I've long been told that engineers designed the Elise family to be as close to the company's original ethos as possible. Indeed, as Phil notes, the only thing that comes close to being so barebones, so direct, so raw is the original Seven itself - and that vehicle is only available in the U.S. thanks to loopholes surrounding the whole kit-car market. I'm thankful the Exige offers dual airbags and side impact beams - in the 7, the latter is simply your ribcage.
The hardcore Exige S 260 adheres to the company's "add lightness" policy, but engineers have also added a glut of power. The supercharged 1.8-liter now pumps out an impressive 257 hp, and it's only saddled with 2020 lbs of car. As Zenlea noted, the car is nothing short of a rocket - I never verified the company's 0-60 mph time of 4.0 seconds, but I've no reason to doubt the word of the PR folks in Hethel.
In order to appreciate rocket-ship speeds, however, you'll have to live with a rocket-sized interior. I'm fairly certain Alan Shepard had more shoulder room within the Freedom 7 space capsule, and thanks to high sills, entering and exiting the car gracefully is an impossibility if you measure over 5-feet tall or 180 pounds (I'm both). The rattling of body panels is something I'd expect from such a stiffly sprung car on Michigan's frost-heaved roads, but the odd placement of controls - many of them unlabeled - seems rather odd, especially in a car whose price tag pushes close to $80,000 (hint: the lock button is on the forward side of the shift console, and the dome lamp is squeezed between the seats).
This isn't exactly an everyday car, but then again, it's not meant to be. $80,000 will buy you either this or a GT-R, and while both will provide amazing sprints to high speeds and pull incredible g figures in corners, only the Lotus makes the driver feel as if he or she is actually involved. Never mind the interior bits - in my opinion, that's worth the price.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer