Lotus' first saloon car was front engined with rear wheel drive. Like all production Lotuses since the Elan, the Elite used fiberglass for the hatchback bodyshell, mounted on a steel backbone chassis evolved from the Elan and Europa. It had 4-wheel independent suspension using coil springs. Power steering and air conditioning were optional from 1974. The Elite was the basis for the Eclat, and the later Excel 2+2 coupes.
The Elite was Lotus' first car to use the 907 aluminium-block 4-valve, DOHC, four-cylinder, 2.0 liter engine. (The 907 engine had previously been used in Jensen-Healeys.) The 907 engine ultimately became the foundation for the 2.0 L and 2.2 L Lotus Esprit powerplants, the naturally aspirated 912 and the turbocharged 910. Elites were available with a 5-speed gearbox as standard; from January 1976 an automatic transmission was optional.
Regarding performance, the Elite and the related Éclat are notable in that the stock curb weight is not much over 2,000 lb (907 kg). Once the motors reach their power band, both acceleration and handling are impressive for cars of the era.