Lotus Elise

If you want to know what its like to drive a race car, and do so in a car that you can get anywhere close to the limits in, this is the car to do it in. Race cars are about a lot of things. Most people think of mind boggling horsepower. Certainly that is one aspect, but it isn't the whole story. The trouble with the horsepower thing is that unless you are very very talented, and have a certain amount of track experience, the car is going to be so far above you that you won't really experience it as a race car, and you may well get yourself into trouble. I developed an appreciation for this after trying to drive my Turbo Porsches at the track.

Zippy looking little thing it'nt it?

The beauty of the Elise is that it reaches awesome levels of performance by being very light, and very well balanced. The whole thing weighs about 1600 pounds. This balance and lightness is going to give the car great feel. It will enable the car to talk to you, even though you are not a Formula 1 driver. You're just a weekend racer, if that. This is a car that's going to let you carve out that line on the corner until you get it right. It is going to aquaint you with the real Zen of driving a car very very quickly. And best of all, you're going to look good doing it, have that huge ear-to-ear grin, and not wind up breaking the bank to afford one. Your average Elise is about a $40-50K event.

Looks great from almost any angle if you ask me...

And now for the really, really bad news: you can't buy a street legal Elise in the United States. Well, almost. There is a firm importing the cars and gray market certifying them by swapping in a Honda VTEC motor. I've no idea how reputable this all is, but it's a crying shame this wonderful little car cannot be had over here. Lotus continues to make "maybe" noises without committing, and if I were a Lotus dealer in the US, I frankly wouldn't be very happy about it. How much longer can they keep selling the rather dated Esprit? There are too many other cars in the Esprit's market segment that are just better. There is not much of anything in the Elise segment. This is what the Porsche Boxster wishes it could be instead of the secretary's car it has turned out to be.

Were I still in my wealthy days, and interested in devoting any time to track driving, I suspect I would buy one strictly for track use. You can import them as race cars, never to be driven on the public roads. With that said, I have seen one Elise driving around Monterrey. I was told the car belongs to a member of the UK military who is undergoing training there with our Naval Postgraduate School. Let me assure you that the Elise looks every bit as good in the flesh as it does in pictures!

Rather minimalist interior: sheet aluminum with mats, no carpet.

All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.