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The Mercury Cars Guide : September 19th 2009
4--- Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, September 19, 2009 Skateboard built for kicks Minimalistic Lotus gets Porsche performance thanks to a supercharger. Neil Dowling track tests the Elise SC GRUNT: The Lotus Elise SC is not for the commuter. It's raw, intense and physically taxing. POWER: A peek under the bonnet of the Lotus offering. IT'S night and I'm waiting at the traffic lights for the green sig- nal and I get a sensation of a hot neck and the vague smell of burnt hair. I immediately thought the engine was ablaze but all that was in the rear-view mirror was the scorching, intense heat of a 4WD's headlights. Welcome to life as a bottom- crawling motorist, sitting mere cen- timetres from the asphalt and within the glare of the low-beam headlights of all the other vehicles. If the night-time experience doesn't get to you, the looming presence of other cars can make you nervous. Even waiting behind a Hyundai i30 is like staring up at an apartment block. Parking alongside a Land Cruiser is akin to a dingy drawing alongside an ocean liner. The Lotus Elise is that type of car. It's made for a certain type of driver but if you think you can commute in this, you have to seriously look at where you're getting your kicks. Though the Elise SC's price --- more than double a Mazda MX-5 --- and its awkwardness in traffic place it in the weekend warrior category, it's not without a magnetic charm. Driving this is, simply, something else. So raw, intense and physically taxing is a stint around a track --- or even down to the shops --- that you wonder if you're depraved and begin to question your sanity. Until you realise you're smiling. There is something so basically rewarding about this aluminium skateboard. Basic being the key word. The SC --- an acronym for super- charged --- has so many deleted features that you feel a tad cheated. There's only one wiper, no glove- box, an excuse for a boot, no spare wheel, a bit of fabric for a roof and no luxuries such as steering wheel adjustment or cruise control. The formed, lightweight seats are lower than the wide sills and, com- bined with the small door aperture, makes it a difficult car to enter for any inelastic pilots or passengers. Inside it is an aluminium pedal box for the driver, an alloy footrest for the passenger. The door panels are thin plastic extrusions with a fabric insert to moderate some noise --- usually the noise made by your wallet. The steering wheel is tiny, the instrument binnacle minimalistic and switchgear simple push buttons or rotary knobs. Clearly the car is made to get the weight down as low as possible and, even with a full tank of premium fuel --- though 43.5 litres is hardly exces- sive --- the Elise SC weighs just 870kg. That's less than half a Commo- dore. But all this is academic. Fold yourself to slide in the door opening then reorganise your limbs behind the wheel and pedals. The seat is firm but, as yet, not uncomfortable. The vision to the front and sides is brilliant. I can see a differential and rear shocks of a Prado. Look backwards and there's a slit window but three-quarter vision is close to impossible unless the manually-adjusted wing mirrors are spot on. Lotus now has a key fob with remote locking and an alarm. Key the ignition and press the yellow-lit ''start'' button and the Toyota 1.8-litre engine a couple of centi- metres behind your head erupts. There's a metallic clink as the alloy gearlever is prodded to first and easy forward motion as the clutch goes in the opposite direction as the accelerator pedal. Aside from the oneness with the bitumen, it's an easy little car to punt. Away from the traffic it's all changed. With more scope to open up the engine, it takes on new characteris- tics as it growls and roars and vibrates up the rev range before dash lights start blinking at 8000rpm. Turn off the radio because it's inaudible above 4000rpm. The noise of the engine and its Eaton-based supercharger will clear your head of memory above 6000rpm and by the time it's telling you to change gear, you have forgotten who your mother is.Corners come up in this whirl of mechanical noise and road thump and you are immediately alarmed at the firmness of the steering wheel. The unassisted steering system de- mands a firm hand through the bends and asks more if the corner is rutted. The paper weight of the Elise and the firmness of its suspension mean it can be jolted off line in a millisec- ond, requiring the driver to make instant adjustments. The chassis feels inflexible and while that re- turns a flat cornering stance --- at practically any sane speed --- it also alerts the Elise's occupants to every stone its tyres roll over. But the Elise responds perfectly and is so agile that many mistakes can be masked. But don't get cocky --- this car will bite. Even though it can be balanced mid-corner by subtle accelerator ped- al pressure changes, there's the hint that understeer from the almost weightless front end is looming. You can counter this by heading for oversteer but find that the wider --- and stickier --- rear rubber is gluing itself to the road. The answer is to keep adjusting the steering wheel and using the accelerator to hold its line. Lotus has upgraded its ABS sys- tem for this model and it's unobtru- sive to the point that it's hard to awaken. There's no traction control system as standard, though is an option, as is a limited-slip differential for the Sunday track days. The hour on the track is over. The body has been flung forwards, side- ways and backwards and the head hurts while there's a bit of an ache in the old back. But even before you unravel and leave the car, your heart is crying for more while your wallet and kidneys cry a different tune. small torque Lotus Elise SC Origin: England Price: $104,990 Engine: 1.8-litre, 4-cyl, variable-valve timing, supercharger Power: 163kW @ 8000rpm Torque: 212Nm @ 5000rpm 0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds Top speed: 241km/h Fuel: Premium unleaded Fuel tank: 43.5 litres Economy (official): 8.5 litres/100km Greenhouse: 202g/km (Corolla: 175g/km) Transmission: 6-speed manual; rear-drive Brakes: 4-wheel 282mm vented, cross-drilled cast-iron discs; Front AP calipers; Rear Brembo calipers; ABS Suspension: Double unequal-length wishbones, Bilstein dampers, Eibach coils Wheels: Front --- 16-inch alloy; Rear --- 17-inch alloy Tyres: Front --- 175/50R16; Rear --- 225/45R17; no spare Length: 3785mm Width: 1719mm Height: 1117mm Wheelbase: 2300mm Track: Front --- 1457mm; Rear --- 1507mm Weight: 870kg (inc fuel) Warranty: 3yr/100,000km Service: 15,000km What we like: Performance, style What we dislike: Expensive, minimalistic features: Airconditioning; 4-speaker CD audio; 2 airbags; electric windows; central locking; immobiliser/ alarm Rating: 87/100 2022425-38 SAVE $$$ HUGE RANGE OF LATE MODEL CARS Refined/powerful 3.8L engine, 17" alloys, Auto/ tiptonic, cruise, ABS, traction ctrl, 4 airbags, pwr drivers seat, climate control air cond, pwr wind/ mirrors, remote keyless entry + immob + alarm, 6 stacker n-dash CD with 8 speaker stereo, leather steering wheel. Balance of 5 year Factory warranty. $16,490 From 2006 Mitsubishi 380SX Series 11 New car Warranty until late 2011 or up to 130,000 kms Cnr Harrington and Bathurst Streets, Hobart. Ph 6237 1199 autorent.com.au Vehicle for illustration purposes only. Prices don't include the 3% Government Stamp Duty and $23.90 transfer fee. OPEN ALL WEEKEND 5 spd man, a/cond, remote keyless entry/immob, CD, pwr wind, as new cond. Warr. Immac, 2.4L auto, airbags, cruise ctrl, keyless entry + immob, air cond, CD, 1 yr Warr. Perfect small auto jam-packed with features incl ABS, alloys, immob, CD airbags. 1 year Warr. WAGON, 4 BRAND NEW TYRES! 2.4L auto, airbags, cruise, tint wind, immob, air cond. 1 year Warr. 2006 TOYOTA YARIS HATCH 2004 HYUNDAI SONATA 2000 DAIHATSU SIRION GTvi HATCH 2004 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER 4WD JUST $12,490 JUST $10,990 JUST $8,990 SALE PRICE $15,990 OPEN 9-5 SAT & SUN POSSIBLY THE FINEST OF AUSTRALIA S 6 CYLINDER BREED 2.4L auto, current shape, air bags, ABS, cruise, power wind, keyless entry. Warr. 2006 TOYOTA CAMRY ALTISE FROM $15,890
September 12th 2009
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