The Lotus Exige S is one of those sports cars that is faster, braver and more courageous than the majority of its drivers and for that reason it’s a car that is hard not to love. But now it has gone a bit soft, with the introduction of the first-ever automatic version.
Lotus makes cars for pure driving enthusiasts - that’s the unique selling point the Malaysian-owned British company has been built on for the last 63 years.
Nonetheless, since Lotus’ inception in 1952 the concept of a sports car has changed dramatically. These days the pinnacle of motorsports, Formula 1, uses hybrid V6 engines with more buttons and settings on the steering wheel than ever before, while the idea of a manual transmission seems to be a long forgotten concept.
But despite being in Formula 1 (if only by name), years have gone by and Lotus has stuck with its mantra of the driver and car being as connected as possible, regardless of the compromises required.
If you’d told company founder Colin Chapman in the 1950s that one day his company would be selling a car that can shift gears by itself, he would’ve most likely laughed you out of his North London office. Alas, that is exactly what we are driving here.
From the outside the Lotus Exige is – at least through the eyes of this reviewer – a tremendously gorgeous car. It looks like it’s worth its $132,990 (add $5000 for the automatic gearbox) price tag as it turns plenty of heads with its supercar-like design, and considering it can go from 0-100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds (a tenth of a second faster than the manual), its looks are justified.
In the back sits a 3.5-litre V6 from Toyota with a supercharger bolted on, now coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, also from a Toyota. Ignoring the supercharger, the engine and gearbox are basically the same as that of a Toyota Aurion (or a Toyota Tarago people mover if you want to be more dramatic).
But, that’s all irrelevant, because with 257kW of power and 400Nm of torque, the Exige automatic weighs just 1176 kilograms (add 6kg for the auto), which means its power to weight ratio is ridiculous and unlike anything Toyota would ever dare to make.