Lotus Exige S automatic here in 2015

An automatic version of the hardcore Lotus Exige S road racer will be offered for the first time ever, the Malaysian-owned British car maker has announced.
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Said to be completing its final stages of testing, the new six-speed automatic Lotus Exige S is set to go on sale globally from January.

Claiming to offer "the involvement of a manual paddleshift with all the convenience of an automatic", Lotus is trying hard to convince the manual faithful of the gearbox’s potential, saying it expects the auto to exceed the manual in sheer performance terms.

According to the sports car brand, the Exige S automatic will hit 100km/h from a standstill in 3.9 seconds – one-tenth quicker than the six-speed manual Exige S (pictured below) – and is as fast as the manual around Lotus' in-house 3.5km Hethel test track in England (aided in part by selectable ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ modes).

Exige S

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales said the introduction of the new self-shifting model is intended to make the 1176kg Exige S "more accessible to customers worldwide".

"Now, customers who are more accustomed to two pedals and automatic transmissions can enjoy the unbelievable performance and handling of the Exige S without compromise,” Gales said.

The paddleshifted six-speed automatic will be a cost option on both the Exige S Coupe and Exige S Roadster, with Edward Rowe from Ateco Automotive – the official distributor of Lotus Cars in Australia – telling CarAdvice the new model variants should arrive locally in the first half of 2015.

Exige S

Though a concrete launch date is yet to be finalised, Rowe said the Exige S auto's price premium over the standard manual should mirror that of the Lotus Evora range – where the two-pedal transmission adds $9000.

Rowe is confident the self-shifting gearbox will prove popular in the local market, tipping the model to “become a significant part of the Exige S volume”.

Currently priced from $126,990, in both coupe and convertible guises, the rear-wheel-drive Exige S is powered by a 257.5kW/400Nm supercharged 3.5-litre V6 and has so far sold 24 units in 2014.