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My Owners Diary October 2000

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20th October 2000

Off 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).

Laser Blue Elise with Sports Touring option pack and prototype hardtop. I do like this colour.
Front view. A little bit meaner.
Front 3/4 view, the best angle to see it from.
Rear view. It's a Ferrari! Not as pretty as the old one but a compromise to better aerodynamics.
Top view of hardtop and engine cover. Note boot lock and absence of aerial. Slats replace the grilles. These would look much better if body coloured and I guess some people will do this.
Interior view with the Sports Tourer option pack. Last time I saw this colour scheme was in a Rover 400.
New door style with very unsubtle and ugly door handle cut into top edge. I hate it. Also note the cut away sill for easier access. The VX220 is the same but I didn't notice any difference when I sat in that. Cutting a 40mm deep chunk out of the box section and covering it over with plastic hasn't weakened the chassis apparently. Yeah, right.
Close up of new filler cap. Better, but not as nice as the M250 item. Expect some after market replacements.
Rear light cluster. The black vent is false and adds to the overall fussiness that is the rear end. I never thought I'd see fake vents on a Lotus!
The new sculpted rear diffuser. This was not on the other car but is not on the options list.
The new roll bar cover on the Ice Blue Elise. The new soft top is much simpler with all supports running front to rear. The show car already had scratched paint from the two central supports though.
The interior of the Ice Blue Elise with Race Tech option pack. Note the blue steel floor, which is rather pointless. Also note the 'tasteful' half alloy, half leather gear knob. I do like the new dash shelf though.
The new Stack dials. Again, not as nice as the old ones. If it ain't broke then why fix it? At night they light up blue, like the 340R. Is that a change up light below the '4', on the rev counter?
The new sill/dash panels and dash cover. As the shows cars proved, these scratch far too easily.
The new larger boot. It is bigger but the battery now lives in here. Makes for easy trickle charging though.
The new wheel. Simple and attractive. Note the optional black brake callipers and cross-drilled disks.
The new driving light is smaller and much more subtle. Also less likely to get smashed. These are dealer fit items now.
The bonnet panels are bolted down. Only the washer bottle lives under them now. The battery now lives in the boot.
The new gull wing hardtop. The seals look up to the job. Personally, I would have preferred a simpler design without the gullwing and hinges. Expect lots of third party hardtops, since the word on the stand was that it will cost over £2000!
Close up of the hinge. This is only a prototype remember. Also saw the Strathcarron SC5 car and their hardtop design was simpler and better. A cheaper version without the gull wing capability would be nice. This one looks very heavy.
The dash/sill panel with the optional speakers. I absolutely hate this. Some decent fixings wouldn't go amiss either.
The lightweight footwell divider. Those optional three holes cost £40.
Alcantara door panels and seats. Not my idea of tasteful.
Exhaust exit and cheap reflector.
The soft top mounting points. These are identical to those of the VX220. From what I could see this is a lot simpler to fit. Still not sure how it is tensioned though.
Engine bay.
The new location for the high-level rear brake light. Presumable it's mounted on the roll bar and not the roll bar cover. The rear screen is still not fixed in place by anything but the roll bar cover. Shame. Elise logo on window is an option.
The Race Tech interior.
The new front light cluster.
The rear end with diffuser sticking out. The panels gaps are impressive but I got the horrible feeling that the panels were bonded together. Lets hope not.
The rear boot lid lock. Rather prone to water I think. Time will tell.
Rear of Ice Blue car. I like this colour.

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.

M250 interior

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.

It's a Vauxhall.
The rear is not pretty.
Ignoring the angular panels, this is a well balanced car to look at.`
The interior is more Elise like than the Elise 2000.
View of the dials through the air-bagged steering wheel was rubbish.
The rather plasticky sill panels were already cracked.

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 GrinnallRemote site 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.

Grinnall Scorpion IV
Grinnall Scorpion IV

CaterhamRemote site 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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