Driving A British Sports Car in The USA

When posting content online, it often goes to all corners of the globe. With that comes misunderstandings stemming from differences in culture. Many individuals view and judge things from the cultural experiences they have obtained themselves, in their own geographic location.

This can be seen when a British commenter talks about getting better miles per gallon in his car than an American. This can be a confusing topic for both parties involved until they realize that a gallon in the UK is actually a different volume than a gallon in the USA.

A common UK to American comment

Let's back up, take a broader look and discuss British cars. Some well known manufacturers are: Aston Martin, Land Rover, Bentley, Jaguar, Lotus, MG, Rolls Royce, and McLarern. We are going to focus on Lotus because it is the most out of place car here in America.

The Lotus Elise Navigating Buttonwillow Raceway

The Lotus Elise is a beautiful car when you aren't standing next to it. When you stand next to it, you realize how small it is. Small cars may be normal in Europe and the UK, but in America we have much larger cars. Many Americans will have trouble fitting inside of the Lotus.

An American struggles to fit in the Lotus

One of the striking differences between the US and the UK is that the UK has better public transportation. This fact alone might make owning a Lotus much more practical in the UK. In Orange County, CA it is common to drive your own vehicle or use ride-sharing apps to get around. This is ok because cost of car ownership is relatively low in the USA compared to other countries.

With how spread out the US is geographically and how inexpensive fuel is, larger and more comfortable cars make more sense to Americans. After spending a couple weeks daily driving the lotus I could not wait until the day I got rid of it. Here are the things I noticed:

-It leaks: when it rains, the water leaks in from the roof

-It creaks: The car rattles so much you can't tell when you actually have a problem

-American drivers can't see the car on the road

-Americans like the way it looks

-Americans like driving it but not being passenger

-It is slow compared to similarly priced American cars

-It is light (1970 lbs) and very inexpensive to run

-The Elise was sent over to the US market with only 189hp which poses a slight problem for Americans. Americans like horsepower.. a lot. A large amount of vehicles in America come with a big displacement engines.

The American Dodge Viper came with an 8.0 Liter V10. It returned 8 mpg on the way to the office!

The good news here is that you can bolt on a supercharger and make your Elise much faster or you can simply buy a Lotus from the factory with more power. For example, the Lotus Exige S 240 came with 240hp stock.

Exige S 240 at Buttonwillow Raceway

Instead of power, I focused on reliability on my lotus. The stock oil pan did not have a baffle in it. The stock suspension needed some improvements. I turned to JRZ suspension in the Netherlands to build me a proper coil-over damper. The stock wheel sizes were not appropriate for the US domestic market, so a local aftermarket company produced a custom sized wheel-set for the lotus.

JRZ Dampers for Elise – Imported from the Netherlands

With these improvements, the Elise was able to keep up with the stock corvettes on the race track. The benefit of running the smaller, lighter Elise over a larger, heavier, American car is that the consumable expenses are much lower.

This means that although it may not be the fastest vehicle out on the track, you will spend a lot less money running the car. Gas, brakes, and tire costs will be significantly less than a more typical American sports car. While the Lotus Elise was an enjoyable experience, I obtained much more joy on the day that I sold the car.