Lotus Elise

The Elise is a track-ready car with minimal interior comforts, nearly no cargo space and a rock-hard suspension. It's also one of the fastest, best-handling cars available. It offers supercar acceleration and handling in a striking design. The base Elise gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and the SC trim is a tenth of a second slower, but has a smoother power curve, making it slightly more drivable day-to-day.

But the secret to the Elise's abilities is its light weight. The base Elise tips the scales at an extremely svelte 1,984 lbs. The Toyota-sourced 1.8L 4-cylinder engine only makes 189 horsepower, but with so little car to push around, it allows the engine's free-revving spirit to shine. The Elise SC utilizes a supercharger to allow the engine to make more power, pushing it to 218 horses, while the vehicle gains a mere 22 lbs. The supercharger also mellows out the Elise engine's neurotic character a bit, making the power curve more progressive. This makes the Elise SC the one to choose if it's to be driven anywhere but on the track.

The interior of the Elise is spartan, which isn't unusual for a car built for speed. Standard features include air conditioning, HID headlights, an anti-theft system, a leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel, aluminum gearshift knob and handbrake trim, a premium audio system and performance tires. Individual options include a hard top, limited-slip differential, leather seats and traction control.

Standard safety and performance features include front and side air bags, a tire pressure monitoring, stowage bag for the soft top, LED taillights, daytime running lights and cast-alloy wheels. The standard anti-lock braking system comes with Lotus/AP Racing and Brembo calipers, plus 4-wheel ventilated, cross-drilled disc brakes.

The Touring package upgrades the soft top's insulation and the stereo system and adds full carpet and leather seats. The Sport package upgrades the car's wheels to forged silver alloy and adds sport-tuned suspension, twin oil coolers, traction control and sport seats. (This package also reduces the overall weight of the Elise by 20 pounds.) The new Performance Package includes almost everything in both the Touring and the Sport Packages, as well other customizable options.

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