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My Owners Diary October 2000Previous Entry | Diary Index | Next Entry
20th October 2000Off to the Motorshow this morning. Drove to the NEC and arrived a lot earlier than expected, at 8am. The place was empty and I was first through the door when they opened at 9.30am. The north entrance is next to the Lotus stand. Spent an hour looking over the Lotus stand. Took loads of pictures (all 1280 x 768 pixels, approx 350K each).
Overall impression was that the Elise has not changed as much as I'd expected. It is still obviously an Elise. The car looks lower in the flesh than in the pictures, they don't do it justice. The rear is bigger and more obvious than the first car, but not as much as the pictures imply. The darker colours flatter the car by hiding some of the unrequired detail. Initially, I preferred the new front end but having seen it in the flesh, I now prefer the old shape. The rear is not as nice as the old one either and is an obvious Ferrari copy. It does offer improved aerodynamics though. It does look meaner but it is still not a mean looking car. The old car was slightly retro but pretty (and cute according to my wife). This has been lost in the re-design.
The interior has not really progressed at all and if anything has gone backwards. Less aluminum is exposed and the quality of the materials has gone downhill. The cheap fixings in view give a kit car feel. The heater controls and stack instruments have gone down market in terms of styling. The major plus point is the new storage shelf, which makes the interior more practical and is in keeping with the rest of the car. It's the simple things that work best. Whoever designed the new interior had not heard of the Lotus, 'less is more' philosphy.
The cut away sill panels have meant a cheap plastic cover is now required (as in the VX220) and the materials are not at all nice. The lighting switch-gear mounted on the new sill/dash panel is not nice either. Actually cutting 40mm out of the sill box section has not made it any easier to get into (if the VX220 is anything to go by, but who cares anyway) and I don't believe that it hasn't affected the rigidity of the car. This is clear evidence again that cosmetics have been put before dynamics.
It is still a very desirable car and I want one, but it doesn't evoke the same sense of longing that I had with the first version of the Elise. I loved the purity of design in the first Elise and this car has lost some of that. The interior now detracts from the car rather than adding to the experience.
The key point though, is not to get lost in the new appearance and options list. The major changes are under the skin and to the cars handling and performance. Only a test drive will reveal if Lotus have got the most important bit right. This is not to say that looks aren't important though. I like the look of the new car, it's just not as nice as the old one. My deposit is waiting till after a test drive and my questions over higher power variants have been answered.
The M250 is better proportioned than the Elise and simply beautiful to look at. It's simpler detailling works so much better. Unfortunately its just too expensive for me.
After this I went to look at the VX220 and I was surprised. The VX220 is easier on the eye than the Elise 2000, despite its angular bodywork. Aesthetically, it is better balanced and from the inside, it's closer to the old Elise, using a lot of the interior components, such as the air vents. Another thing that hit me was that it smelt like an Elise. The Elise 2000 didn't have that smell of curing GRP. Unlike the Lotus stand, I had a chance to sit in the VX220. Another surprise. The seats are uncomfortable compared to my old Elise with cloth seats and unless my arse has expanded rapidly in the last few months, they are smaller. I couldn't live with it and it isn't any easier to get into, with its cut away sills. The plastic sill covers had also split and cracked already. Overall, I was impressed though. The VX220 is a good fusion of old and new Elise and is well put together. Visually it's shape and balance is better than the Elise 2000, giving it a sense of solidity that the new Elise doesn't have. If anything, it is closer to the original brief for the Elise. Dynamically, the Elise 2000 may prove to be the better drivers car but, in re-styling the Elise, the bodywork and interior has lost the plot slightly. It's over styled and although more practicle is starting to look a bit too luxurious and comfortable for an enthusiasts drivers car.
Other cars worth mentioning from the show that I looked at are:
The Strathcarron SC5A is simply stunning. The whole concept and execution is brilliant. It makes a 340R look bloated and overweight. The interior is empty. If it isn't needed, it's not there. Lotus could learn from this cars hardtop design. Simple designs work best. The build quality is just superb. I will be test driving it very soon.
The Grinnall Scorpion IV is another answer to the Lotus 340R. It looks even more outrageous. With a 220bhp Fiat turbo-charged engine and four wheels (previous cars by this company have three). Performance is outrageous, styling even more so. 0-60 in 4 seconds and 150mph top, all for less than £25,000. I love it. And it comes with a roof.
Caterham Roadsport series. A Caterham that I could get into comfortably and could live with. I like this car a lot but it's another rung down the ladder from where I want to be in terms of everyday practicality. May be in a few years time though. The cramped footwell is not ideal for my size 11 feet though and driving shoes would be a must.
Jaguar F-type. Easily the best looking car at the show. Simply stunning.
Subaru Impreza Turbo 2001. Oh dear! It's grow on me but, it's a comical redesign of a true icon. Not one person on the stand had a good word to say. I'm glad I've just bought the old model. Expect a facelifted version within 18 months due to poor sales.
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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 08 Oct 2001