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My Owners Diary June 2000

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6th June 2000

Wow, the Strathcarron SC-5ARemote site is finally out and it looks great, all the better for a slightly reworked bodywork and a spoiler. 530kg and 140bhp from a 1200cc Triumph motorcycle engine should make it a real competitior to the Elise. It's got even less in the interior, which is a good thing if you ask me. It has no roof, which I think is a mistake in the UK but, with no doors how else can you get into it? Lets hope the single piece of bodywork is more stone chip resistant than the Elise.

The Strathcarron SC-5A
1024 x 768 pixels (94K)

Still no firm info on the new Elise MkII which is supposedly going to be announced at the October Motorshow. Not so much a new Elise, but a reworked one, with a much meaner look based on the M250. Some of the dealers I spoken to think it will be Geneva 2001 before if officially gets announced. The Elise MkII will share some components with the VX220 to save costs and a Vauxhall engined variant is quite likely apparently. Lotus are going to need some response to the vast number of cars being produced in this market space, including the VX220 which will take some of the market share away from it. Even though the VX220 is positioned as more of a sports roadster it is going to eat into those Elise buyers that bought the Elise thinking it was a comfortable sports roadster (probably about 15-20% of Elise buyers by my reckoning, just look at how many 1-6 month cars come onto the market). It will be interesting to see if the Elise Mk II can meet my goals of being more radical and minimalist (lighter, more powerful, design out the radio and dashboard), whilst becoming more practical (better, lighter roof, seperate nose/air dam) at the same time.

8th June 2000

A few weekends ago I saw a Honda S2000 in the flesh for the first time and quite liked it. Thought it was worth a further inspection, so today was time for a test drive. It is a nice car to look at, the pictures don't do it justice, but it is nothing special. I'd compare it to a Celica or something similar in the 'jaw dropping looks' category, 5 out of 10. It's a bit more practical than the Elise with a half decent boot and a powered hardtop, whose ease of use, most Elise owners would kill for. Less than 10 seconds to raise or lower it from the drivers seat. Shame the Elise doesn't have a manual version of this roof (to save weight), with a glass rear window (perspex is useless on a soft top). It is quite a big car with a very long bonnet and is also very heavy.

Behind the wheel there's little comparison to the Elise, this is more of a GT touring car than a sports car. Cossetting black leather leaves less of a footwell and less knee room. It reminds me of a cramped MR2 Mk II. The pedals are offset to the right so the driving position is slightly awkward. This is not helped by a strengthening bar running diagonally across the floor in front of the drivers seat, which is not as comfortable as my Elise's cloth seat. Once underway I was permenantly in a dilema. My ears were telling me to change up at 6500rpm but we hadn't even hit the power band yet. Below 7000rpm it's a fairly quick car but it's not till you use the next 2000rpm up to the 9000rpm red line, that it really impresses. Although it's a beautifully smooth engine, it's not a particularly nice noise (it's high frequency but too quiet, a buzz not a roar), and not one you would normally associate with a car (a bike maybe).

The close-ratio, 6-speed gear box is short throw and excellent (Lotus please put one like this in the Elise) but with all that rev range you don't tend to use it as intended. But you know you that you should be, just to keep the engine on song at 6000rpm and above. The trouble is that if you do this, you end screaming everywhere up in high three figure speeds all of the time. This engine would be far better suited to a car weighing half as much so that the gear changes were actually needed more often. From 3000rpm to 9000rpm in 3rd takes forever since there is not that much torque below 6500rpm. Progress is much much quicker if you go from keep it in the 6000 - 9000rpm range in each gear. But why not then just have more torque lower down the rev range, from 3000 to 6000rpm? Having said this the cars pulls smoothly at lower speeds and revs and is perfectly managable around town traffic.

It is quite a quick car, possibly on a par with a standard Elise up to 80mph and is quicker above, but it doesn't feel that quick and the bulk is obvious. The brakes are effective but have little feedback before the ABS cuts in. The steering is numb, detached from the rest of the world and well inferior to the MR2 in this respect (which in turn is no match for the Elise). Dynamically it's also hard to understand what the car is up to, there's no warning of the rear breaking away until the tyres start to squeal, the weight again makes itself felt. It is simply too heavy to feel like a sports car despite the huge amount of power.

At the end of it all I was dissapointed, I expected more for the £23k (dutch import price, £29k UK list). It's a great engine but better suited to a lighter car. With a normal engine the S2000 would be very average, it's the engine that makes it. But it makes it a quirky car and not a great one. The VTEC pulls forever but it's not until about 6500rpm that it's special and most people just simply don't spend that much time in this rev range. When you are there it doesn't sound 'right'. The gearbox is great but overall the car is just not involving to drive and doesn't inspire confidence. On my favourite twisty B-roads it would never keep up with an Elise and the engine is wasted. I walked away knowing that another Elise is still odds on favourite to be in my garage next summer.

20th June 2000

Was at my local Rover dealer this morning and noticed a collection of Elises on the forecourt. Turns out that Edmondson (Rover and Mitsubishi) are branching out as a new Lotus dealership. They are based at Ransomes Europark, Ipswich and if their level of service is as good as the Rover side of the business, they will do very well.

Got a call from the new, local Lotus dealership this afternoon. My Rover courtesy driver must have mentioned that I had an Elise to the franchise manager. Invited to pop in for a coffee next time I'm in the area.

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