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Avg. Price Paid:$33,896 - $35,952
Original MSRP: $51,845 - $54,990
MPG: 21 City / 27 Hwy
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2011 Lotus Elise Review

This review was written when the 2011 Lotus Elise was new.

If you’re looking for a performance-tuned car for track days or winding roads, the 2011 Lotus Elise may fit the bill. But be warned, the Elise lacks the refinement of rival luxury sports cars. “The Elise is a compact, lightweight sports car meant for track driving,” writes Cars.com. “As such, its competitors, such as the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster, generally boast more comfort but fewer at-the-limits performance attributes.”

The 2011 Lotus Elise is bare-bones for a luxury sports car. It doesn’t pack a whole lot of comfort or convenience features into its diminutive frame, and while its sparse accommodations make for exceptional performance, the Elise may not be the best choice for a daily driver. Its suspension, which makes it particularly agile on twisty roads, may be a little too stiff for urban commutes, and its lack of cargo space means that it’s less than functional for running errands.

Additionally, taller drivers may not fit in the Elise, and it skimps on many safety and convenience features that luxury sports car shoppers expect as standard equipment. Air conditioning is optional, and the Elise does without features such as power steering, navigation and Bluetooth. Another area where the Elise, and its sibling, the Exige, trail the competition is in safety. Neither model is available with electronic stability control, which is required by the federal government starting in 2012. As a result, 2011 will be the last year that both models are imported to the U.S.

These shortcomings, however, also give the Lotus Elise its performance edge. Both models weigh less than 2,100 pounds, and that light weight means that the Elise is exceptionally quick and nimble. Rival sports cars like the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster weigh at least 1,000 pounds more than the Lotus. As a result, both require larger engines with more power to match the Elise’s performance.

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Other Cars to Consider

If you like the Elise’s performance and opened-air design but need a luxury sports car with more interior and cargo space, don’t overlook the BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster. Both are more powerful, and come with interior and safety features that the Elise can’t match. Neither the Z4 nor the Boxster is as quick off the line, but they’re more comfortable and practical for daily use. Additionally, base Boxster and Z4 models can be had for less than the Elise.

The base Z4 starts at about $47,500, while the base Boxster starts at about $48,000. That’s roughly $4,500 and $4,000 less than the Elise, respectively. Still, to make your Z4 or Boxster competitive with the Elise in terms of performance, you’ll have to opt for mid-level trims such as the Boxster S and the Z4 sDrive35i. These models are slightly more expensive than the Elise (about $6,500 more for the Boxster S and about $1,500 more for the Z4 sDrive35i) but they’re likely worth it since they offer competitive performance and a whole lot more luxury and utility.

Lotus Elise: The Details

The 2011 Lotus Elise is a lightweight, convertible sports car that comes in two trims: base and SC. Starting at about $52,000, the base Elise comes with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 189 horsepower, while the $55,000 Elise SC adds a supercharger, bringing power output up to 217 horses. Both models come equipped with a six-speed transmission that routes power to the rear wheels.

For 2011, updates have been made to the Elise’s exterior design. These include a revised engine cover, as well as updated front and rear fascias. The Elise also gets new integrated headlights that include LED daytime running lights. These changes not only update the Elise’s looks, but also improve its aerodynamics.

  • "By ensuring that the Elise stuck rigidly to Lotus' core values of performance through light weight, the Elise was able to produce supercar performance with city car economy and for the 2011 model year, Lotus has introduced a number of changes and improvements to maintain the class leading position of the Elise.” -- Autoblog 
  • "This roadster is for those who want a street-legal go-kart, as many weight-reducing measures -- such as a lack of creature comforts -- endow it with rare agility and race-car-like performance. New supercharged engine calms the on/off nature of the standard engine." -- Car and Driver 
  • "The Elise might be impractical, but on the right road, it can still deliver like few others." -- Edmunds
  • "Taken in sum, the Lotus Elise is a fantastic car for a comparatively limited audience that gets it and can actually use it. For everyone else, including those specifically interested in high-performance sports cars bordering on supercars, there are other choices in the market likely to be more useful, accommodating and appealing." -- New Car Test Drive
Review Last Updated: 5/11/11

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