I may not have deep knowledge about top lane or Elise, but from what I've seen/heard/played on PBE I'd say she can be played like Warwick or Nidalee - You can harass/outtrade people and keep yourself sustained with your spider form W. I think she might work better in top lane than in mid, but I'm not sure if she might not be better off in the jungle.
So far I've only played her as a jungler, but I don't see why she wouldn't work top. I've tried Stonewall's build, with triple gp10 items, then sorc shoes, malady, glacial shroud (to turn into a FH later on) and an abyssal scepter and it works suprisingly well. I also bought a Rylai's that game for the extra health and the slow and she becomes quite tanky while dealing some serious burst damage. Like you said, kinda like an Ap bruiser. Overall she's very strong, at least in the jungle, but if she can get that strong in the jungle then I can only imagine what kind of monster she can become with all the gold you get laning.
She is typically like every single champion that comes out. Can fill almost any role. I played her in every single lane and she rapes everyone. It's not even exaggeration. I played her top bruiser, adc, ap mid, jungler, support. She fills any role. She wouldn't particularly be a bruiser since a bruiser initiates but she can beat any top laner right now. But yes, to answer your question, she can be a crazy top laner. She makes Jayce looks like he needs a big buff.
Just a food for thought. Like I said, she can fill any lanes. ADC because her Q doesn't need ability power to damage. It already does a lot of damage because of what it does. When she goes to spider form, she can jump in and gain massive attackspeed boost. Under 1.000 attack speed to 1.666! That's crazy. SUPPORT because she has the stun, she harasses hard. You can never run from her exploding spider. She can jump to a champion. The other 3 roles, I wouldn't need to explain.
...not necessarily jungle, the only cc she has is a skill shot...man, i don´t know :(
Elise has sustain, a fast clear speed, a LONG range stun, burst damage in human form, sustain damage (W) and two gap closers in spider form (Q and E). And because she scales with AP, she can adapt her build and go for 3 gp10 items since like most AP carries the damage on her skills scales better with levels instead of items. The only downside is that she's squishy early game and that her damage falls off a bit late game. Even Stonewall considers her to be a very good jungler.
I see people complaining because she dies super fast in teamfights. You're not supposed to build her full AP items like Veigar or Le Blanc, you gotta get a mix of AP and survivability like Diana. In the jungle I rush the 3 gp10 items, then get sorcerer's shoes, Malady, Glacial Shroud, Abyssal Scepter and if the game hasn't ended yet I get a Rylai's and turn the Glacial Shroud into a FH. That gives enough surviability and damage to be a threat while being able to survive teamfights.
Today I saw an Elise going top with CDr + Magic penetration build and a Triforce. She was the ONLY one I've saw from her release winning a game and doing well, she stomped a nooby Jayce pretty hard... so glad she was on my team
Okay, so after playing her top and having some good lanes as her, as well as some bad lanes, I decided that yes, she does indeed do well top. I don't why people say that she has bad lane presence, because I was able to bully Olaf, Riven, Garen (I lost lane though because enemy Skarner set up ganks really well), and even Vladimir in lane. She can poke down with her explosive spider and Q really nicely, then when they get to half health she can basically chunk their HP off with spider form. I have actually won a duel against Olaf. It was a full-in duel, both of us used our ignite, he used his ultimate, I used my skills, and I actually managed to win. Her single-target DPS is just through the roof when combined with Malady or Wit's End, and she can poke really well from a distance. It was definitely a worthwhile champion, or so I believe.