All-Star: 2007 Lotus Elise

At a time when every new car is bigger, heavier, roomier, more comfortable, more luxurious, more tech-laden, and more removed from the act of driving, the Lotus Elise is an All-Star because it's none of these.

The Elise delights by flouting conventional wisdom. Whereas most sports cars make their power through massive displacement, the Elise provides electrifying performance with a lowly, 1.8-liter Toyota four-cylinder.

Whereas other cars have seen their weight balloon with depressing inevitability, the Elise is supermodel svelte. Whereas modern cars hide their mechanicals under plastic "beauty covers" and behind stylized panels imprinted to look like leather, the Elise lays bare its aluminum structure. Whereas so many cars attempt to artificially replicate steering feel with complicated algorithms that vary their power assist, the Elise dares to go with unassisted steering. Whereas other carmakers take pains to eliminate every last source of noise and vibration, Lotus, er . . . doesn't.

Yes, the Elise is loud and cramped and difficult to get into. It buzzes and vibrates and crashes over bumps. And there's not even a single cup holder. It's still great.

The Lotus Elise offers the purest sports car experience you can buy today. Nothing on four wheels provides a more direct connection with the road. The mid-mounted engine gives the Elise a gymnast's balance. With less than 2000 pounds onboard (not counting the driver), its responses are ultraquick.

Okay, we could do without the play in the steering rack and the vibrating shifter. Wait--scratch that. If Lotus starts listening to critics, next thing you know it will be giving the Elise wider seats and more sound deadening and lots of storage compartments. Never mind all that. Better to enjoy the Elise the way it is.

In an era of spin and artifice and neck-high bullshit, this car is as refreshing as a truth plainly stated. It's unfiltered, for your pleasure.

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