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Frankfurt show: Lotus lobs V6-powered Exige S

Lotus be friends: The British sportscar specialist claims the new Exige S is one of the quickest road cars it has made, thanks to a supercharged 3.5-litre V6 engine borrowed from its Evora S big brother.

Bigger, heavier but quicker Exige S packs Evora S engine to crack 100km/h in 3.8s

Lotus logo14 Sep 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

AS PROMISED, British sportscar brand Lotus whipped the covers off two surprise show cars at Frankfurt yesterday, a thoroughly overhauled Exige S – with the brand’s Toyota-derived supercharged 3.5-litre V6 replacing the force-fed four-cylinder – and a similarly-engined Exige R-GT rally car.

The two new cars joined the race-inspired 327kW Evora GTE unveiled at last month’s Pebble Beach event, supercharged Elise S with more efficient and torquier new 1.8-litre engine, and the debut of automatic transmission variants of the entry-level Elise and Evora S flagship.

As GoAuto reported on September 1 when Lotus made its Frankfurt announcement, recently-appointed Australia and New Zealand Lotus importer Ateco Automotive plans to bring the automatic Elise and Evora plus the Elise S Down Under in mid-2012.

Public relations manager for Lotus Cars in Australia Edward Rowe said Ateco is “very keen” to import the Evora GTE and Exige S, but a launch date cannot be set until the cars can meet Australian Design Rule (ADR) requirements.

“There are a number of homologation issues that need to be resolved before a date is able to set for an Australian launch of these two exciting new models,” he said.

“We are working with Lotus to ensure that this work is done as quickly as possible.”

57 center imageFrom top: Exige S, Exige R-GT, Evora GTE, Elise S.

Billed as one of the quickest road cars Lotus has ever built, the Exige S has a target kerb weight of 1080kg, but shares its blown 258kW/400Nm engine and six-speed manual transmission with the larger and 357kg heavier Evora S.

The resultant power-to-weight ratio returns supercar-level statistics such as 0-100km/h being dispatched in 3.8 seconds (0.9s faster than before), 0-160km/h completed in 7.8 seconds (compared with 11.5s) and a top speed raised 36km/h to 274km/h.

Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said of the Exige S: “Anyone who has ever driven an Exige will tell you that it’s not for the faint-hearted. The new Exige S skips a few rungs on the ladder to give the driver the ultimate Lotus experience. Quite simply, you can’t get more Lotus than the Exige S.”

The restyled and re-engineered Exige S is 145kg heavier than before, has been stretched 267mm in length – incorporating a 70mm longer wheelbase – and gains 75mm in width to accommodate the larger powertrain.

The new car is still recognisable as an Exige, but with a sleeker side profile and with the familiar four-lens front lights replaced by Elise-style integrated units.

A tidier grille with larger air intakes is underlined by a prominent splitter, while at the back more aerodynamics are on show, with an aggressive rear fascia that loses the scalloped appearance of the outgoing model but gains a large spoiler and diffuser.

Lotus promises a new look for the cockpit, plus two new interior package options named Premium and Premium Sport. The former option “provides added comfort and style”, while the latter “focuses on creating an internal space optimised for ultimate driver involvement”.

According to British magazine Autocar Lotus took the decision to redevelop the Exige to fit a larger engine after the old four-cylinder had to be withdrawn on emissions grounds from some markets – including the Proton-owned, Norfolk-based brand’s native UK – but no official fuel consumption or CO2 figures for the new engine are yet available.

The Exige R-GT rally weapon was developed in parallel with the road car and will do battle on bitumen in the new FIA GT category of the FIA Rally Championship at Monte Carlo, Tour de Corse and San Remo.

On the stand beside the R-GT – painted in the traditional white, blue and red colours of the old French Talbot company – was an original championship-winning Talbot Lotus Sunbeam from 1981.

Group Lotus director of motorsport Claudio Berro – who took part in the 1981 Italian rally championship in a Sunbeam, winning an event in San Marino – said he felt nostalgic seeing the brand return to rallying and had high hopes for the future.

“As we unveiled the car in Frankfurt, alongside the original championship-winning car, I had the chance to get back inside and the smell was exactly the same – it brought back many happy memories for me,” he said.

“With the new R-GT rules in rally, it’s a very interesting time for us to return to the sport.

“Naturally our approach this time around will be different to when we won the championship three decades ago, but I think our philosophy is definitely the same we want to compete and ultimately we want to win.”

A new flagship for Lotus, the Evora GTE, was originally conceived as a special edition for the Asian market, but response – 114 orders taken – was such that Lotus decided to increase production and offer the car internationally.

With liberal use of carbon-fibre, the GTE weighs 105kg less than the entry-level Evora and with power from its race-fettled engine upped to 327kW – an increase of 69kW over the Evora S – it becomes the most powerful Lotus road car yet produced.

So far this year, 25 Lotus cars have been sold in Australia, a 37 per cent decrease on last year, although Ateco’s stewardship appears to be taking effect as August was 2011’s best month for the brand with six sales made.

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