8 surreal things you’ll experience in a Lotus
2ND OPINION - Manny N. de los Reyes (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2016 - 12:00am

1. You’ll look and feel tall beside it. I’m not tall by any stretch of the imagination, but while most cars’ heights reach up to my neck or chin, the Lotus Elise’s roof stands level with my lowest rib.

2. Getting inside the Elise is a yoga exercise in itself. The door opening is tiny and very low. (You can remove the soft top to ease ingress and egress, but it’s unbelievably complicated to remove—and even more difficult to put back on.) You need to really bend your back and legs. Then you have to splay your legs across a 12-inch-wide side sill before dropping your butt onto the deep bucket seat. Once seated inside, that imposing side sill is level with your ribs (again). Which means you feel like you’re sitting inside a bathtub. Getting out, you need to spread your legs up and outward just to clear that sill. Ladies, you’re paparazzi fodder if you’re in a mini-skirt. Or any skirt for that matter.

3. Everyone—and I mean everyone—will look down on you. You sit eye level with most cars’ tires. People in a Suzuki Alto look like they’re in a big SUV. With your butt a mere six inches off the ground, you’re really in a big go-kart. Getting a parking card from a machine or getting your order from a drive-thru window will make you wish you had the long reach of Michael Jordan. That said, the Lotus is so low you’re tempted to just drive straight under toll barriers.

4. Expect zero luxury features or even the most basic creature comforts (it does have power windows and power door locks, as well as dual front airbags and side impact beams for crash protection). There are no door pockets, cubbyholes, cupholders or even a glove box! Your date’s handbag stays on her lap or on the floor. Don’t forget what car you’re driving when you suddenly go binge shopping in a supermarket. Briefcases for a presentation? They go between your colleague’s legs. There is no trunk (and hence no spare tire; just a tire repair kit).

5. No carpeting or floor mats. Your feet rest on bare aluminum. Park it under the hot sun and you’re literally toast. But the aluminum—and the curvaceous and spectacularly gorgeous fiberglass body shell—is an ultra-lightweight museum masterpiece. Ditto the machined aluminum gearshift knob and handbrake lever.

6. The “entertainment system” is an old school 1-DIN Alpine head unit. No multi-connectivity devices here. Even the A/C is your 70’s-era rotary 3-speed knob with matching rotary thermostat knob.

7. The minimalist Elise may be the farthest thing from a luxury car, but it’s the closest thing to a road rocket. And it does rocket—from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 235 km/h. Power comes from a mid-mounted 220ps/250Nm supercharged 1.8-liter engine mated to a six-speed manual. Both engine and gearbox are sourced from Toyota, which should give the rear-wheel drive Elise commendable reliability and fuel efficiency (as long as you don’t floor it).

8. Light weight (2,000-lb curb weight), a low center of gravity, a short 2,300mm wheelbase, and race-derived double wishbone suspension with Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers give the Elise that “cornering on rails” feel. It’s simply one of the best-handling cars on the planet—with grip levels approaching 1G (despite the seemingly narrow 175/55ZR-16 front tires; the rears are meatier 225/45ZR-17’s). It does have Electronic Stability Control and Electronic Differential Lock. It doesn’t have power steering (underscoring its go-kart feel), which means your arms get a good workout when maneuvering into and out of tight parking spaces. With very short suspension travel, ride quality is very firm—but not punishingly so.

The P4.7 million Lotus Elise is definitely not your everyday car. But it’s the perfect elemental drive when you want to blow away the cobwebs. Just make sure there’s no traffic first.

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