New Federal Elise

FYI, I drove the Federal Elise today. I was at Lotus and they gave me one of the four cars that are in the US for testing.

I was very critical of an Elise as a street car based on the ones I owned, however, the new car is very nice. It is more refined then the old Elise/Exige and a bit bigger (which is good imo). The motor is very quiet under 6K and it drives like a typical sedan. If you run over 6K (Cams cut in) it turns into a wild animal. Very agressive and controllable with the throttle. The 6 speed’s ratios are perfect imo and the shifter throw is very nice. Suspension is very good for a street car, a bit soft for me but I run very stiff stuff on my car.

After driving one, I think I’ll order one as a daily driver, it’s a nice car!

Just thought you might be interested…


Hi Roy

Great to hear from you again.

What is the feeling/thoughts in the USA about using the Toyota engine? In the UK, for the Exige MK2, the general consensus is that it may appeal to new owners, but generally not to those who have a MK1. The reason being that there appears to be no performance gain over the VHPD engine, so you might as well spend your hard earned money on a replacement Honda or Duratec powerplant.

In all fairness though, you guys in the USA have been deprived of the Elise/Exige in road trim, so we’re hoping that that the new models are a hit Stateside! This in turn, producing the $ to enable Lotus to develop/expand its range of fabulous sportscars.

Roy - great to hear Elise news from over the pond keep us posted on reaction to England’s finest…

The reception of the car has been pretty good. Some of the US bbs posters have wished it was a Honda or other engine. I think when they drive the car they will love it. Road & Track just reviewed the car and said it was a “must have” and loved it. Here’s a link to the article:

Road & Track on the Elise

I will say that the rumor in Lotus Cars USA is that they also don’t see a huge benifit to the new Exige, unless it has more power! The RUMOR is that they are looking for mid-200s out of an US Exige…


Hi Roy

I know the stuff you like so this is not intended in any way to ‘dis’ you and as Pesky says if the end result is that lotus end up with the money to develop the cars folk like me really want then all I say below is totally irrelevant but…

The whole point of lotus elise/exige is not to do with refinement… (i’d get that from most everything else) it’s about driving pleasure and handling and raw on the road excitement. It might not suit big wide open free-ways and therefore you could question it’s marketing sense in the USA… but then again its a lotus and that means its a British sports car and that by default means that we will demand certain driving character (lots of others have tried to copy this).

When you describe the new one as driving like a typical sedan… i almost puke !!! Also for proper sports driving or track driving you don’t want a torque hike the size of K2 at 6000rpm we want infinite smooth controllable power delivery that hasn’t given way to ‘rice-boy’ sensibilities… Gettin a kick in the pants at 6000rpm will be exciting but it won’t make for a car which will kick arse at the track or across Rannoch Moor on the A82… S1 exige can do that, a refined ‘sedan’ cannot.

Also the reason you need 6-gears is because if you let the revs drop below 6000rpm all you’ve got is … errmmmm… refinement ? I haven’t driven it so I could be talking bollox.

Also I use my exige as a daily driver (done 22,000 miles - mostly like that) and can’t see why anyone who doesn’t have the dosh to support more than one car but who trully has petrol in their veins couldn’t also do this… so why have you been critical of the S1 as a daily driver or street car??

anyway this new S2 exige makes me sad so sorry for the rant and i’m sure you will realise it’s not personal but I hate to think of Lotus selling their sole for the yankee dollar.

kind regards & best wishes to everyone out there !

Mike!, for a moment you started to sound like me!

Too late to modify Lotus decision, they never asked us on the new car development!
But at least they’ll have an Elise on the other side.
I hope they have enough twisties out there, there are some in California, some un Utah, Colorado, but… Texas? aren’t most of the other states mainly flat?

And even more important, I hope the clients are driving enthusiasts, not the Max Power type (you know, the guys that started the trends like in Fast and the Furious), and that Germans seem to follow sooo much (I saw this picture of a German Exige with what must have been lie 20" wheels in the rear and 19" in the front, ultra wide, with unknown rubber, I wonder how that drives like… NOT!)

In short, I hope they put the car to good use.
I cringe at images of lowered, ultra-wide rubber, big chromed wheels (with that spinning inner part), chromed engine bay, big subwoofers, all neon
If that hapenned or if they could not find twisties nearby, they could not discover what the Elise is about.

Driving, that’s what they’re built for. Not posing, not showing… driving.
I hope if I ever see an Elise on the next Fast and the Furious, that it’s a fairly standard one…

I hope if I ever see an Elise on the next Fast and the Furious, that it’s a fairly standard one…

If it was it would be…

in front in the twisties !!


No offence taken. Let me explain what I mean by �refinement�.

My car has Dynamic suspension, no AC, no radio, a roll bar etc. When I have driven them in the mountains, great stuff. When I did a 100-mile run on one of our highways, I wanted to shoot myself. It was very hot that day, no radio, and every expansion joint on the highway produced a “womp” that got old pretty fast. Our roads are much different than the roads in the UK. We also spend a lot of time on highways, on long drives, and some minimum comfort is helpful. I drive a 996 daily so maybe it’s just making me soft:) The new car had AC and a nice radio, I liked that.

My other point on “refinement” is based on my driving style. Traffic in Atlanta is not quite as bad as London but it’s close. The nature of my Sport 190 and Exige is such that you have to work to stay in power, the car has a limited ability to just put it in x gear and go. For example, in my 996, during traffic, I can put it in 3rd and go down to 1K rpm, motor up, go down, etc without shifting all the time. In driving the new car, it felt just like my Exige in terms of driving position, handling and suspension. Where it was different was in the power plant. You could just motor along at a low rpm and not worry about bogging the car down. It seemed to pull well from low rpm without the car fighting you. I also consider that “refinement”, and I liked that.

I term of torque hike, I personally don�t see that as a big problem. A lot of cars now have variable cam timing, which causes a noticeable �surge� at a certain rpm. A lot of new Porsche owners think there is something wrong with their car because of the 3k-rpm surge. It doesn�t bother me but I�m used to it. I would not be below 6K on track anyway (unless the gearing is wrong).

Is the car different, yes. It is a lot heavier imo coming in at over 1900 lbs. You can feel the weight and of course you lose some of the �rawness� there but overall it�s a great car. Just drive one before you form a solid opinion�

Just my .02 worth.


Apologies Roy,

I posted this in “Lotus Talk”, when of course it should be here! Just a further view from one of your fellow USA Lotus fans

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 18:18:45 -0400
From: “Chris Smith” <[email protected]>
Subject: Prototype US Elise test drive


HI All,
A bit long, but here’s my write up a recent drive of one of the prototype

Well, about half hour ago I was given the OK to release this, so here it

In early Sept. on a visit to LCU, while talking with Arnie and Clyde. A car
transporter pulled up with two Elises on it. One Aztec Bronze the other
Starlight black. Then I noticed something different about these cars as we
watched them unload. They had the twin tailpipes exiting from
thediffuser.These were US prototype test cars! You guys can’t imagine my

As the cars were unloaded and gassed up I looked them over quite
thoroughly. They were test mules of course so final edition may vary from
these. Both cars were loaded with testing, diagnostic electronics. The black
car had leather seats, and the bronze had fabric/leather. First thing I had
to do was open the boot. Nestled nicely in there was the Yota motor with the
“LOTUS PERFORMANCE” on the valve cover as pictured in Road and Track. The
twin tailpipes looked really good, very understated but gave it that racer
look. The build quality even of this test car was exc. the panels fit well
and the seems well-aligned.

Climbing into the car as with the 111S is not a real problem once you get
the hang of it. We took the top off of course as it’s the only way to
experience this car!! Climbed in and looked around. I noticed immediately
the windows were tighter with the electric units (UK owners of the manual
wind windows felt the electric windows would be less prone to rattling)and a
very satisfying “thunk” when the door is closed. The dashboard has been
redesigned and this was obviously a prototype piece, but I liked the layout
of the stereo and the vents, it had a very integrated feel to it. All
controls were easily reachable from the driver’s seat. I was pleased to see
the steering wheel was compact, it appeared to be the same size as a 111S
wheel even with airbag, this again was a prototype piece. Key on, the engine
comes to life. A nice pleasant exhaust note at low revs. The gearbox felt
very tight, with relatively short throws, it took a few times for me to get
the 1 to 2 but after that no problems.(mostly my fault as it’s been some
months since driving a stick). Acceleration was wonderful. Not
earthshattering like an Esprit but very quick and steady. The acceleration
isn’t as quick as my 2 liter caterham was (low 4 sec. car) but I’m quite
sure 4.8 is attainable as stated in Road and Track. Of special note, many
people were concerned by the flat spot or lump in the 6000 rpm range on the

Toyota engine, I can tell you quite conclusively, THEIR IS NO FLAT SPOT,
NO FLAT SPOT. Acceleration was linear and smooth all the way up to 7000 or
so rpm (I didn’t want to be too aggressive with this test car). The Lotus
engineers did a great job on the ECU. I found the braking to be quite good
and felt connected with the road. The car handled bumps, etc, with firmness
but no rattling. I could detect no appreciable difference in the suspension
of this car and a 111S, ie the quality and firmness of the ride was still
there, this is no land yacht! Looking at the car I could see no change in
the ride height from the 111S. I think the daily driver and occasional track
day participant will be quite happy with the standard suspension.

On returning to LCU, my ear-to-ear grin certainly told Arnie what I
thought of this wonderful car.

Spent a good 30 minutes driving the car around, it was a blast.
Immediately upon return I took the 120 hp S2 out for comparison.
Development of the Elise has been a progressive improvement in build quality
and performance. I enjoyed the S1, Spor 190, S2, the 111S I’ve driven, this
prototype Elise is the best one I’ve driven yet! I’m glad my deposit is
already in place, I can’t wait!!! Many people have voiced concern about
ruining the car to adapt to the US market, that hasn’t happened, this car
retains all the magic that is the Elise!

Let me tell you guys, this car is worth the wait! This car is going to
change perceptions and expectations here in the US of what a sportscar is
supposed to be! Destined to be a landmark car.

Do I sound excited, you bet I am.
BTW> Please note this was a test prototype, some components may differ on
the final car that we get.

Mike!, for a moment you started to sound like me!

mmmm… i was kinda thinkin’ that when i was writin it…

Cheers Roy

modern Variable Cam stuff is fine - in fact when its used to provide near max torque from the ground up (like in a BMW M3) its positively brilliant… but i’ve seen the torque curves on this new car and they don’t look particularly nice to me but hey… i haven’t driven it and so when we get access to it we’ll give it a blast… awerabest Additionally i’m a bit concerned about its diet with all those lecky bits n bobs but maybe i’m gettin too obssesive 'bout weight loss…

speak soon and all the best