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My Owners Diary October 2000

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9th October 2000

Well, the speculation was rising as to what would be on the Lotus stand at the Motorshow. Rumours have varied from an new Elise Mk II, offering improvements along the lines of the VX220, to a KV6 Exige but today, October 9th, Lotus officially announced a new Elise which will be shown at the UK Motor Show later this month. I've included a copy of their press announcement taken from Lotus Life, the magazine for members of the Official Lotus Club. It is also available from the Lotus Cars websiteRemote site.

It sounds like Lotus has been listening and I can't wait to see one in the flesh. I can't get hold of a Lotus dealership that knows any more because all the sales managers are at Hethel for a two day briefing on the new Elise.

The first pictures have appeared. On first impressions the changes appear minimal but the clamshells have gone, replaced by more, smaller and cheaper panels. The bodywork is produced using a new process providing better quality and lighter panels. One thing also evident from the photographs issued to date is that the panel gaps are very small for a GRP Lotus car. The suspension has also been changed and the brakes uprated. The chassis has also been modified (as in the VX220) to allow another 40mm of door aperture, via a lowered sill. In fact only the K-series 1.8 remains and this has a new Lotus ECU and diagnostics system. This is more than a face lifted car. According to Lotus it includes nearly 900 new components.

The Elise 2 is slightly longer and has 16" wheels at the front and 17" at the rear. The use of 175's on the front echos back to the VX220 and may prove controversial in the handling department. Huge 225 section rear tyres and and improved rear end air-dynamics should help keep the rear end planted. I was surprised that the rear end didn't have a factory fit spoiler but the new shape must reduce the requirement for one (it is an option though). The car sits lower and has a lower roof profile making it look much meaner but also improving stability and handling. The rear end is more pronounced, like the M250, and not to everyone's taste.

The interior is similar to the VX220 with the chassis side rails coated in a protective plastic cover on the interior. The whole interior is much more practicle with a storage shelf under the dash and lots of improvements proposed by myself. This includes a new hardtop with gull-wing targa style panels. The interior has aluminium controls but no starter button. A radio fitting kit looks like standard equipment and there is even space for some speakers in the front dash. THe problems with the boot release have gone. It now has a seperate lock on the boot. Just how susceptible this is to rain remains to been seen. The radio aerial location is not clear in any of the pictures I've seen. The high level rear brake light has moved to the back of the roll bar cover.

Performance is good, if not devastating. The close ratio box helps negate the effect of larger wheels, giving 0-60 in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 125mph. Is it engine revs or dynamics that limit this? The basic list price is £22,995, slightly more than the outgoing car but with quite a bit more bundled into the package. The hard-top is rumoured to cost £500 but this sounds cheap to me, as much as I'd like to believe it.

What more can I say? It's pretty much what I've been waiting for and I want one. I will reserve final judgement until I've driven one but, well done Lotus. Crucially the weight has been kept down to a reasonable 710kg and the car has been made more usable, whilst not diluting the basic rawness that is the Elise. For me, Lotus have hit the nail on the head and I will be at the Motor Show later this month to check it out, before I place my order. I will be armed with a high-resolution digital camera so watch this space.

10th October 2000

The Lotus dealers are back from the briefing at Hethel. Initially, there will be two versions of the new Elise coming off the factory line. Priority has been given to those with the 'Sports Touring' and 'Race Tech.' option packs fitted so there will be a delay in getting hold of a basic standard car. Production will be only about 300 cars before Christmas. Don't expect a discount! Personally, I'm interested in the basic car with hard-top, so I'll wait. Should also give Lotus time to sort out a few of the inevitable glitches that exist on all new cars. More importantly, it should give me time to work out how to pay for it.

All have the 120bhp standard engine and power upgrades won't be available until later next year. This is due to tighter emissions legislation which rules out the Sport 160 option. Of course this could be a cunning marketing plan to sell cars with the expensive options packages and then to sell engine upgrades later in the year, but I wouldn't be so cynical as to suggest that. I've got a stand pass for the Motorshow with my name on it. Demonstration cars won't make it to the dealers until after the Motorshow.

I've just re-read my specification and design for an Elise targa-top and the new Elise roof seems remarkably close to it. It evens costs £500 apparently. I will be expecting Lotus to give me one now for using my ideas and design on the new car! It's the only decent thing for them to do.

11th October 2000

So where does this all leave Vauxhall and the VX220 then? It's a good job that the VX220 is being produced in limited numbers. At best, Vauxhall walked into this with open eyes and have got some good PR. At worst, Lotus used them to fund the new Elise development. When the VX220 came out I thought it was the obvious direction for Lotus to take the Elise. Little did I know that it practically was the next Elise. These are two great cars but, at the same price, the inevitable Lotus handling (they can't possibly get this one wrong) and the better practicality of the Elise (I never thought I'd be writing that one) will win every time. Throw in the Lotus badge and heritage and it's going to be one brave person that doesn't ask for their deposit back from Vauxhall.

In the VX220's favour, we've got a 140bhp engine with more torque, ABS as standard (not neccessarily a desirable attribute) and possibly more comfortable seats (a subjective thing). The dealer network is smaller than that of Lotus (only a limited number of dealers will sell the VX220) and it's not a pretty car. But it has got a 3-year/60K mile warranty. I also can't ignore the badge issue. It's a Vauxhall and what ever you think, they aren't known for their sports cars yet. Insurance will probably be slightly less and servicing costs will probably be on a par with the Elise. Depreciation is hard to predict. It's a Vauxhall but, a very rare one.

The new Elise is lighter, same chassis (?), similar suspension, better handling (assumed). From what I've seen it is more practical and the interior is nicer. Performance is a known parameter and it won't dissappoint the majority. It's quite expensive to insure (but the smaller body panels ought to make a difference), servicing costs are higher and brakes, tyres, suspension, etc. tend to wear out quite quickly (if you are not used to track orientated cars). Depreciation will be better than average but Lotus aim to build 3500 a year so it's not going to be an exclusive car. The key factor though is that (IMHO) the new Elise looks miles better with it's updated front and Ferrari style rear end. Not very original but, still a big improvement on the angular VX220.

I tried to persuade myself that I liked the VX220 and I do but, the advent of the new Elise changed my opinion though. Lotus has used the VX220 as a testing ground and then improved upon it. Even with its limited numbers and lifespan, things do not look rosy for the VX220. My money is on production being cut short of the planned three years, just like the Ford Racing Puma.

12th October 2000

EVO MagazineRemote site have the same set of press photo's and a two page spread on the new Elise. They've come to the same conclusion on the VX220. Ironically the letters page has a couple of Elise owners that have put deposits on a VX220 because it's a better car than the outgoing Elise (their opinion, not mine).

Vauxhall have announcedRemote site price cuts (of up to 12%) and three year/60,000 mile warranty on all new cars, and the latter is included with the VX220.

13th October 2000

Lotus CarsRemote site have updated their web site to include the Elise 2000 model. Also added a rather nice screen saver thats made it onto my PC.

Well, Lotus have published the option pack details in a new brochure and it contradicts bits of their web site. I'm not impressed with the options packs. I'm assuming these are a temporary thing and that I can pick the bits I want on my car. I want the standard car with Cat 1 alarm, driving lights, radio fitting kit (4 speakers no longer desirable, see comments below), metallic paint (it has to be silver!), Goodridge brake hoses, front mud flaps, sill protection film, tyre inflator (yes, it's an option!), and locking wheel nuts. Desirable would also be the cross-drilled brakes and possibly a spoiler, if it improves handling. I don't want leather seats or trim thank you very much. Fortunately the Lotus site also states 'The Elise can be built to meet individual requirements'. Thank goodness for that!

The latest rumours have the KV6 ear-marked for a later version of the Elise 2000 but, apparently an Esprit V8 has been fitted into the new, longer Elise chassis and is under-going testing. Now there is a car I would love to drive. The M250 is destined to get the Renault V6 engine as fitted to the new Sport Clio but my guess is that a V8 version is too tempting and what else are Lotus going to put there newly developed V8 in?

14th October 2000

Well I've now seen the latest Elise brochure (though the dealer had only one copy, so I haven't got one myself yet) and a few things have become clearer. Firstly, there is a whole new set of paint colours and some very nice ones there are too. Secondly, the option packs are not compulsory and there is a whole set of options that can be specified in isolation (but not until after the Motorshow).

The 'blue steel' floor looks like the stuff you see on Land Rover wings and fire escape steps (say no more). The optional front speakers look horrendous and are fitted in the leading edge of the plastic sill covers. Driving lights are an option but I've yet to see a picture of them in place. The carpets are 3/4 length and cover the extra 3" in front of the seats. Forget it, fit the existing mats you can buy for the Elise. Some of the options are frankly, quite tacky, e.g. half-alloy/half/leather gear knob, adjustable passenger foot rest, etc. The central console probably also falls into this category but, I've yet to see one in detail yet. Fortunately the standard car can be delivered as I want, with the basic options that I want.

Also heard that the Elise 2000 is also going to the USA and that lots of LHD orders have been taken already. The news is that of the 240 cars stock-piled for the UK, before the launch announcement, all of the Laser Blue ones have gone. Those being ordered now will be delivered in January and orders after Christmas may take up to 9 months to deliver. Of course this could be marketing hype but if the US market is really open, then we may be back to the days of waiting lists again. I may have to put a deposit down now for a March 2001 delivery.

The Bentwaters airfield
2811 x 884 pixels (326K)

Popped over to watch the EasytrackRemote site event at the old RAF Bentwaters airbase. Not really a spectators event, especially with the two little ones in tow (wife was ill in bed). Wide selection of cars there and a few friends from work. Bumped into an old friend from my Portsmouth Poly days.

Ben and his MR2 Turbo
1280 x 960 pixels (247K)

16th October 2000

I drove the Subaru (really) hard for the first time this weekend. With 3000 miles on the clock it has loosened up nicely. I'm pretty sure a 120bhp Elise is not going to be quick enough any more. The acceleration on the Scooby is far greater than I remember in my Elise. In the wet weather we've been having recently, its AWD comes into its own and the traction is just huge. The harder you push it, the more feedback it gives and the less you feel its weight. To have this much fun though, requires ridiculous speeds. The Elise 'fun curve' (fun v speed) is broader and ultimately peaks higher. Interestingly, it looks like my prayers may be answered with a KV6 Elise under testing and possibly launched at the Geneva Motorshow (April 2001). But can I wait that long? I'm also sure it will be out of my price range.

The Offiical Lotus Club finally have their members web site up and running on the Lotus web site. Lotus Life also features a closed discussion forum covering a wide range of topics. No more information about the Elise 2000 though. Lots of information about financial services though. Come on Lotus! I'm paying my £30 a year for the latest Lotus news, not proxied adverts from banks and insurance companies. How about a discount on a new car or throwing in some free options/accessories?

The basic Elise 2000 price may be £22,995 but by the time you add the 'options' to bring it back up to the old cars specification it's looking expensive. To get to my desired specification, add metallic paint (£595), category 1 alarm (£295), driving lights (£200), radio fitting kit (£150) (£250 for 4 speaker version), front mud guards (£40), sill protection (£30), passenger footrest (£35) (£55 for adjustable version), seat lumbar support (£30) and body coloured mirrors (£60) and we reach £24,230. I'd also be interested in the cross-drilled brakes, centre console (£20), the light-weight footwell divider (£40) and a hardtop (available Spring 2001). I also see that Goodridge brake hoses are in the accessories catalogue. My 1999 car cost me £25,200. For an equivalent Elise 2000, I'd be surprised if I get change from £26,500. Lotus also now want a £1500 (refundable) deposit. Oh, and even the tyre inflator is an option! No mention of locking wheel nuts anywhere either.

The only information on engine upgrades is a 'Stage 1' kit, available Spring 2001 which offers sports silencer and air filter, good for about 5bhp tops. There are also a number of brake and suspension upgrades available. The hardtop won't be available until spring. Not a good marketing ploy by Lotus and personally, I won't buy one until I know when the hardtop will arrive and what engine upgrades there will be. Imagine how big the waiting list for hardtops will be in April 2001? Those loyal Elise owners that upgrade to an Elise 2000 now, will be gutted if a KV6 version is launched early next year.

17th October 2000

The MotorshowRemote site started today and the inevitable TV coverage was kicked off by Channel 4's drivenRemote site. Some footage of the Elise 2000 going round the Hethel test track but no driving test yet.

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