Last day with the Elise and I’m almost ashamed to say the roof hasn’t been off once. Blame the Bank Holiday weather and the fact I don’t have an instruction manual.
That apart I’ve thrashed the Club Racer to the best of my abilities. It’s difficult not too with a car this responsive. It handles like a go-kart and is equally exhilarating. You don’t need to wear a helmet either.
I’m not entirely sure how Lotus gets away with not fitting airbags – I thought all cars had to have them? I imagine many owners would want to spec the Elise with safety harnesses too.
The Club Racer isn’t an everyday car, although there will be a few die-hards who insist it is. I’m certain that on a racetrack it would be a delight, with razor sharp steering, reassuring brakes and that responsive accelerator pedal.
Ultimately, the S Club Racer is a weekend car only. As brilliant as any Lotus has ever been, you just can’t help but love it.
At a time when less is more, it’s still pretty strange to sit inside the cockpit of the Club Racer. ‘Softies’ can opt for the standard Elise S but purists will coo over the race prepared car.
In reality, the two models aren’t that different, a fact reflected in the Club Racer weighing just 20kg less. But when was the time you sat in a car with no radio, no central locking, no anything?
This Lotus is about as close as you can get to pure – pure, unadulterated driving. There are no soft touches, no compromises. OK, our test car does have air conditioning but that’s it. You can remove the fabric roof but even that seems pointless. You just want to drive the Elise hard and anything else, like sunshine and wind noise is distraction.
So, as you flick through the six-speed gearbox, enjoy the feel of a car without power steering on a fast corner, and dab a toe on the brilliant brakes, you might remember that this is how sports cars used to be before a myriad of gadgetry arrived to take a lot of the skill out of driving.
Bank Holidays and rain – the two of them go together like car and key. And so it was that I found myself battling for a parking space in Bourton-on-the-Water today, trying to get to my local deli, when the world and his dog have decided to descend on the Cotswold town at the same time.
Bourton is beautiful but I’ve never quite understood the attraction, unless you want to walk along the muddy bank of a river, pay too much for an ice-cream, or fight for pavement space as another coach unloads a party of Americans.
Fortunately, my ‘secret’ deli, Toast, has space for two cars outside and nobody seems to realise. So, as I pulled in with a satisfied look on my face and took the key from the steering column, it felt like something wasn’t quite right. Surely there wasn’t enough ‘key’ in my pocket?
Sure enough, the key had come apart and I”d left most of it in the slot. If I hadn’t realised then and there, somebody could have quite easily got in the car and driven away. Perhaps a better key design is required, Lotus?…
Squeezing in the back of a Audi TT or any Mini is difficult – but just slipping onto the front seat of the Elise requires yoga-like flexibility. I can only think of the Caterham 7 as being any tougher.
In the past, debutants were taught how to enter and exit a car with decorum. It was a case of keeping the knees together and swinging both legs onto the pavement at the same time. However, as a friend said today, the Lotus is not a car to ‘go commando’ in.
No, it’s a ‘knickers on’ type of car and would even have proved a challenge for the queens of debs, Joanna Lumley. The Elise is low to the ground and has a rigid safety beam that runs at elbow height along the bottom on the door. Grabbing onto the steering wheel helps the driver gain some support but the passenger has no chance!
Oh, and apologies to Lotus for an error in yesterday’s piece. The Elise does have a boot! It’s tiny and hidden behind the engine in the rear. Our press car doesn’t have a manual, so I have an excuse…
A friend of mine is just about to turn up in his new, Jaguar F-Type S. Great car but there couldn’t be two more radically different convertibles.
It starts with the keys. The Jag has a solid, chunky unit, while the Lotus starts with something that looks like it it was originally used in an Austin Allegro. It’s basically, just a key – and there’s no remote blipper or central locking, both doors have to be opened manually!
As the F-Type is a luxury two-seater, it has plenty of luggage space and cubbyholes in the cabin. The Lotus doesn’t even have a boot. There’s room behind the seats for an umbrella and a slot on the dashboard for a phone, although I guarantee it will fly out when you hit a corner hard. Cup holder? You’re joking aren’t you?
In fact, things the Elise Club Racer doesn’t have also include a radio or sat nav, remote door mirrors, heated seats, airbags… the list goes on. The seats are made of carbon fibre and covered with the automotive equivalent of a tea cloth.
Find a race track though, and, well, it’s a car almost as exciting as a Caterham Seven. Which is, of course, based on a Lotus too…