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Automatic Lotus Exige S on the way

Feeling shifty: Lotus' Exige S will be available in Australia with a six-speed automatic transmission from late next year, but the British sportscar-maker says it is still a hardcore track-attacker.

Faster automatic variant knocks Lotus Exige 0-100km/h dash to under 4.0 seconds


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24 Oct 2014

LOTUS is introducing a six-speed automatic version of its feisty supercharged Exige S road-rocket, squeezing its zero to 100km/h acceleration to under 4.0 seconds, and it’s coming to Australia.

With the addition of an automatic transmission to the Exige's blown 3.5-litre V6, its already rapid 0-100km/h dash falls by 0.1 seconds to 3.9 seconds – the same as an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S.

Lotus says the transmission has been specifically tailored to its fastest Australian model to enhance the Lotus mantra, with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and switchable driving modes of either Sporty or Race.

The mid-engined two-seater can be driven in either full automatic mode or manually selecting gears with the fixed-position paddles.

Both Roadster and hard-top versions of the Exige S will be available with the new transmission and prototype vehicles are in the final stages of testing.

Lotus Australia general manager Glen Sealey told GoAuto that the introduction of the Exige S Automatic would widen the brand’s appeal, but does not mark a softening of the road-racer range, with a majority of all vehicle sales still expected to be manual variants.

“It will broaden the market appeal for the car because today there are a lot of people who haven't driven a manual car for many, many years and have no inclination to do so, but would like to use a Lotus, and that's the market the auto will open up,” he said.

“The Exige is a fairly defined market and not for the feint-hearted. We do expect to a have a reasonable take-up of Automatic but I don't think it's going to be the majority.”

Mr Sealey said, while the new automatic transmission is at the sportier end of the spectrum, Lotus' are still fundamentally a driving enthusiast's car with manual options on each model.

“It's all about how you feel when you're in it and a lot of that engagement is putting the clutch in and changing the gear at your own control,” he said.

“The true enthusiast market will stay with the car as it is and we will keep that manual option for sure.

“To be fair there's not a lot of products in the marketplace that delivers that level of performance with a traditional manual gearbox.”

It is not the first time Lotus has offered an automatic variant in its ranks. That title goes to its flagship Evora S, which gained an automatic transmission option and an IPS suffix to its name in 2012.

A launch date on Lotus' British home turf has yet to be confirmed but the first examples are expected to roll into dealerships during the latter part of next year, with Australian versions arriving about two months later.

Pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but Lotus says UK versions will have the equivalent of a $3660 premium over the manual price-tag, which would take Australian versions up to $130,650, plus on-road costs.

The current Lotus line-up offers the entry-level Elise, Exige Coupe and Roadster, and the Evora Coupe.

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