Lotus Exige Review

Minimalism is the operative word behind the Lotus Exige, a dedicated sports car that will appeal to extreme enthusiasts (and probably few others). The edgy Exige is compact and built purely for ultra-high-performance driving.

2007 Lotus Exige S Coupe

Unlike other supercars, the Lotus Exige isn't powered by a massive fire-breathing V8, V10 or V12. A high-revving four-cylinder engine is all that's needed to provide extraordinary performance. This is because of the vehicle's lightweight construction. There are few amenities and little sound dampening. Weight-adding safety features are kept to the absolute minimum. As a result, the Exige makes little sense as a daily driver. But as a performance car where Lotus' mantra of "simplificate, then add lightness" is in full effect, the Exige is simply one of the quickest, most dynamic and exciting cars on the road.

Current Lotus Exige

The Lotus Exige and supercharged Exige S are hardtop coupe versions of the company's Elise roadster. When the Exige first arrived in America, it was a pleasant surprise. Britain has a long history of building small, lightweight enthusiast sports cars, but for the last quarter-century very few of them had crossed the Atlantic. The Exige, like many of those Brit performance cars, is uncompromising to such a degree that it doesn't feel legal, even by exotic car standards.

Underneath the dramatic body shell is a car built for no other purpose than to be driven hard and fast. The rear-wheel-drive sports coupe is lightweight and loud. It seats only two. Even the standard air-conditioning system can be deleted to reduce weight.

In fact with the Lotus Exige, it's all about minimizing weight. The body structure is made of aluminum. The trunk is small and there's not much additional storage space. Standard features don't include power controls. And safety features are limited to the absolute minimum, so there are no side airbags or stability control and traction control is optional. Power steering? Forget about it.

Only by purchasing the Touring Pack can you get power windows, full carpeting, sound-deadening material and a decent stereo. For the more hardcore, there is the Sport Pack, which is equipped with Eibach coaxial coil springs, Bilstein monotube dampers, forged aluminum wheels and sticky Yokohama Advan tires.

But the Sport Pack still isn't even the most extreme option. Hardcore weekend racers will definitely want to look at the Exige Track Pack, which includes a fully adjustable suspension system (for those who are mechanically inclined), a limited-slip differential and 16-inch wheels and tires up front.

The Exige is equipped with a Toyota-built, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Placed behind the driver for optimum weight distribution (and maximum cabin volume), the engine puts out 190 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. The Exige S adds a Roots-type supercharger supplying 7.25 psi of boost, which results in ratings of 220 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. Both models have a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. Zero-to-60 mph acceleration for both cars happens in fewer than 5 seconds.

In our reviews, we found the Lotus Exige to be the most precise-handling car on the market. It's like a hummingbird on four wheels. It's more of a quick car than a crazy fast car. Since it was designed with the road course in mind, stopping and steering are just as important as acceleration. And while it was built to do everything well, it wasn't built for everyone in mind. The ride is harsh, getting in and out is difficult and outward visibility is extremely poor. But for die-hard enthusiasts, there might not be a more satisfying drive.

Past Lotus Exige models

The Exige arrived in the North American market for 2006. In that first year, only the regular model was available -- the Exige S debuted a year later. An earlier Exige (based on the first-generation Elise) was also built but it was never officially imported.


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