Auto Review

The Dead Calm Before The Lotus Exige S Thunder Storm

  • quick
  • Model spec: Lotus Exige S
  • Price: £52900
  • Engine: 3.5-L Supercharged V6
  • Max Speed: 170
  • facts
  • 0-60: 3.8 seconds
  • BHP/Torque: 345 / 400
  • Economy: 28mpg combined
  • C02: 236g/km
  • Tax: 500/year

Lotus, a relatively small company whose ideas and innovation’s compete on a global scale, it is the jewel in the crown of the automotive world. Lotus has something else to offer, its a compelling story. The beginning was first written by its founder, Graham Chapman, the middle was authored by seven F1 constructors titles and the characters ranged from Clarke, Senna to Raikkonen. Fortunately for Lotus the end has yet to be written, although on a few occasions the final chapter has very nearly been concluded. This chapter begins with us, team DCB, invited down to the Lotus private test track in Norfolk.

“The latest iteration of the Exige has increased the protein supplement intake further still and by comparison makes all the previous generations look as though they were practicing Yoga.”

The Lotus formula for its road cars is not purely devised for straightline speed, its about making the most complete car possible, lightness of construction being the key ingredient which has always been the Lotus way. The 1996 Elise rediscovered this maxim but the Exige takes things further, its seen as track focused car for the road or vice-versa. The first Exige was released in 1999 and was fed on a diet of a tuned 1.8 litre, normally aspirated engine which produced 177bhp, an intake of automotive proteins increased power to 190bhp by 2004.

The latest iteration of the Exige has increased the protein supplement intake further still and by comparison makes all the previous generations look as though they were practicing Yoga. The Exige S is not just bigger, faster, stronger its Veni, Vidi, Vici. The power increase isn’t a result of blood transfusions courtesy of Eufemiano Fuentes its the transfusion of the V6 Supercharged engine taken from the Evora S and shoehorned into the rear wheel drive, mid-engined Exige. To do this Lotus extended the Exige’s wheelbase by 70mm to accommodate the V6.

The front track is now wider by 25mm with the rear track also being widened by 38mm to accommodate suspension revisions, these small changes have had a big effect on the exterior. The Exige can very much be seen as a new car in its own right, its now gone from a portly Rocky Balboa to Rambo, its V6 Supercharged guns firing it to hell and back.

“Acceleration is savage as it is smooth, the stats say impressive, 0-62mph in 3.8seconds is supercar territory, however the Exige S isn’t purely about nailing the straights its true speed is measured via its handling.”

The very first generation Exige weighed in at around 800kg, the Exige S with its composite body and aluminum chassis weighs in at 1,100kg, not unexpected considering the new powerplant inevitably adds weight. The 3.5 litre V6 Supercharged engine produces 345bhp and 400Nm of torque, with a top speed of 160mph. Step into the cockpit and you are met with what appears to be a stripped down interior, the exposed interior architecture is well designed in its own right and holds favour to the eye. There are luxuries to be had, electric windows, cruise control, air-con, even heated seats. Four trim levels offer a bit of personalisation. Race Pack must be the defacto option to go for because it offers a 4 Mode drive system, Launch Control and optimised suspension to suit the specific Trofeo tyre compound.

Acceleration is savage as it is smooth, the stats say impressive, 0-62mph in 3.8seconds is supercar territory, however the Exige S isn’t purely about nailing the straights its true speed is measured via its handling. The new upper and lower forged wishbones, revised spring rates, Bilstein gas dampers and rear anti-roll bar enlighten the Exige S to fulfil a track honed destiny. And out on the Lotus test track is where the Exige S comes to life. The first thing you feel is the unassisted steering and its high definition feedback. At speed the steering relays an extra dimensional, twin-vision, almost ethereal sensation which enables you to feel the how car grips and loads through corners, how much braking capacity to apply before corner entry indeed so precise is the steering it literally becomes an extension of your thought process.

Then there is the handling, its razor sharp, allowing you to flick the Exige S into right to left chicanes with instantaneous responses, minimal roll, maximum traction whilst maintaining unrelenting speed. So good is the front to rear balance that you can direct the Exige S mercilessly and delicately into corners without fear of the car snapping away from you. When entering high speed corners and applying a dab of brakes most cars will pitch forward and offer discrete directional uncertainty, not so with the Exige S it grips, tracks and maintains the racing line without hesitation. And its perfectly optimised for high speed driving, the rear wing/diffuser and front end splitter combine to give aerodynamic stability at high speeds with little to no are aerodynamic lift detectable.

Much of this stability can be attributed to the Lotus DPM system (Dynamic Performance Management) a 3 mode setting that alters the engine mapping and features stability control, corner brake, electronic differential lock and even understeer recognition. The DPM system with its Touring, Sport and Race mode is the brain behind the brawn and switched off unleashes undiluted hell.

A quick blast on public roads revealed one last trick up the Exige S sleeve, it actually has a supple ride in fact its more supple and refined than the standard Elise in terms of ride quality. To describe the Exige S as a brute is really missing the point and of course the inevitable comparison’s with the Porsche GT3 will be made. Lets say the Porsche GT3 is a drill instructor where as the Exige S is like the Rolling Stones and Coldplay getting together for a no holes barred jamming session in the studio.

 Photography by Alicia Tibbs

 

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