I play on Elite with teams. If you want a real challenge this is the way to go. Lots more enemies and all of them a lot harder.
I find in space it is a little more tricky these days as the enemies actually (OMG) redistribute their shields and use some abilities but it is not too difficult if your team is any good. I've had the misfortune of soloing a mission on Elite meant for a 5 man team... To my credit I managed that and did not go boom but it was intense at times.
On the ground though... LOL! Ground play goes by so fast no matter what difficulty I am on. Every engagement lasts like 5 seconds tops and the enemy is pushing up daisies.
Ground elite missions have gotten a load easier since season 4 came out. There are probably a few enemy factions in exploration sectors that can give you a run for your money, but most the time it's just a matter of dying a couple times while you learn their tactics.
And while purple items don't drop like rain anymore, you still get quite a few blue drops. I'd actually say ground is fairly balanced when it come to risk vs. reward now.
I occasionally do it for challenge. It's also a good team-building exercise if you and a few friends have to cooperate and coordinate your attacks in order to defeat enemies. The rush-in-and-blast-away sorts of folks tend not to do quite so well on Elite difficulty.
I concur. Ran on Elite for awhile but it just became tedious, seeing better drops would have helped but in all the time I spent on Elite - I leveled an alt from ensign to VA - I only received two very rare drops and both were worthless to me. Hardly seemed worth the effort.