Lotus Exige Roadster S Review
- Credit: Archant
Ade Holder takes the new Lotus Exige Roadster S for a spin and falls in love with British motoring all over again.
Having grown up with a father who was a mechanic through the transition of the 60’s and 70’s I will always love British motoring heritage. Clearly we made great cars before that, and really ruled the roost in the pre war days, but as the 70’s aged so did our cars. Once some of the classics started to decay we failed to replace them, our manufacturing output and quality failed, and in a general sense we stopped being an automotive superpower. Even our British marques as they are now are mainly owned by foreign companies and often made elsewhere, as a fact in itself, this is not an issue but it does take some of the shine of it all a little. All that said, we still build some great cars, we have Aston Martin and Jaguar, we have Noble, TVR, Morgan and of course, we have Lotus!
As a child I remember being given a brochure from Frosts Lotus in Sussex. It was a dull read for most people filled with trim and paint information on the Lotus Esprit and Excel but I loved it and I carried it around for months. Lotus have always been the British Ferrari in my 10 year old mind. Of course they suffered the odd reliability issue over the years but so have all sport marques, and especially all Italian marques (Alfa Romeo owners will testify to that!). The Esprit has always been an iconic car throughout the different incarnations but it was the arrival of the Elise that brought Lotus into the modern age of motoring. Small engined, fast, great looking and legendary handling. From then on Lotus brought us more cars along these lines, not least of which is the savage Exige.
The Exige S is a small car, it is not a hulking supercar that won’t go round a corner or over the many slumbering constabulary you find on our lovely roads. So, when you think that the egg heads at lotus shoe horned in a 345 bhp, 3.5 litre Supercharged V6 you wont be surprised it will happily sprint to 60 mph in a mere 3.8 seconds!
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Be under no illusion, the roadster is a serious car, it is a slightly muted version of the focused track specific hardtop version but you would not think so when you floor it! The power delivery is brutal, loud and extremely rewarding. There is just never enough road to enjoy the endless power, once the initial torque passes the baton to the 345 raging horses you would be fooled into thinking it would simply never end. The fully manual gear box is a joy, short, precise and swift though could perhaps be a touch faster when you are really pushing it. I love having a real clutch and a real gear stick, I’m sure many Porsche and Mercedes drivers would disagree but lets remember, this is a Lotus!
The power delivery and sheer pace is undeniable, and useless you have a chassis that won’t let you go round a corner. Thankfully there are no such concerns here, the Exige is poised, razor sharp and ready to turn in at the drop of a hat. The steering is heavy, mainly due to the tiny steering wheel but that just makes the handling even more positive. I did think I felt a tiny touch of understeer on a really heavy turn in but it was very polite and nothing a bit more throttle would not sure.
As with all press cars they do tend to arrive with every single bell, whistle and trombone the manufacturer can stick on so I tend to feel only partially qualified when commenting on the interior. However, the option list is not endless and the choices correctly minimal. The quilt style leather seats were a surprise and a welcome one, for a racer the Roadster is a very nice place to be. Get the roof off and you find yourself feeling like you are in a tourer, then you stamp on the go pedal and you soon remember where you are and smile even more. As with all my road tests I popped to the supermarket to pick up some essentials and see if it was possible. Parking is perfectly achievable, if a little heavy on the arms. Storage space, believe it or not, is ample for a shopping bag or two but getting out did prove to be a bit of an issue for my female passenger...need I say more.
Price – from £52,900
0-60 mph – 3.8 seconds
Speed – 170 mph
Power – 345 bhp
There is absolutely no doubt, I love this car. There is also no doubt at all this is a full bore race bred car, but the roadster element and warm interior options does make it a pleasure to use off the track as well as on. It is quick, and I do mean quick, I would never suggest anyone doesn’t buy a car I love but if you think this is an Italian looking MX5 you are in for the shock of your life. But if you really want a stunning looking, adrenaline pumping and sure footed sports car then I genuinely suggest you look no further!