In almost sixty years in business, Lotus Cars has never sold more than a few thousand units in a year, even its best ones. Sales booms, if you could call them that, have typically been followed by busts. The carmaker ramps up to build some exciting new confection, and then the market is quickly saturated, as everyone who felt they'd been born to own the new Lotus and would die if they didn't, had now bought one.
This historic pattern is relevant because it makes the continuing sales success of the Elise (now in its fourth year in America) certain proof of Lotus's changed and extraordinary nature, as well as offering ringing confirmation of the Elise's repeat All-Star stature. This car remains for the committed, but seeing as Lotus is poised to have its best American sales year ever, it seems there's a growing pool of those ready to commit.
And so it should be. The mid-engine sportster is a bravura engineering performance that reprises the truest Lotus virtues, namely light weight (1984 pounds) and fealty to handling excellence. These endearing traits profit from the car's technically elegant bonded-aluminum chassis. Add reliability, courtesy of a Toyota/Yamaha engine good for 190 rev-happy horsepower, and you have a for-real, serious machine. (A new supercharged Elise is scheduled for 2008, too.)
At $46,270, the Elise might seem expensive for a fiberglass car that has two seats and a tiny trunk. But for the best-handling sports car we know, an audacious-looking thing that goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds, we think it's not, really. The Lotus Elise is a commitment worth committing to.