Elise Buyers Guide
So you want to buy an Elise eh? Read on...
Firsty you've made a good choice by participating on an owners club - owning a Lotus is every bit a social experience as a driving one. The forums are full of useful information and real petrol heads who are always happy to help. Before asking questions please take the time to read previous threads and the FAQ - most things are asked at least once a week. Dont forget to fill in your location and age - this can really help people to recommend dealers/social events and things like insurance.
Anyway, the cars...
They are share the same chassis and layout so all have excellent handling - some would argue the best in the world. There are tons of variations but they can be split up basically into 2 groups...
Series 1 or S1:
The original and, some would argue, the better looking of the Elise family. Powered by Rovers 1.8L K-series engine and PG1 gearbox - the very same as tons of other cars (MGF, MGTF, Rover 200/400/600 etc) so can be easily maintained by most garages/enthuiasts and is pretty reliable and surprisingly economical. The biggest problem is the dreaded HGF (Head Gasket Failure), caused mainly by the poor cooling system. There are ways to avoid it occuring (see the FAQ for details) but its pretty random. It costs around £500 to repair at a good independant specialist so its not too bad - an AA aftermarket warranty can be helpful in times like this.
Its a very simple car with minimal soundproofing and very few creature comforts but this also makes it the lightest. It will pop, bang and rattle on occasion but you grow to love it. Some would find it difficult to live with everyday but it depends on how far you travel and what type of raods you use, I have very few complaints in the year I have owned one as a daily drive. They make great weekend cars and are great fun on track but you dont have he luxury of aircon, electric windows, central locking, ABS, etc so decide what you want out of it before deciding on what to buy.
Heres a quick run down of the common S1 models and their power output. There are other differences but most are purely cosmetic.
Standard S1 - standard Rover K-series with 118bhp
Sport 135 - Limited edition with 135bhp (although that normally produce around 145bhp)
Sport 160 - Uprated cams, throttle body and ECu producing around 160bhp
111S - Rover K-series with VVC (Variable Valve Control) with 143bhp
Check http://www.elises.co...dels/index.html for a full list with more details.
Series 2 or S2:
A big revision to the original Elise, it obvisouly looks quite different from the outside but there are many changes elsewhere. The sills on the doors are a bit lower so it's easier to get in and out, the interior has a bit more storage space and front speakers. Essentially its a bit less raw and a little more liveable every day. Early S2s shared the K-series engine but this changed later (see below), it also came with better suspension (Bilstein as opposed to Koni) and a close-ratio gearbox.
Later S2s were quite different from the early ones, the K-series was removed in favour of a Toyota sourced 2ZZ-GE engine. This engine has more power but its delivery is very different. The engine changes to a different cam at 6200 revs. When below this figure it is quite relaxed and designed more for economy than power. You might think this is ideal - one cam for pootling about and one for giving it the beans but some argue this type of power delivery makes the car harder to drive fast, especially on track since you have to make sure to keep the engine on the second cam when changine gears. As with all things, its best to test this out for yourself. Some people love it while some hate it.
Another noteworthy change to later S2s is the redesign of the soft-top, Lotus finally agreed with its customers that the original roof with the long tails was too much hassle to take off so introduced the 'short-tailed' roof. They don't look quite as good as the originals but this is definetly a case of "function over form".
Standard S2 - K-series with CR 'box. 120bhp
Sport 135 - an upgrade to the standard S2 with some work done on the head to produce more power - 135bhp
Sport 190 - Highly tuned K-series with 190bhp
S2 111 - K-series with VVC producing 156bhp
S2 111S - Same as the 111 with uprated trim
Sport 135R - 135bhp with uprated suspension, tyres/wheels and trim
111R - Introducion of the 6 speed manual gear box and Toyota engine (2ZZ-GE) producing 189bhp
R - renamed 111R
S - New entry level model, lower spec Toyota engine (1ZZ-FE) producing 134bhp
As with all things everyone has their own preferences and its best to test-drive as many variants as possible to make the best purchase for you. It's also worth mentioning the Vauxhall VX220 and VX220 Turbo. Both are based around the Elise S2 and are fine cars in their own right...but with a Vauxhall badge. Well worth a test drive, especially since they can usually be had for less money than the equivilant Lotus.
Here's a few links to help with your search....
Info on Elise:
111s is the k series engined car whilst the 111r is the toyota engined car - they are quite different in terms of power delivery and I would suggest that you drive them both before making up your mind. I would personally go for the 111r.
The cars are generally reliable. K series engine is known for head gasket failure but other than that they are simple light cars. You are more likely to suffer from rattles and maybe the odd leak but nothing serious.
Running costs are pretty good as they are light cars. The biggest cost will be insurance as they are group 17
As its a soft top the car will never be as secure as a hardtop car. If a thief wants it they will get it. On the plus side Elises are not an obvious target for theft as they are no good for bank jobs or joyriding and there is a relatively close community so they are not that easy to sell on and they are not expensive exotica despite what the public might think.
My only other general opinion is that there is nothing like the elise on the market that comes close for driver involvement that will happily sit on a track inthe morning and get you home in comfort in the afternoon.
You are probably in the wrong place for a totally objective opinion though.
The 135r is a limited edition and more of an option if you intend to do some trackwork. They look great too (IMHO).
People can and do use an elise everyday. You really have to decide whether you can live with the niggles on an everyday basis (such as the getting in and out of) and lack of storage. Ideally buy a $hitter for doing the miles and keep the elise for the fun days (probably not practical if you are parking them all on the street)
Best bet is to meet a few members, discuss experiences and look at a few different cars. There are drinks meets in Nottingham & Birmingham once a month and a monthly run. Also go to a dealer for a test drive, but you need to decide if you're a "dealer sort of person" or happy to buy privately. If you choose the latter there are plenty of people who can help with expert advice or inspections. For sure, dealers will prep the car and provide a warranty but at a £2K premium.
If you're without a garage, get a car with a hardtop. Easily detached and stowed indoors when you're running with the soft top which is fine for most eventualities.
What mileage, type of roads do you expect to use? Any interest in track days (many Lotus owners are)? Both could govern your choice of car.
I've used Elise's as my daily driver for several years now, it's not a problem until there's a heavy snowfall when things can get a little 'exciting'.
If your reasonably handy with a set of spanners then you won't have a problem, but things do need a little attention from time to time, if you approach Elise ownership with this mindset then you will be fine. There's a post on here at present about an Elise being stolen,I think this is the first one I've heard about for a long time, and I'm a Lotus forum junky, so the theft thing isn't really as much a worry as say a Focus rs, which to be honest will be way up there on the chav stealing list (plenty of room for their mates and burberry caps you see ) Parking on the street has got to be area/luck dependant, there are two Elise's in my street,ones on the road and never been touched mines off the road and I had the rear clam keyed a couple of years ago
Hard top is a good idea an almost 60% of car that or ordered from Lotus are with a hard top.
Great for the winter and then swap over to the soft top for the summer.
I had an earliy 2004 S2 111s and it was a great car with 156bhp. IMHO the 120bhp and the 135bhp spec cars was gutless and a dull to drive onless you thrashed the hell out of it.
Late 2004 and Early 2005 car had a lot of the rattles ironed out from the earlier 2004 car. These tend to be spotted by having electric windows on the touring pack. Air con is a good option if its on a car, mostly for demisting the window.
True that there have been head gasket failures in the K-series esspecially on the S1's and earlier S2's, a quick MLOC poll showed approx 1 in 3 Ks had blown a head gasket. Like every thing the engines have improved over time and the VVC unit in the S2 111s has be fairly reliable.
As for security. The car has an alarm/Immobilser and you can also add a removable steering wheel.
Exige Buyers Guide
New you would be looking at £29.000 for a base model up to £ 46,000 for a super charged, fully loaded up with all the extras Exige.
Second hand I would say that they would start at £22,000 for a base Exige, £ 25,000 for a good well spec'ed Exige, £ 27,000 to £ 31,000 for a well spec'ed Demo car and £ 38,000 to £ 43,000 for a loaded super charged car.
The series two Elise 111r has the same engine and gear box but has the removable soft &/or hard top. You might enjoy it more in the summer, roof off, wind in your hair and all that stuff..
The Exige has one major down fall and that is you can't really see any thing out of the rear which makes parking a pain in the rear.
Where as the Elise is far easier to reverse in.
111r has the Toyota 190bhp engine and 6 speed close ratio gear box
New: S2 Elise 111r Base model £ 28,000 to £ 35,000 top of the range
Used S2 Elise 111r £ 20,000 to £ 27,000
111s has the 156bhp Rover Kseries engine and 5 speed close ratio gear box
New: S2 Elise 111s Base model £ 22,000 to £ 24,900 top of the range
Used S2 Elise 111s £ 16,000 to £ 22,000
Not older S2 111s will rattle a little more than the newer versions.
S2 (standard, Race Tec, Sports tourer & 135r range from 120 to 135 bhp) range from £ 12,000 to £ 18,000