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Car reviews - Lotus - Exige - S coupe

The Car

12 Oct 2007

LOTUS has launched its fastest accelerating sports car ever: the 1.8-litre supercharged Exige S.

Blatantly designed for enthusiasts, the blisteringly quick Lotus pitches Lotus smack into Porsche and Ferrari territory for acceleration and will seriously challenge these supercars in the handling stakes.

For the record, the Exige S will hit 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, 160km/h in 11.1 seconds and has a top speed of 238km/h.

Described by Lotus Cars Australia sales and marketing manager Jon Stretton as the "ultimate extreme production Lotus with performance that trumps supercars costing twice or even three times as much", the S uses a Toyota-sourced 1.8-litre four-cylinder mated to an air-to-air Roots supercharger.

Based on the sleek, almost sculptural Exige, Lotus claims the S is a race-derived road car designed for true enthusiasts.

At its heart is the Euro IV-compliant mid-mounted, transverse supercharged 1.8-litre 16-valve four-cylinder with variable valve timing and twin front-mounted oil-coolers.

The engine develops 162.5kW – somewhat cheekily Lotus makes a point of the 0.5kW – at 7800rpm and 215Nm at 5500rpm.

Given the power output, Lotus claims it is one of the most powerful production cars in the world for its size with a power-to-weight ratio of 173.8kW/tonne and a specific power output of 90.5kW per litre.

Lotus says 80 per cent of the engine’s torque is produced at just over 2000rpm, while maximum engine speed is 8000rpm.

The Roots supercharger is driven from the crankshaft and has a sealed-for-life internal mechanism that does not require use of the engine’s oil.

A roof-mounted air intake and centre roof scoop has been added to the car to ensure the air-to-air intercooler works efficiently.

Visually the Exige S borrows cues from the Elise but gains a more aggressive colour-coded front spoiler, rear canopy and a rear wing that generates 50kg of downforce at the front and 70kg at the rear at 210km/h.

The car’s suspension has been fine-tuned to provide the Exige S with more focused handling characteristics and the pedals have been revised for easier heel-toe manoeuvres.

The suspension is complemented by Yokohama Advan street-legal competition tyres, 195/50 R16s at the front and 225/45 R17s at the rear.

To help differentiate the Exige, Lotus designers developed a new lightweight dashboard for the S to allow the integration of a passenger airbag, which pairs with a driver’s airbag mounted in the new leather-bound Momo steering wheel.

Apart from the dual airbags, standard kit also runs to push-button start, central locking, air-conditioning, ABS, cloth-trimmed ProBax racing seats designed to reduce fatigue, a light-weight aluminium foot-well divider and passenger footrest, a four-speaker Alpine AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, a remote immobiliser and alarm as well as Lotus design Y-Type eight-spoke alloys with Yokohama Advan A048 competition tyres.

The Exige S costs $114,990 with a range of option packs to enhance its on-road or circuit capabilities.

Buyers looking for more in the way of handling can option the $7000 Super Sports Pack which adds adjustable Bilstein dampers, adjustable front anti-roll bar with five different settings and forged ultra-light black alloys that are 9.4kg lighter than the standard wheels.

The adjustable anti-roll bar is 30 per cent stiffer than the standard bar. Two other option packs are also offered – the $8000 Touring Plus Pack and $6000 Sports Pack.

The Touring Plus Pack adds dual front airbags, leather/suede effect seats, driving lights, electric windows, stowage net, carpets and floor mats, leather handbrake and shift knob and a cupholder.

The Sports Pack offers switchable traction control, roll-over hoop, sports seats in black microfibre and leather, carbon-effect door inserts, and leather door panels.

Mr Stretton said the Exige S was unashamedly a track-inspired car but could also be driven on normal roads.

He said the company was hoping to wrest some sales from other high-end European brands, from buyers looking for a more focused sports car.

"The Exige S is not just a track warrior. It is also a sportscar that is as much at home on twisting country roads as it is in the city," he said.

"The torque of the supercharged engine and the classic Lotus suspension set-up of soft compliant springs and firm controllable dampers makes the Exige S an exhilarating drive."

Significantly, Mr Stretton said the Exige S offered high-end performance with similar fuel economy to a small hatch.

The car will deliver 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle and 7.2L/100km on the highway cycle, largely due to the impressively strong epoxy-bonded aluminium chassis with a lightweight glass-fibre composite body, which allows the car to tip the scales at a feather-weight 935kg.

The Exige S’s weight distribution is 38/62 front/rear with a fuel tank capacity of 43.5 litres.

The high-performance newcomer will form a strong basis for the rapid expansion of the Lotus brand in Australia, which in October will see the arrival of the luxury two-seater Europa S, which will be unveiled at the Sydney motor show with a pricetag around the $140,000 mark.

The company is aiming to sell about 30 Exige S models over the next 12 months and is planning more aggressive marketing for the brand and keener price points.

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Did you know?

Exige S colours include black, shades of silver, shades of blue, Aspen White, non-metallic British Racing Green, Chilli Red, metallic Solar Yellow and Autumn Gold

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