It’s the age old formula for a sporty, nimble car – lots of power and little weight. Lotus has taken that train of thought to the extreme with the new Lotus Exige S, by fitting the 258kW 3.5-litre supercharged V6 from the Evora S into the lighter, more focussed Exige. The end result is the Lotus Exige S.
Wider, longer, heavier and more aggressive than any Exige in the past, the Exige S is now the only Exige you can buy. Supported by a new rear subframe, the Toyota sourced V6 sits transversely mounted, which extends the wheelbase by some 70mm and adds 145kg extra weight.
There would be no point having extra power if the new engine added excess weight and affected performance. Thankfully, using a mix of Evora and Exige bespoke suspension components, engineers have retained the razor sharp handling characteristics and taut body control we have grown to love of the Exige.
The added torque and flexibility of the V6 makes the Exige S even more usable on the open road. The highest power-to-weight ratio ever seen in an Exige – 220kW per tonne – makes it a weapon on the road and on the track with a 0-100km/h time of just four seconds, going on to a top speed of 274km/h. The menacing exhaust and sonorous engine note echo blissfully throughout the cabin.
Under the hood, the 3.5-litre V6 takes advantage of an Australian supercharger, produced by Harrop. A rigid ride, heavy unassisted steering and road noise are arguably all character traits of any Lotus, but the less frantic nature of the V6 gives the Exige a new character.
Opt for the $3,500 Race Pack and the Exige S instantly becomes even more focussed. Slick high-performance Pirelli Trofeo tyres and Lotus’ Performance Management system co-developed with Bosch are offered as part of the Race Pack. Lotus’ Performance Management system allows the driver to program three levels of traction control intervention depending on ability and road conditions.
A race setting furthers the rev range by increasing maximum rpm, along with opening the exhaust valves to make the engine sound even louder. The snappy action of the six-speed manual gearbox and the natural unassisted steering feedback remain – much to the joy of Lotus tragics.
Also remaining is the bare aluminium interior, simple controls and well executed cabin. Ladies be warned – getting in and out of the Exige S in a dress could be compromising.
A homologation issue earlier on in the piece raised doubts about whether the Exige S would make it to Australia. Luckily, the issues have been resolved, but production is limited and so are the numbers of cars coming to Australia due to worldwide demand.
Lotus Australia Public Relations Manager Edward Rowe said that Lotus Australia and New Zealand are sitting on around 100 orders and hoping to clear the backlog by early next year, with only six examples of the Exige S making it to Australia this year. A Roadster version of the Exige S debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in March and is expected to be launched in Australia by early 2013.
Priced from $120,000, the Exige S certainly isn’t the cheapest sports car in Australia. But, it is undoubtedly the most engaging and exhilarating to drive and half the price of some equally impressive German sports cars.