What's New for 2007
Changes on the 2007 Lotus Elise include redesigned headlamps and upgraded Alpine-sourced audio systems. The new stereos are still basic four-speaker units, but Lotus says the control layout is simpler, and the optional system has an iPod adapter and is satellite radio-ready.
Ask any of your car geek friends to describe the Lotus Elise, and they'll tell you it's a sports car for purists, a racecar for the streets, the closest thing to a Formula car they've ever dreamt about driving. And as cliché and annoying as they'll sound, they'll be right on all counts. A two-seat roadster, the 2007 Lotus Elise is like no other two-seat roadster in the $40,000-$50,000 price range. For one thing, it's smaller, and with a sub-2,000-pound curb weight, it's anywhere from 1,000-2,000 pounds lighter than any conceivable competitor. Should you decide to buy an Elise, you won't waste time deciding which color leather upholstery best matches the paint or whether or not to get a navigation system. Instead, it will come down to how much you value air-conditioning (deleting it saves 22 pounds) and how firm you can stand the suspension calibrations. In short, this isn't a car for those seeking luxury amenities or commuting comfort. It's a highly focused performance car for people who just want to drive.
The Elise has been on sale in Europe since 1996, but European demand for the vehicle, along with stringent U.S. crash standards, kept it from coming here until the 2005 model year. Fitting all the federally mandated safety equipment added weight, of course, as did the installation of antilock brakes and a CD player -- basic amenities that Lotus knew even the most dedicated sports car fans in this country would be loath to do without. But don't look for stability control or power steering on this car. Lotus was willing to bend its "weight is the enemy" philosophy to suit American tastes, but the company refused to break it.
With minimal weight to push around, there's not a huge need for power. So even though the Elise has just a 1.8-liter, 190-horsepower four-cylinder engine, Lotus says it will sprint from zero to 60 mph in under 5 seconds. The real story about the Elise, though, is handling. Body roll is negligible, grip is exceptional and every subtle turn of the steering wheel has an immediate effect on the roadster's heading and attitude. This is a car that demands your undivided attention every second you're behind the wheel, but the reward is that it involves you in the process so directly you'd swear your fingers were touching asphalt.
There's no doubt the 2007 Lotus Elise is a special car. For the money, you're not going to find a more thrilling open-top driving experience in a new production car. Just be aware that this is a no-frills, racetrack-oriented machine. Even the Honda S2000, a car we've previously noted as being quite minimalist, seems rather posh in comparison. Those wanting a roadster that provides more day-to-day functionality than the Elise while still providing plenty of driving excitement will want to check out Porsche's Boxster or the aforementioned S2000.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Lotus Elise is a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive, midengine roadster available in one trim level. The interior is understandably spartan, but must-haves like air-conditioning and a CD player are standard. (An A/C-delete option is available to save weight.) Several option packages offer a bit of customization: The Touring Pack includes leather seating, power windows, a stowage net, a double-insulated soft top, additional sound-deadening material and full carpeting. On top of that, you can add the Premium Pack, which provides leather trim on the shift knob and parking brake handle, an upgraded sound system with satellite radio capability and an iPod adapter, and a cupholder.
The Elise's standard wheel/tire arrangement specifies 16-inch alloys with 175/55R16 Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 tires in front and 17s with 225/45R17 rubber in back. The optional Sport Pack features enhance the car's performance capabilities by swapping out the standard wheels for lightweight alloys, while fitting Yokohama A048 LTS tires (with wider 195/50R16 rubber in front) and a track-tuned suspension. For those who plan to use their Elise exclusively for racing, the Track Pack offers an even more aggressive setup with adjustable shock valving and antiroll bar stiffness. A hardtop is available as a stand-alone option.
Powertrains and Performance
Power for the Elise comes from a Yamaha-built, Toyota-badged 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Lotus fitted unique intake and exhaust components, as well as a reworked engine controller, to broaden the engine's power band and push peak hp to 190 at 7,800 rpm. Torque peaks at 138 pound-feet at 6,800 rpm. The four-wheel independent suspension system features Eibach springs and Bilstein monotube shocks. Lotus claims a 0-60-mph time of just 4.9 seconds. A limited-slip differential is optional.
Don't expect much more than federally mandated safety equipment on the 2007 Lotus Elise. An antilock brake system is included, but neither stability control nor side airbags are available. A traction control system is optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
Interior accommodations relay a clear sports car theme. Composite sport seats provide plenty of support, and controls are simple enough to keep your attention on the road. The wide door sills and low steering wheel require some fancy footwork when entering or exiting the vehicle. Additionally, thick-soled shoes are recommended, as an entire day of dancing on the bare steel pedals can be hard on the feet. Needless to say, the Elise's cockpit emphasizes driving above all else, as there are minimal comfort and storage features for long road trips.
The Elise's non-power steering feels as natural as anything we've ever driven. Braking is handled by AP Racing two-piston calipers up front and Brembo single-piston calipers in back (11.5-inch rotors all around), and 60-0 braking distances under 110 feet are commonplace. Handling is nothing short of extraordinary. Not only does the Elise exhibit superb balance and grip through the turns, its exceptionally low curb weight allows it to react to driver inputs much faster than other cars. In addition, it transmits every ripple in the road to the driver's hands, feet and seat -- a quality that makes it highly engaging to drive on a back road or on the track, but taxing during highway travel.