USA Toyota Elise

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.

I notice he has NOT driven an Exige

Neither have these guys, but I’m too tired to give my opinions to them (yes, it’s the BBS)

Mostly t*ss**s, it would seem…

Ho Hum - you always get them !!

HI MIke,
Hopefully I’m not a Tssr. I’m the one who wrote the drive report posted above on the US Elise, TPUP did as well.

FYI I have driven an Exige (and sport 190, S1, etc) I’d dearly love to have an exige for the street but alas, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Besides, I like the open roof!
Chris “who put a deposit on a US Elise Jan 2002”

Hi Chris,

Mike was referring to the guys at the British BBS (the link I posted).
Keep up the good work, hope you enjoy driving the Elise in the US as much as we do over here.


Just read though some of that link and it sounds like most of em used to own Nova’s

And probably still do

I’m the one who wrote the drive report posted above on the US Elise

I hasten to confirm that my comment was aimed at a minority of ‘posters’ on the lotus BBS, and not at you or your article… (which I found informative and interesting)

Even I have days when I yearn for electric windows - normally when I am strapped in so tight by my harnesses that I can’t reach / open the passenger one to cool down !!!

But most of the time I am experimenting - i.e. removing bits from the car and seeing if it still works without them…

Perhaps I’ll have a go at the roof next - maybe some removable targa panels

So far the only essential bit seems to be the driver