The Spirit XE300 Elliptical Review – A drop in quality and value


The biggest dissapointment for the Treadmill Sensei this year is a company which built a great reputation in the past, but has decided to cut corners and drop quality this year in hopes of being able to save costs by exploiting that reputation. The company in question is Spirit Fitness and their 2007/2008 line of treadmills and ellipticals. I think they’ve decided to cut costs and quality and are praying customers don’t notice before buying some substandard equipment.

All I can say about Spirit’s new X-Series line of ellipticals is that I am very confused. For some reason, instead of sticking with tried and true units that were perfected by Sole on their E35, E55 and E95 over the past few years, Spirit has decided the best way to break out from the shadow of Sole by creating an entire line of ellipticals based on the architecture of the shorter profile Spirit XE125 Elliptical. Unfortunately for buyers, the XE125 was recalled this past year due to manufacturing defects and some pretty major problems…and somehow Spirit has gotten the idea to use that design for all their new equipment. This has to get the award for ‘single dumbest idea of the year.” Instead of changing their equipment up Spirit should have instead worked on improving its customer service and quality control process because those were their biggest problems this past year.

As with the rest of their new X models, I was able to get some time on the Spirit XE300 Elliptical this past August, 2007, at the Health & Fitness Expo in Denver. What I saw was a huge disappointment. The XE300 is a perfect example of an elliptical that “looks good on paper” but doesn’t perform up to its specs. I believe Spirit intended for the XE300 to be a replacement for its older Spirit XE550 elliptical, which was based on the incredible Sole E95, but they failed horribly.

What was once a long, elegant and sturdy elliptical has been replaced by a shorter profile frame with a much lighter, flimsier feel to it. Getting on to the Spirit XE300 gave me the impression of standing on a sub-$1000 elliptical. The supposed 20″ stride felt more like an 18.5″ stride to me, and the plastic flywheel didn’t have the smooth start up and slow down of the old XE550 flywheel. Why Spirit has insisted on remaining with a plastic flywheel when metal is the industry standard at this price point is as baffling as their choice of basing the unit on that of a recalled elliptical instead of sticking with the award-winning frame of year’s past. I am still unsure of how the light weight plastic flywheel can be called “30 pounds” when it probably weighs closer to 16 or so pounds in reality.

In my opinion, it looks like Spirit is trying to fool its buyers in to thinking they have a more stable unit by placing a lightweight plastic guide rail shroud on the back of the unit. It is a pity the shroud does absolutely nothing for the Spirit XE300. The plastic on it is much too thin too put any weight on, it doesn’t add any sort of stability to the machine and seems to be a completely cosmetic feature to try and make the XE300 look like more of an upgrade to the Spirit XE200 elliptical which is $300 cheaper.

I was also very disappointed to see a low number of programs on the Spirit XE300…for a near $1700 price I would like to have seen 10 programs or more. On the plus side, the XE300 does have 20 levels of resistance, the very comfortable Spirit/Sole pedals and an upgraded parts warranty of 10 years. The drop in labor warranty down to 1 year is also a huge error in judgment for Spirit. Cutting your labor warranty in half shows a lack of faith in long term performance of the new Spirit equipment. Hopefully, they’ll get wise and raise the warranty back up to where it should be…otherwise, expect to pay a lot for service in 18 months or so when you begin to have problems with that plastic flywheel or shroud.

Overall, the Spirit XE300 is over-priced and under-performing for a $1699 elliptical. For having too much plastic and cutting too many corners, the Treadmill Sensei gives the Spirit XE300 Elliptical 2.5 out of 5 golden buddahs.

The Treadmill Sensei gives a very generous 2.5 gold buddahs to the Spirit XE300.

This year's Spirit ellipticals are a definite step backwards in terms of quality.

Spirit XE300 Elliptical Specifications
Stride: 20″ (feels closer to 18.5″)
Flywheel: 16lbs (listed as 30lbs)
Display: LED
Readouts: Time, weight, speed, RPM, distance, calories, level, laps, heart rate, and age
Programs: 6
Resistance: 20 levels
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Heart Rate Control: Yes
Max User Weight: 350lbs
Unit Weight: approximately 160lbs
Price: Under $1700

-The Treadmill Sensei