to choose on an Elise. I went with a metallic grey paint, the touring package, and an anti-chip paint coating. The touring package consists of power windows, leather seats, sound dampening, carpet (approximately 2.5 square feet), and MP3 functionality on the CD player. It adds 22 pounds to the weight of the car.

Performance

This car is all about performance and driving. It sounds fast, it looks fast and exotic, and it handles great. It's extremely fun to drive.

Top speed is 150 mph. I doubt that I'll ever get it that fast, but I'll have a lot of fun trying. The official 0-60 rating is 4.9 seconds.

Specs

  • Engine: 1.796 L, inline 4 cylinder (manufactured by Toyota)
  • Engine power: 190 hp, 138 ft-lb torque
  • Engine valves: DOHC, 16-valve VVTLi (2nd set of valves opens at 6000 rpm)
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Redline: 8000 rpm
  • Chassis: epoxy-bonded aluminum alloy
  • Brakes: 4 anti-lock disc brakes
  • Tires: 16-inch front, 17-inch rear
  • Weight: 2011 lb
  • Width: 1.719 m (5' 8") (excluding mirrors)
  • Length: 3.785 m (12' 5")
  • Height: 1.117 m (3' 8")
  • Wheelbase: 2.300 m (90.55")
  • Ground clearance: 135 mm (5.3")
  • Fuel efficiency: 23/27 mpg (I'm getting about 24-26)
  • VIN: SCCPC11145HL34817

Comparisons

The Elise is cheaper than all but the low-end Corvette (if you get the 'Vette with no options). It's cheaper than a Porsche Boxster S, and about the same as a "regular" Boxster. It's faster off the line than all of those. High-end Porsche 911 models would kick its butt though, as will the Corvette ZO6.

The Elise holds the Motortrend record for slalom speed, besting even Ferraris. That's really its forte -- handling curves.

The car sits very low to the ground. I look up at Geo Metros and Mini Coopers.

Sitting inside the car feels a lot like being in an MG.

Here's what Edmunds has to say about the (2006) Elise:

With its quick reflexes, remarkable grip and laser-sharp steering, the Elise delivers a truly unique driving experience, but perhaps the most appealing aspect of this astonishing automobile is a base price well below $50,000. That makes the most fun exotic car out there the most affordable exotic car out there.
If you want the purest, most focused driving experience you can buy, the Elise is the ticket.

Accessories

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Did you really buy this?
    Yes. I bought it new from the dealer.
  • How much did it cost?
    Less than you might think. About the same as a low-end Corvette, or a Porsche Boxster.
  • What's the best thing about the car?
    1. The power burst at 6000 rpm when the 2nd set of valves kick in.
    2. The attention it attracts.
  • What's the worst thing about the car?
    1. It's so small, and hard to get in and out of.
    2. Not much in the way of creature comforts.
  • Want to race?
    Sure, given safe conditions. I'd love to get it on the track and really let loose.
  • Can I ride in it?
    Sure. Just buy me lunch, or dinner, or a beer or something.
  • Can I drive it?
    No. I'm not ready for that yet. My brother will be the first person I let drive it. Plus, it's quite a bit different than driving a "regular" car.
  • Do you have a garage?
    No. I live in an apartment. I keep it under a cover most of the time.
  • Why didn't you wait to buy it?
    Because I can afford it now, and to wait would mean missing out on enjoying it while I'm young enough to still really enjoy it. Plus, I did wait until now to buy it. And I waited until there was no longer a waiting list (and a premium above list price).
  • How fast is it?
    Fast! You really have to experience it to understand.
  • Where did you buy it?
    There's only 1 dealer in town (listed below). The next 3 closest dealers are in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Denver.
  • What's the fastest you've driven it?
    I've taken it up to 120 mph in 4th gear, which was at the red-line. It's a crazy feeling to be going 120 miles an hour, and knowing you've got 2 more gears to go.
  • How many of these are there?
    The dealer said he sells about 60 a year. Maybe 10 of those stay in the St. Louis area. I've only seen 2 others on the roads. The Elise has only been sold in the US since 2004. About 2500 are imported each year. I'm not sure how many are sold world-wide.

Annoyances

  • It's very difficult to get in and out of, especially with the roof on.
  • The radio reception is horrible.
  • The trunk seems to leak a bit when it rains.
  • You can feel the road a lot more than in the test-drive model. Pot-holes are really rough!
  • The pedals are a bit too small and close together.
  • The alarm remote doesn't work from more than a few feet away.
  • They expected me to "take it easy" for the first 600 miles.
  • I'll be making (large) payments for 5 years.

Dealer / Service

Midrivers Lotus and Pre-Owned Super Center

636-397-2700
5160 N. Service Road
St. Peters, MO  63376

Salesman: Steve Brown

Service Manager: Mike Belpulsi

Car Wash

Spanky N The Gang

314-890-9927
2035 Ashby @ Lackland
Overland, MO  63134

$12.50 for a hand wash

Open Monday-Saturday 7-7, Sunday 9-5

Maintenance Journal

  • 2005-12-23 Purchased with 17 miles on the odometer.
  • 2005-12-26 Car alarm woke me up at 5:00 AM. I think I must have left the "dome" light on, causing the battery to drain down and set the alarm off. I had to go outside to stop the alarm. The car started just fine later.
  • 2005-12-26 Read through the entire owner's manual.
  • 2005-12-26 Couldn't get the gear-shift to shift into reverse. Was able to coast backwards in neutral. Took me some serious fiddling to get the reverse gate to open. I've had some similar difficulty with it since, but usually get it to open eventually.
  • 2005-12-26 First fuel stop @ 200 miles: 183 mi / 7.627 gal = 24.0 mpg.
  • 2005-12-28 Almost got my first ticket. I was playing cat and mouse with a Mustang. He was keeping up with me. We'd slow down to 50, then up to 80, then slow down when we caught up with traffic. When we caught up with traffic, an unmarked cop car behind me flashed his lights. Luckily, he already had someone in the passenger seat and someone in the back.
  • 2005-12-28 Got leather driving gloves from Laura.
  • 2005-12-29 Purchased weather-proof cover and cup-holders from Sector111.
  • 2005-12-31 Removed driver-side sun visor. It's only 3 inches tall, and doesn't block the sun much. It was doing a good job of blocking my view of stop lights though.
  • 2006-01-03 Drove car to work for the first time.
  • 2006-01-03 Hit a pothole and/or curb on way into my apartment complex. Thought I'd busted something it sounded so loud, but I couldn't find any damage. The service tech said the wishbone is scraped up pretty bad, but unless the tires start to wear irregularly, it's OK.
  • 2006-01-04 First ticket: 59 in a 40 on Lindbergh at Adie, right near my apartment on the way home from work.
  • 2006-01-04 Fuel stop @ 418 miles: 218.5 miles / 8.783 gal = 24.9 mpg.
  • 2006-01-06 Received the weather-proof cover and cup-holders from Sector111. Installed one of the cup-holders. It's a little odd, but works OK. Put the cover on over-night. It fits quite nicely.
  • 2006-01-07 Raced a Porsche 911 Carrera. We both looked at each other and nodded that the other had a very nice car. He was able to pretty much hold his own against me.
  • 2006-01-08 Fuel stop. (About 25.5 mpg.)
  • 2006-01-08 Drove about 100 miles with the top down. (It reached 71 degrees outside!)
  • 2006-01-24 Paid (a lot of!) sales tax, and got car licensed.
  • 2006-02-12 Took her in for her 1000-mile check-up. Also getting the anti-chip coating applied. And the passenger seat fixed -- the leather came unglued from the front bottom.
  • 2006-02-17 Picked up from dealer after check-up.
  • 2006-07-30 Saw 2 Lotuses on I-44: a late-model yellow Esprit going the other way, on the way down to a float trip, and a 2006 light grey Elise on the way back.
  • 2006-08-01 Lost my first "race". A BMW (a 5-series, I think) was able to sneak through and leave me caught behind heavy traffic.
  • 2006-08-08 Saw a late-model Aston-Martin in Chesterfield. Not sure if it was a Vantage, a Vanquish, or a DB9.
  • 2006-08-13 Lost another "race". A Suzuki motorcycle bested me in accelerating from about 80 to 120. I was able to nearly keep up though.
  • 2006-08-24 Ran out of gas. Actually, the guage was showing 2 (digital) notches still. The car had made it to the parking spot just fine, but would not start when I was ready to leave. Almost all American cars will have gas below "empty"; seems odd to run out above "empty". I was not on any significant incline.

TODO

  • Figure out how to get better radio reception.
  • Buy driving shoes.
  • Buy radar detector. (Valentine 1, perhaps, or Cobra 9300.) Also need to figure out how best to mount it.
  • See if there's any way to get a smoother ride. (Perhaps Lotus "uprated dampers".)
  • Consider a better catalytic converter, like the Larini Sports Cat ($750, +6hp).
  • Consider a Larini Sports Exhaust ($750, +4hp, -10lb)
  • Consider a spoiler wing. I like the Forced Fed wing ($950) because it attaches to the chassis. I like the Gut Sport Wing ($1200, +9lb) because it requires minimal modification and puts the down-force on a large portion of the rear clamshell.

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