The Lotus Elise isn't the fastest sports car on the road. It's not the best made, either. And it's by far the least luxurious. But it's one of the most fun to drive, as well as one of the sexiest.
Hand-crafted in England, the Elise is powered by a 4-cylinder Toyota engine. But don't let that fool you. The 1.8 liter, 16-valve engine produces an aggressive 190 horsepower and 138 pounds/foot of torque that can propel this miniature roadster from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds. Lotus obtains these numbers in part by using an aluminum chassis and fiberglass body that keep the weight down to a feathery 1,984 pounds.
Its lightness also translates into an extremely nimble car. I drove it on winding, mountain roads in Georgia and the car seemed made to eat up the twists and turns. I also took it on a track. Driving at breakneck speeds, the car sliced and weaved like a high-performance motorcycle through the hairpin turns. The brakes also were extremely precise and the clutch responsive, making it an absolute thrill to drive.
With its flared wheel wells, sneering front end and huge air intakes, the Elise also is a head turner. The interior, though, is a different story. There is no carpeting, the dashboard is made of cheap black plastic and there is barely enough room behind the front seats to store a map. And the wide side sills than run between the door and the front seat combined with the low roof and tub-like chassis make getting in and out of this car a difficult and somewhat humiliating process. You wouldn't want to use the Elise as your daily commuting car.
But then again, it wasn't designed to be. It's designed for those seeking the closest thing to a pure sports car that is street legal. And at a relatively modest $42,990, you won't feel too bad about only firing it up just on weekends.