What? Another new Exige?
Yes indeed, but don’t be expecting anything too groundbreaking: this is evolution over revolution.
Essentially we’re talking 2008 model year changes here and the addition of an optional Performance Pack for the supercharged Exige S, variable-slip traction control, plus some trim and detail changes including a new key fob and, wait for it, a cup holder.
Oh, and perhaps more significantly the Elise will be on the receiving end of a supercharger too, but that’s a test for another time…
So best not to get too excited then?
Now don’t be like that. The Performance Pack brings another 20bhp to the party giving the S a 243bhp punch, which is surely not to be sniffed at. And if 0-60mph in four seconds and a 153mph top speed doesn’t do it for you, then perhaps we could politely recommend reaching for your pipe and slippers.
Oh, and that 0-60mph time shouldn’t require the throttle/clutch dancing dexterity of a pro road tester since, combined with the aforementioned variable slip traction control, is a launch control system pinched from the Lotus Exige GT3 race car and the 2-Eleven track car. Not that Lotus recommend that you employ it for every traffic light burn up, since it is a bit tough on the drivetrain.
OK, tell me a bit more about these gizmos?
Well the traction control works via a rotary knob on the steering column and can be varied in over 30 increments from an optimum seven percent tyre slip to completely off. A message display in the dash displays what degree of traction control you have dialled in.
For that perfect standing start the launch control allows you to choose your revs (within reason) and then, with foot hard down on the throttle, simply side step the clutch and off you go. A clutch damper offers some sympathy to the potentially tortured transmission and the launch control also keeps wheelspin in check until 6mph, after which the traction control assumes its duties.
So does it all work?
Certainly it does. Lotus recommend that you reserve the launch control for the race track only, and we reckon that the novelty would soon wear off once you’ve demoed it a few times to your mates.
The traction control cuts in with a rally car style barp-barp-barp, but in the dry you've got to be pretty brutal to call on its intervention. Lotus reckons that it’s great for drifting though, allowing you to reach a certain angle and hold it there.
So putting it all together then…
Well no surprises here. Lotus is pretty good at blending the dynamic variables that go into making the near-perfect sports car. Despite a track bias, the Exige is astonishingly good on the road, working with the bumps and undulations and never against them.
The way that the Exige keeps itself flat under braking and cornering means that weight transfer is always kept in check, which is useful because there’s actually more weight at the back than you might imagine with the engine sitting tall and directly over the rear wheels (that’s how the Lotus test drivers achieve all those wild smoky sliding shots). In short it’s this stunning body control that makes the Exige so devastatingly effective.
Oh, and the engine of course. Despite the assistance of the supercharger it still needs to be worked pretty hard and that full on 243bhp only arrives at a screeching 8000rpm. And I might be in a minority here, but the aural delights of the supercharger would, I think, drive me round the bend.
And what about this key fob and cup holder?
Lotus are very proud of the new key fob, which combines the functions of the alarm and immobiliser and adds a quality 'mainstream' touch.
And most Exige owners these days spec a few creature comforts like air-con and leather so perhaps that cup holder is no surprise, sliding from the centre of the dashboard. Crafted from aluminium (naturally) with a leather strap to support your large latte, it looks like some sort of S&M jock strap.
The Exige is still the most focussed, fully-clothed sports car on the market. Consistent fettling has knocked off a few of the rough edges, and owners of the original Exige S1 would probably view it as positively soft, but rest assured, this is still hardcore.