Improving on the Lotus Elise is no easy proposition. For one thing, the main attraction to owning such a diminutive speedster is its lack of “stuff.” Assuming the engine is sufficiently powerful and reliable (it is), the handling superb (you bet), and weight kept low (oh yeah), what more could you ask for? As if it weren’t special enough, with the limited production “California Edition,” a few more creature comforts make the Elise even more attractive.
The beauty of the Elise, and a reason it receives such generally favorable reviews, is that before setting yourself behind the wheel you already have an expectation of what it is and isn’t. One thing it isn’t, is big. Assuming you can fit inside, everything else is gravy. Lotus has turned their considerable racing experience into developing and producing an extremely unique and essentially street legal race car. Lifted from Toyota, Lotus has tuned the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and incorporated variable cam timing and lift technology to produce 190 hp. A C64 six-speed manual transmission is also supplied by Toyota. Because it is so light, (it weighs about 300 pounds less than a Toyota Yaris), the California Edition can reach 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. Gas mileage, not that it matters, is 21/27 mpg in city and highway driving; impressive for a car so quick.
The Elise’s incredible handling attributes are made possible by a bonded extruded aluminum chassis, four-wheel-independent suspension, Eibach coil springs, Bilstein gas shock absorbers, AP Racing/Brembo brakes, multi-spoke alloy wheels, and Yokohama performance tires. For 2008, upgrades to the Lotus Elise include a new tire pressure monitoring system, a new instrument display with revised gauges and a high-definition LCD message panel, and a new integrated ignition key design. The limited-edition California Edition, which only 50 were made, features bodywork upgrades including a silver-painted grille, body-colored air inlets and new wheels. Also standard is a two-tone leather interior, hardtop, rear spoiler, and an Alpine sound system that makes the interior slightly more attractive; all wrapped up in a choice of either yellow or red paint.
For those that relish being one of only 50 owners of this Special Edition car, it can be had for a very modest sum of $51, 770. That is assuming you can find one.