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My Owners Diary January 2001

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24th January 2001

Well, I never thought there would be such a big gap between diary entries but the Elise 2000 has been a long time coming. It looks like the production delays have been to quality issues with the new roof, amongst other things. And quite rightly to, if the review on Driven last week was anything to go by. The current incarnation looks like a step forwards in simplicity (just) but one backwards in terms of keeping water out. Though most Elise owners will claim that a few drops of water never bothers them!

My nearest (I've got two within a reasonable distance) dealer phoned up to say they will have a demonstrator car this weekend for me to test drive.

25th January 2001

Was up at Stratton Motor Company this morning and they have a brand new Exige in Laser Blue. This is the first time I've seen this colour in daylight and it looked absolutely stunning. They are also getting a temporary demonstrator Elise 2000 in for this weekend, with their proper demonstrator due very soon.

26th January 2001

Popped over to Edmondson Lotus (Ipswich) this afternoon, following an invite to test drive the new Elise 2000. They had just received the car from the factory, a press car in metallic Norfolk Mustard. This is not a standard colour and would be a premium paint option. Their demonstrator car arrives in a week or so. Now, I've never liked the Elise in bright garish colours like this because it looks so toy like, though I did consider a Calypso Red one myself to start with. The meaner stance and detail on this car just worked though, it looked really good in yellow and I'm pretty sure that the Calypso Red would also work well on this car.

Forget any pictures you've seen of this car (including those below). Unless you've seen this car in the flesh you don't get it's shape. Sitting next to a bunch of mk I Elises and a few Exiges only magnifies the effect. This is a lower, wider, meaner looking car. Now I've seen it in another colour, I prefer its looks. Yes, its sharper edges don't appeal to all but, over all it's a better looking car. I'm not sure it would work so well in lighter colours like my favourite New Aluminium but, in darker, bolder colours like this it is one very impressive car to look at. From the rear it just says Ferrari, from the front, it's insectoid. It has grown on me considerably, so much so that I would struggle to choose between this and the mk I on outside appearances alone.

A quick study of the outside also reveals the following. The windows and door seals are much improved, no air gaps here. The door shuts with a much more reassuring thud, more solid than my Impreza Turbo, which also has frameless windows. The boot lock is changed from the show car (it's now recessed), the radio aerial sits slightly forward of it. The boot lid interior is still not lined, so reception can't have improved much. The larger rear wheels fill the arches better and the whole car hugs the ground in a much meaner stance. The bolted down bonnet, the black vents, and darkened glass works very well on the front of this yellow car.

I've seen enough, time to go for a drive. I'm not sure what to expect. Despite the lowered sills, getting into the car doesn't seem to be any different, left foot in, bum on seat, then the final right foot lift, it may just be a bit easier. Once inside there is no mistaking that this is an Elise. I personally don't see what all the fuss is about, from the inside only a little detailing has changed. I don't like the new switches in this Race Tech interior, or the front speaker pods, or the new stylised Stack pod. I don't like the half leather, half alloy gear knob either but, make no mistake, these are trival changes to what, as any Elise enthusiast would know, is an Elise at heart. My digital camera has a home at last on the new dash shelf. So what if it slides gently from side to side on the roundabouts! I'm in an Elise. I hated the plastic trim to shut the door at the Motorshow but in this colour car the black plastic works and it is a lot easier to shut the door. I'm sure they've made the aperture smaller though since the show.

The Cobra alarm key ring has changed. Press the single button and the immobiliser is turned off. Turn the key and the effect is the same and sounds the same but it settles down to a quieter idle. The engine sounds more subdued. 2850 miles on the clock and this car should just about be loosening up. The light is just starting to fade, so on go the lights. The switches are not as clear. The blue glow of the dials and switches look cool for about ten seconds then start to irritate. This for me is the single biggest mistake on the interior, the blue light is not kind on the eyes, the dials are very hard to read. Human eyes are not designed to work well under blue light, things tend to have blurred edges. The stylised characters don't help either. This is a failing in design, form over function by too big a margin.

Select first gear and two things strike me. First this gearbox is like no other Elise I've driven. Gear selection is precise and there is no vagueness at all. So it can be done. Secondly, and I'm not sure if this is just me being used to Elises but, either the pedals are further apart or they are smaller. Not once did my size 11's contact the brake or clutch pedal by accident. The gear box is quieter as well but as I later proved, the chatter in fourth and fifth on over run is still there.

The Elise steering feel hits you, the sensitivity and feedback is still there but the car feels more solid and absorbs the bumps in the road with less effort and noise. If anything, the feedback through the wheel is slightly diminished but not significantly. I'm given a free reigns as to where we go, so I head off to my favourite local circuit. This should be fun. Warm the engine up as we head up the dual-carriageway to start. There is more response and more torque low down, the whole engine is quieter and smoother with better response through the rev range. Pull off onto the B-road and into the first sweeping right hander. Hard on the throttle to test the rear end grip, not a hint of break away and little body roll. Grip is good. The road straightens and I go up through the gears. This engine pulls all the way up, no restriction at 6000rpm like my car had. 6500rpm and still pulling strong, the change light reminds me that it's time to change up with a quick flash of red.

Now onto fast sweeping curves, it's very hard to see how fast I'm going, over 80mph though. My car takes these corners at 90mph and traction is starting to fail. Two up and at 85mph and it's all very composed. Don't want to scare my passenger too much. Now onto a long open B-road straight, excellent visibility, no entrances or exits, flash, flash, flash, that's the change light, second, third, and fourth. This straight has bumps that used to throw my car around a bit at speed, this car is more composed. It soaks the bumps up better but at the cost of slightly less feedback. I prefer it, it feels much more in touch with the road as if its being pressed down from above.

90° corner at the end of this straight, we are going quickly and its time to test the brakes. They are good, maybe better but, there is not that much in it. Probably more solid feel to them and more consistent feedback as we drop speed. Pull out of the slip road, back onto a dual carriageway. In an Elise this is a tricky manouvre, trying to see if there is someone coming up on the outside and I'm sure it's slightly harder. The visibility is slightly worse but it may be just my memory playing tricks on me. It's at this point you can feel the torque and acceleration are improved. This engine revs very freely up to the red line and it's worth going there. Not the same kick in the back as my Impreza delivers but overall progress is almost as rapid, due to the light weight. The smoother delivery is preferrable though, you feel more in control of the car and it's so much easier to balance it round corners.

What ever your views on styling don't write this car off. From the inside you would be hard pushed to tell, from looks alone which version you are in. It's different, some things are better, some are worse. In the dark only the refined engine note and a slightly more solid feel would give it away as a new Elise. To drive, it has a better response, a smoother more free reving engine and a better gear change, the downside being that some of the steering feel has gone. I never thought I would be writing this but sitting next to a New Aluminium Sport 160, the new car looks better in yellow and would be my choice. However, if I already owned an Elise mk I, there is no way I could justify an upgrade to the newer car. This is an Elise in every sense and it has not gone soft. It is more practical, has a slightly different styling but the underlying impression and experience is pure first generation Elise. Would I buy one? Yes, just as soon as I can afford to. If I could change one thing about the interior of this car it would be the blue instrument lighting. It's raining as we pull back into the garage and there's not a drop of water on the inside in sight.

The rear.
1280 x 960 pixels (384K)
The front three-quarters.
1280 x 960 pixels (381K)
The rear three-quarters.
1280 x 960 pixels (379K)
The front.
1280 x 960 pixels (346K)
The 'Race Tech' interior.
1280 x 960 pixels (370K)
In amongst the Exiges and Sports 160's.
1280 x 960 pixels (410K)

There are another 19 people lined up to test drive this car tomorrow and a further 9 on Sunday. If I order now I may get one in June apparently. Good job I've learnt to be patient then. This car has just boosted my desire to own another Elise. I just love its looks and I love the way it drives.

The Elise II is 59mm longer (at 3785mm) and 18mm wider (at 1719mm) than the old car. It also sits 10mm lower to the ground. Weight is up to 750kg but 0-60 time is down to 5.6 seconds, more down to the close ratio gearbox than the extra 2bhp. The larger wheels (16" front, 17" rear) negate some of the effect of the close ratio gearbox. The new car now has forged steel uprights which are stronger and lighter than the alloy extruded items found on the original Elise. Larger production numbers have made this more viable from a cost point of view and increased grip and weight have necessitated the change. The new alarm key fob is due to a change in supplier, the new alarm no longer being a Cobra item.

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