2008 Lotus Exige S Review
“Bell & Ross make precision watches for professionals operating in extreme conditions. Similarly, the Lotus Exige S Performance Pack, is a precision instrument capable of extreme speeds across any paved terrain”
Model tested: 2008 Lotus Exige S Performance Pack – $125,990 (RRP)
Note: 2008 Exige S with no Upgrade Option Packs: $114,990
Supercar looks, Supercar performance and Japanese reliability for a bargain price
The Upgrade Option Packs are still too expensive. The standard Exige S at $114,990 is the better buy
– words & photography. Anthony Crawford
If you’re punting along in your Euro-express and suddenly notice an Exige S in the rear vision (and I guarantee you will recognise this car) best you move across a lane.
But when you hit anything that remotely resembles a bend in the road, you should pull over and let the Lotus do its thing. Whatever you do, don’t under any circumstances, try and go with it. You’ll lose or worse still, come a cropper.
If you stand back and fully appreciate what Lotus have achieved with the Exige S, you’ll be hard pressed finding any fault. This is truly, the performance ‘bang for buck’ king.
Even in standard guise, this is a seriously rapid car. By standard guise, I mean the 1.8-litre, supercharged, Toyota engine, putting out an unremarkable 163kW of power and 215Nm of torque.
Doesn’t sound like that much, I can hear you all muttering. Wrong! Power, and power alone, is not what Lotus is about. Power-to-weight, is infinitely more important and Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, wrote the book on that.
Although heavier than the Elise at 935 kg, the Exige S can shred the 0-100 km/h dash, in 4.3 seconds. Just for the record, the power-to-weight ratio, is an astonishing 174kW per tonne.
But this isn’t the standard Exige S we have parked in the CarAdvice garage, no sir, this version is from the dark side. Something even more sinister. Say hello to the Exige S Performance Pack.
I’d rather Lotus called it by its proper name, the “Exige S Sport 240, the badge applied to the limited edition cars, which Lotus Australia previously prepared.
I’m not sure the Exige S needed to be any quicker, but I for one, am not complaining.
I’ve haven’t driven the standard Exige S, so I won’t be able to compare the two, in this test. But I have driven the Elise S, and although both cars are essentially from the same family, this is a massive step up. Power skyrockets from 100kW to 179kW and torque rises from 172Nm to 230Nm.
Even when comparing the Exige S Performance Pack with the standard Exige S (162kW and 215Nm) that seemingly small increase in output, must be considered substantial, given the car’s anorexic 935kg weight.
That extra mumbo is enough to shave another 0.2 seconds off the 0-100km/h sprint time, bringing it down to 4.13 seconds. Then there’s the real ‘bling’ number, 0-160km/h in 9.9 seconds!
Let me add some perspective to that. Faster than a Porsche Carrera S, Audi R8, Mercedes AMG C63 and that’s on a straight stretch of road, but come upon a few nicely cambered bends, and the German lads won’t know what hit them.
This is a car that has no problems mixing it up with a Yamaha R1, even in the hands of an experienced pilot. At least for the first few seconds from a standing start, where the bike has difficulty putting the power down, and on the twisty bits, it’s the Lotus that’s takes care of business.
You will need to ring its neck up to 8000rpm to exploit peak power and there’s also plenty of torque available through the first four gears. Fifth and sixth are more over-drive ratios in my book although, they still pull.
What makes the Exige S PP so damn quick in a straight line, is the slippery close ratio gearbox. So closely spaced are the shifts that it feels more like a proper sequential racing box, but without the need for anything more than a gentle tap up or down.
I know the reasoning behind some sports cars switching to the turbocharger camp, but when you hear that sweet whine of the Magnuson/Eaton M62 supercharger as it starts spinning from the word go, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Clutch pressure is slightly heavier than the Elise and it needs to be as this thing has launch control. Dial up the revs via a knob on the steering column, floor the throttle and dump the clutch and you’re gone!
There’s minimal wheel spin up to 10km/h and then traction control takes over the management rights. This is definitely not your average, annoyingly intrusive, traction control found aboard lesser cars. Even when selecting the maximum seven percent tyre slip at full throttle through some tight curves, intervention from the Lotus developed system, was barely perceptible.
Funny thing is though; the pedal set-up on the Exige was nowhere near as ‘heel and toe’ friendly as with baby brother, which was disappointing.
But again it’s partially the Lotus’s steering, which allows you to blast through bends at speeds that are downright immoral. It’s very heavy and very direct, so you will need quick hands to get the best out of this car.
Grip levels will leave you speechless, over and over again. It’s not that they are any better than the Elise, but its the mind blowing speed that the Exige S can carry through a tight corner, which will warp your senses and put the biggest smile on your face.
That’s not surprising, given the 42kg of proper balanced downforce created by the car’s aerodynamic package at 160km/h.
We can thank Colin Chapman again for inventing “ground effect” which meant that his Type 72 F1 car at the time could produce downforce without altering drag and was literally being pushed onto the surface with considerable force.
I’m not saying that the Exige S is oversteer proof, which would be nonsense. It’s just that you won’t be able go anywhere near that point, unless you are seriously loading up the right pedal, out of a corner, on a racetrack. Next time!
Like all the important bits on the Exige S PP, the brakes have been upgraded, more for the benefit of track work than real world commuting. That’s 308mm front discs with AP Racing four-piston calipers and uprated front and rear pads, while rear calipers are by Brembo.
There’s absolutely no mistaking the Exige S PP for anything other than a deadly, road going, projectile. If the Isotope Green doesn’t say it, then the rear wing and that serious looking three-piece diffuser, should make it obvious.
Whilst you’ll need to pass the same entry/exit requirements as you would for the Elise, that’s essentially a flat tummy and not a millimetre over 183cm, the Exige S even with the Performance Pack mods, is not a difficult car to drive.
Although the suspension ratings seem a little stiffer than the Elise S, ride compliance is very good and never uncomfortable. What is a bit of a pain at times, is managing the deep front splitter over troublesome driveways. That’s something you don’t need to worry about with the Elise.
Crawling in and out of the car is a breeze, after about a week of practice. There’s also a half decent boot behind the mid-mounted engine that will swallow a fair size soft bag or your weekly shopping. The Exige is also small enough to park anywhere – just don’t expect to see anything but the rear wing, in your rear vision – Park Assist would be nice chaps.
And then there is life’s little luxuries; electric windows, air-conditioning, twin airbags, central locking with remote and a four-speaker Alpine CD-RW audio system.
But tick the ‘Touring Pack’ and you’ll see full leather interior, Lotus embroidered carpet mats, front driving lights, noise insulation, leather handbrake gaiter and door inserts. And for those rare moments when you are motionless or in a peak hour crawl, an integrated iPod connection with an uprated Alpine head audio system.
It’s not quite as green as the eco-friendly Elise S, but with performance criteria at supercar levels, the Exige S PP’s published consumption of 9.1L/100km with a CO2 footprint of 216g/km, is an engineering triumph.
“Ten minutes behind the wheel of an Exige S on a quiet, winding road and you are ruined. Whatever you drive, from that moment on, will always be benchmarked against the Lotus”
Lotus Exige S PP Specifications
• Engine: Toyota built 1.8-litre Mid-mounted , transverse with VVTL-I and Lotus T4e engine management system.
• Induction: Supercharged
• Power: 179kW @ 8000rpm
• Torque: 230Nm @ 5500rpm but 80% from 2000rpm
• Transmission: Six-speed, close ratio with constant mesh helical gears
• Brakes: 308mm front discs with AP Racing four-piston calipers servo assisted with 4-channel ABS
• Driven Wheels: Rear
• Top Speed: 240km/h
• 0-100km/h: 4.16 seconds
• 0-160km/h: 9.9 seconds
• Fuel Type: 95-98RON
• Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres
• Fuel Consumption: 9.1L/100km combined(claimed)
• Safety: Driver and passenger airbags, ABS, traction control:
• Weight: 935kg – without options
• Front Wheels: 195/50R16
• Rear Wheels: 225/45R17
• Tyres: Yokohama Advan Neova Ao48 LTS Ultra Performance Street legal competition