Lotus Exige S gets automatic gearbox

Lotus Exige S

Lotus has launched a new automatic gearbox option for its Exige S sports car, aimed at broadening the appeal of its most hardcore model.

An automatic gearbox may seem at odds with Lotus' stripped-out, driver-focussed ethos, but the new unit - which is a traditional torque-converter item sourced from Toyota and also used in larger Lotus Evora – is claimed to make the Exige S both quicker and more frugal.

Claimed performance figures for the new model include a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds (0.1 seconds faster than the manual). The Norfolk-based carmaker claims the automatic exige is also marginally faster around its test track at Hethel, despite no changes being made to the car's 346bhp 3.5-litre supercharged V6.

CO2 emissions have dropped by 13g/km to 222g/km, while fuel economy is now a combined 29.4mpg – an improvement of 1.4mpg over the manual model.

Despite its humdrum origins, Lotus claims the gearbox has been specifically tuned for use in the Exige. It boasts two operating modes: Sport and Race, which alters the speed and responsiveness of gear changes. In its fastest setting, the Exige S can swap cogs in a scant 240 milliseconds.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus, said: "Expanding the Exige range, with a new automatic gearbox, opens up a new market for those who prefer using a paddle shift with the alternative of an automatic gearshift. We expect that the Exige S Automatic will account for over a third of the total global sales for the Exige S range as many drivers will appreciate the involvement of a manual paddle-shift and the convenience of an automatic."

Order books for the Lotus Exige S are open now, with the new model commanding a £2,000 premium over its manual counterpart, at £56,500.

Lotus Exige S automatic

Lotus Exige S automatic