Road test: Lotus Exige S

Lotus Exige S
The Exige name is back for good. But is it as enthralling as the old Exige?

What is it?

Well, if you look at the Lotus range, the Exige S sits between the entry-level Elise sports and the Evora GT car. But to call it a car which is pigeon-holed would do it a dis-service. This is a focussed, hard-core sports car.
What's new?

It's all new, and no longer looks just like a coupe version of the Elise. The centre section of the old Exige remains, but a new nose and rear-end have been grafted on and the car's wheelbase is 70mm longer. Out goes a four-cylinder engine and in comes a supercharged V6.

What's under the bonnet?

The engine is one of the most exciting aspects of the Exige S. It's a 3.5-litre V6 from a Toyota, of all things, and there's a supercharger grafted on for extra punch. It all adds up to 345bhp allowing the Exige S to get to 0-60mph in a time of 3.8 seconds, and onto a top speed of 170mph. Combined MPG is 28 – but you don't really care about that do you?

What's the kit like?

The Exige S is spartan. Actually, that's a bit harsh. For a Lotus, it's reasonable; there's heated leather bucket seats, air conditioning and a CD player. But even though it costs £53,850, there's little else – just vast expanses of bare metal. It does, somehow, feel special.

Any rivals?

For similar money, there's the BMW M3 and the Porsche Cayman R. The latter is the closest in terms of packaging, but the Lotus is in another league when it comes to thrilling the driver.

Lotus Exige S
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Road test: Lotus Exige S

Is it any good?

It's unbelievably good. On our road test, the Exige S made the AOL Cars UK team involuntarily shout out expletives. It's mind-bendingly fast, has astonishing grip and can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The steering is very heavy, though, and the gear-lever is alarmingly loose.

The AOL Cars verdict

This is one of the best cars of 2012. At first glance, we thought it was a bit vulgar, loud and not a traditional Lotus. But like a nasty bacterium, the Exige S grew on us quickly. The way it attacks corners with such vigour is typically Lotus-like, and it even has heated seats. To understand just how remarkable this is, think of Janet Street-Porter with small teeth – it's that unlikely.

The knowledge
Model: Lotus Exige S
Price: £53,850
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6 supercharged petrol
Power: 345bhp, 400Nm
Max speed: 170mph
0-60mph: 3.8s
MPG (comb'd): 28
Emissions: 236g/km
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