Looking very good for Lotus with first impressions

The new Lotus Exige S.
The new Lotus Exige S.

WE’LL need to wait until we get a full UK road test to give a definitive verdict on the new Lotus Exige S, but first impressions certainly look promising.

While it might be a pity that this fabulous performance car has stepped upmarket quite significantly, it’s broadly in line with the longer terms plans of Lotus, the company realising that margins at the budget end of the market were just too tight to be viable in the long term.

It’s possible that a more affordable model will infill the Exige range beneath this supercharged S version but there’s just something ever so slightly unhinged about 345bhp in a car that weighs just a smidge over a ton.

Performance from the 3.5-litre V6 is suitably ludicrous, with the Exige smashing its way from standstill to sixty in less than four seconds. It’ll make 100mph in around eight seconds, or only about a second shy of a Ferrari 458 Italia.

A three-stage DPM (Dynamic Performance Management) system is standard, with both Touring and Sport settings in addition to full deactivation. An optional ‘Race’ pack adds a fourth mode, the imaginatively-titled Race, which features a launch control system so you’ll be able to replicate the acceleration figures of Autocar’s team of lead-foots.

Value? That’s a tough one. If you’re of the impression that an Exige is merely a breathed upon Elise with a roof, the £50,000+ asking price might give you a bit of a thrombo.

The alternative is to view this as a car that’s every bit as capable on a circuit (and sometimes more so) than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, a car that carried a price tag comfortably north of £100,000 in its last incarnation.

Whether you put more store in what it is or what it does very much determines the Exige’s perceived value.

Equipment levels don’t correspond to the usual. Instead of talking about infotainment systems and alloy wheel designs, it’s probably more pertinent to mention the Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres, the DPM traction control system and the sophisticated aerodynamics.

Quality appears much improved, as it needs to be to go some way to justifying that price. Despite a hard core of fanatical followers, Lotus needs to spread its wings a little.

The Exige S may not be the car that achieves that aim, but it’s one hell of a demonstration of the company’s technical excellence.

Andy Enright