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Cool Car Find: 2006 Lotus Elise

The simple and light Lotus Elise is the benchmark against which all sports cars must be measured.  

Budget Supercar 

2006 Lotus Elise - carsforsale.com

2006 Lotus Elise – carsforsale.com |  Shop Lotus Elise on Carsforsale.com

For those seeking the purest of driving experiences, the closest connection between driver and machine, you look to cars like the Shelby Cobra, the NA Miata, the 930 generation 911, and of course, the Lotus Elise. The Lotus Elise deserves credit for not just saving the Lotus company, but also for democratizing the supercar experience. Today’s Cool Car Find is a 2006 Lotus Elise, and this car perfectly epitomizes Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s dictum of “simplicity, and then add lightness.” Where other sports cars focus on raw horsepower, the Elise’s greatest attribute is its light weight, just 1,984 lbs.

Background 

2006 Lotus Elise - carsforsale.com
2006 Lotus Elise - carsforsale.com

For much of the 1980s and ‘90s, Lotus was something of a hot potato, getting passed between owners, from David Wickins of British Car Auctions to GM, to Romano Artioli who’d resurrected Bugatti. It was under Artioli’s ownership, that Lotus began development on a new car to replace the Lotus Elan. Of course the Elise (named after Artioli’s granddaughter) would be a proper driver’s car, meaning rear-wheel drive, midengined, and just two seats.

As with all Lotus projects, weight savings was at the forefront for project engineers. This meant aluminum and a lot of it. But Lotus engineers weren’t going to be satisfied with just using light materials. Their novel approach to the Elise was to use aluminum extrusion to produce nearly hollow parts, including for the ultra-light chassis. And it didn’t stop there. Rather than welding the chassis together, engineers bonded the pieces together. Bonding aluminum had been done before, for example on race cars like the Ford GT40, but it was new for production cars like the Elise. Bonding saved weight and cut down on production time as well.

The Lotus Elise premiered in 1995 for the 1996 model year. Despite rave reviews for the Elise, less than a year later, Artioli sold Lotus to Malaysian manufacture, Proton.

Specs 

2006 Lotus Elise 1.8L I4- carsforsale.com
2006 Lotus Elise 1.8L I4- carsforsale.com

Because the Lotus Elise is so light, it doesn’t require a massive engine to make the car fleet of foot. Initially, the Elise ran a 1.8L Rover K-series inline four-cylinder making around 118 horsepower. Not a lot, but for the Elise it was enough to propel the car from zero to sixty in just under 6 seconds.

Due to Series 1 Elise no longer meeting European crash test ratings, Lotus went back to the drawing board, enlisting the help of none other than former owner, GM. The Elise got a stronger chassis and GM got Lotus to build their Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220, using the same chassis and powertrain, on same production line.

It wouldn’t be long before the so-so Rover K-series was jettisoned in favor of a more reliable and robust Toyota Yamaha 2ZZ-FE from the Toyota Celica. The new all-aluminum DOHC 1.8L naturally-aspirated four-cylinder offered a significant jump in horsepower to 189 and a redline around 8,000 rpm. This came paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

2008 Tesla Roadster - netcarshow.com
2008 Tesla Roadster - netcarshow.com

It wouldn’t be until 2005 that the Elise made it over to US shores. The spritely car was an inspiration to other automakers for their own limited production projects. The Lotus Elise would be the basis for both the Hennessey Venom GT and the Tesla Roadster. Sadly, the Elise couldn’t keep up with American automotive regulations and would be discontinued in the States after 2011.

Overseas, the Elise would soldier on with a Series 3 version that even saw a Magnuson supercharger bump out up to 220 horsepower. The Elise was officially discontinued in 2022, making way for its next evolution, the Lotus Exige.

Our Cool Car Find 

2006 Lotus Elise - carsforsale.com

2006 Lotus Elise – carsforsale.com |  Shop Lotus Elise on Carsforsale.com

This example is a 2006 model year done in a lowkey Grey Metallic with red upholstery. The car carries just 8,555 miles on the odometer and comes with amenities like AC and a Bluetooth enabled stereo.

The Elise won’t beat a Lamborghini or a Tesla in a drag race, but what it may lack in straight line speed it more than compensates for when it comes to handling. Steering is nearly telepathic. The mid-mounted, high-revving 2ZZ screams in your ears. The brakes have an easy time with such a light car. In truth, you’ll be hard pressed to find a less adulterated sports car experience than in the Lotus Elise. And, at a fraction of the cost of supercars, that makes it one heck of a deal.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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