To paraphrase the legendary Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus and car designer extraordinaire, “to improve performance, add lightness”. While Lotus was getting bogged down with ever bigger, heavier cars, the 1996 Lotus Elise arrived like a breath of fresh air, taking Lotus back to its sources and to the heart of affordable high performance. Light, stylish and very, very fast, the Lotus Elise was prized for high speed, handling and razor sharp steering, all hallmarks of Lotus. It was built using an entirely extruded aluminum frame, making it very rigid indeed, covered with fiberglass body panels, whose look was admittedly inspired by the Ferrari Dino.
The Lotus Elise was powered in 1996 by an inline four-cylinder engine, with a 1.8-liter displacement, that produced 118 horsepower. The Elise shared the engine with the MG MGF, but it was a good 30% lighter, making for a very spirited drive indeed. Acceleration to 60 mph took a mere 5.9 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 125 miles per hour.
While the exterior of the car was very polished, the interior was no less so, with exposed aluminum and engineered details everywhere. The 1996 Lotus Elise offered its buyers supercar performance at a mere fraction of the price, and proved to be very popular indeed!