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Lotus Elise Soft Top

on Tue, 02/09/2008 - 17:00

Lotus Elise Soft Top
A canvas folding soft top is provided as standard fit on every Lotus Elise sold. Designed from the ground up not to require a fixed roof the Elise embraces open-air motoring head on. Yes it gets a little chilly on anything other than a summers day but the experience is more than worth putting a jumper on for, or at least I think so. Take the top off, wind the windows down and you feel about as close to a raw driving experience as you can this side of a Lotus/Caterham Seven.

In my experience my girlfriend often feels the cold more than me when the roof is off, this is perhaps caused by me having quite a forward driving position that amplifies the back-current behind the seats buffeting the passenger side (I’m 5’6” - that’s life...), and perhaps because the passenger seat is fixed with no option to move forward/back out of the wind flow.

Lotus Elise Roof Struts
Taking the soft top on and off is a manual affair but even the first time I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was, finishing in a matter of minutes. There are two flexible support struts 1/3 of the way in from each side that keep the roof line of the car, with the canvas itself clipping in just above each door. The whole unit pulls itself tight and feels pretty secure at speed.

Road and wind noise is generally quite high in an Elise but unexpectedly I find the soft top creates a slightly quieter experience than the optional hard top, certainly it’s less creaky (read more in my blog post Lotus Elise Hardtop). I’ve also found the soft top to be pretty water tight in anything other than very heavy rain, although you do need to make sure the windows are fully wound up! Reading about the experiences of other owners it seems this is mainly dependent on window alignment with the top seal, which can be adjusted if required.

Lotus Elise Soft Top
A storage bag is provided when not in use and it will fit into the boot. Although it is bulkier than you might imagine and does take up some of the valuable space.

My concluding thought? There are few better ways to enjoy one of Britain's elusive summer days than driving the Elise with its roof off.

UPDATE: At 10 years old my soft top still seems to be in good condition. Every 2-3 years I treat it with Autoglym’s two part Fabric Roof Maintenance Kit. The first part cleans “removing soiling, stains and atmospheric contamination” while the second part “reproofs, protects and preserves the surface from the effects of water absorption and surface soiling”. So far I’ve been very happy with the results as the soft top still looks as good as new.

Lotus Elise with Soft Top