On the road in the Fabulous Exige
Although the official launch or the Exige was still a few weeks away, we’d been out on Norfolk roads in one of the Lotus development cars. Some of the detailing on the car wasn’t quite as it was to be on the finished article, but overall it was very much the real thing. Those who had already put down a deposit would not be disappointed, and anyone who’s wavering should book an early test drive, because the Exige really is something special. For starters, it looks awesome on the open road, even more extraordinary than it does in photographs, its racetrack escapee persona not lost on interested onlookers.
We took it up to Snetterton where Lotus dealer, HR Owen was hosting a customer track day, and there was a steady stream of admirers for the car. And the school kids of East Harling were also appreciative when we stopped in the Market Square.
The Exige’s cabin has strong overtones of the sport Elise racer, you’re very much aware of the hard top over your head and the sleek hunk of bodywork aft of it. You’re much more aware of the engine nestled on the chassis behind you than you are in an Elise; the fact that the engine’s on show through the rear window reinforces the feeling that the Exige is very much a separate Model.
Despite having such a direct link to the racetrack, the Exige is a civilised road car. Lotus has paid careful attention to the soundproofing to make the car comfortable on long journeys.
The Chassis set up is well executed, neatly balanced between the needs of the track and the demands of the road. Yes it’s an uncompromising sports car, but the Exige should also be easy to live with.
As for performance well, it’s sharp, hard, and thrilling, although monsoon rainfall and a cavalcade of farmyard equipment filling the lanes prevented us from stretching the Exige’s abilities very far. That will have to wait for another day.
What’s certain though, even after a brief taste, is that the Exige is going to fully satisfy the appetite of enthusiast drivers every where.
Exige - The racer that’s a road car
(same for this...)
You may well be rubbing your eyes in disbelief, but the new Lotus Exige really is a road car, despite its racecar looks. Take it on track days if you want, but the whole point of this exhilarating new machine is to bring the style and thrills of the Sport Elise to a wider audience, one that doesn’t wear a crash helmet and a Normex race suit for their weekend driving.
There has always been a strong link between Lotus race cars and road cars, But the Exige takes this relationship to its ultimate extreme – it shares large chunks of its mechanical package and bodyshell with the sport Elise racer. Slap on some race numbers, whack on some sponsors stickers and they would be very hard to tell apart, if you want a clue, look for the tax disc.
What’s truly exciting about the Exige is that it’s a full production model, not a limited edition, and it’ll be available right through the UK and European Lotus dealer network, priced at around £32,000. It’s important not to think of the Exige as an Elise coupe (tempting though that may be). It’s a race replica, plain and simple. By its very nature, the Exige is an uncompromising machine, aimed at drivers who want finely – honed handling, a responsive power plant, and the very best driver satisfaction. For that reason it won’t suit everyone, so if you’re after luxuries you’d best look elsewhere. Hard drivers will love it, though they’ll have to get used to the swarms of interested onlookers whenever they stop.
The Exige is as close as Lotus could make it to the Sport Elise within the confines of European type Approval regulations and the practical needs of road use. Essentially its body shell is the same as that of the racer, but the front/apron splitter is raised to improve the ramp – angles the race car is so low it wouldn’t make it up your driveway.
Changing the front end of the car affects the aerodynamic package and as a consequence (and to comply with European homologation regs) the rear wing design is different to that of the Sport Elise, though it still makes a bit of a statement! Just as on the racer, the aerodynamics are set up to provide a stable balance between adequate down force and low drag.
Another modification is to the panel above the engine bay, changed from a solid unit to a transparent polycarbonate moulding to improve rear visibility – race drivers may not care what’s behind them, but the rest of us do. At the same time additional cooling vents have been moulded in to the panel, as unfortunately all road cars sometimes get stuck in traffic.
The Sport Elise’s central seating position was considered, but in the end it was decided owners would want to share their Exige experience, so the road car gets twin seats, both seats feature an optional four – point race style harness, Power comes from the same 177ps derivative of the 1.8 litre K series engine found in the 340R so , the Exige won’t be short of outright performance. It shares the same broad front and rear track as the Elise, while its suspension settings are based on those of the 340R – the spring and damper settings, however are returned to account for the weight differential between the two cars. Yokohama has developed a special version of its A039 tyre for the Exige, which like the rubber fitted to the 340R is a sort of grooved slick.
Good news for Exige owners who intend to use their car for track days – not only can they pick upgrades from the Lotus accessory range, they can also choose certain items from the Lotus Motorsport parts inventory. The Exige goes on sale this summer and provides the perfect link between the Autobytel lotus Championship ( in which the Sport Elise races ) and Lotus road cars today and if Colin Chapman were alive today, he’d thoroughly approve of this latest edition to the Lotus Line up.