The 2011 Lotus Elise is small, light, nimble, fast and goes without a valid Total Car Score due to insufficient ratings.
Most sports cars will provide such niceties as power-assisted steering, cruise control, perhaps the option of an automatic transmission and certainly a glove box. Not the Elise. Those things add weight and if there's one thing Lotus is famous for avoiding, it's weight.
Hence this open-top, mid-engined, rear-drive car of limited dimensions with two lightly padded (yet still surprisingly comfortable) seats, a steering wheel, three pedals, a gearshift lever and not much else. Except, of course, an engine; the Elise gets by with a Toyota-sourced, 1.8-liter four-cylinder. In the basic version, it makes decent but not crazy power. In the Elise SC, a supercharger boosts output by 30 horsepower. Thing is, in a light car like this, the power-to-weight ratio will embarrass exotic machines with a much higher price tag, cars with nothing like the poise, precision or fuel efficiency.
The Elise features a fiberglass body over an aluminum spaceframe. Its wide door sills and low roof mean a contortion or two getting in and out. Bring earplugs, the cabin can get noisy. But also be prepared for a rare and exciting driving experience.
The 2011 Lotus Elise has a revamped look, with the added benefit of slightly better aerodynamics.
The 2011 Lotus Elise two-seater sports car comes in base and SC trims. There's also a special model called the Roger Becker Edition that honors the company's recently retired engineering director.
Each version has a mid-mounted, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. The base model enjoys 189 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque. Its six-speed manual transmission (there is no auto option) sends that power to the rear wheels. The car comes from the factory with alloy wheels wearing high-performance rubber, air conditioning, leather-trimmed steering wheel, leather upholstery, trip computer, and a four-speaker Alpine audio system with iPod integration.
Anti-lock brakes are standard, but neither front side airbags nor curtain side airbags are available.
The Elise SC adds a supercharger to the mix, boosting output to 220 hp and 155 lb-ft. It also has a rear spoiler and a different wheel design. But by virtue of being a sportier model, it deletes a few things the base version has, such as leather trim, some sound insulation and iPod connectivity. These may be reinstated with the optional Touring Pack. There's also an optional Sport pack offering even sportier seats and suspension settings.
The Becker is basically the SC with black leather trim, a limited-slip differential and both Touring and Sport bundles.
The base car returns an EPA-rated 21 mpg city/27 mph highway and 23 mpg combined. The SC is a tad thirstier at 20/26/22 mpg.
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