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The Lotus Exige's unique blend of intense mechanical performance and uncompromising spirit will amply reward those willing to put in the requisite effort and dedication.

16 Jul 2020


After two hours of driving the Lotus Exige, I exit the car clumsily, and I'm sweating a little. 

When people talk about Lotus cars, certain buzzwords always seem to come up - raw, purist, direct, extreme, hardcore - you get the idea. And certainly, Lotus cars are those things. But, the more cynical among us may hear something rather different - compromise, lacking, barebones impractical - you get the idea.

But there's no denying one thing - this Lotus Exige is deeply mechanical. And, quite a lot of work. 

Working hard

Without power steering, wrangling the car around low speed corners is a real workout 
The Exige doesn't have power steering. Negotiating a multi-storey carpark is a borderline torturous experience - having to gingerly negotiate ramps (the car sits so low to the ground) while forcefully wrangling the Momo wheel to get around 90-degree corners is just no fun.

However, there is an upside. Once you gather some speed on the open road, the steering is incredibly sharp, direct and responsive. The car handles delightfully - precise, agile and with ample grip. The ride, while firm and sporty, is shockingly pliant and composed. The engineers have tuned the suspension so well that riding over potholes and imperfect roads is even more comfortable than in an M or AMG car in their respective hard settings. 

The Exige handles with instinctive precision and razor sharp agility 
Lotus has made its name on 'lightness', and at just 1.1 tonnes, the Exige is pretty svelte. And with 345bhp and 400Nm of torque from the supercharged V6 engine, the Exige is blisteringly quick. Full bore acceleration in first and second gear is savage and intense. The engine also delivers ample torque in any gear, so you don't have to furiously downshift just to extract more power.

The mechanical nature of this car also comes through in its three-pedal configuration (yes, a manual gearbox in 2020!). The six-speed manual transmission is slick, sensibly ratio-ed, and just immensely fun to work if for no other reason than the visual excitement of seeing the mechanical bits click back and forth. Do expect a workout for your left foot, though. The clutch itself is well-modulated and smooth to engage, but the clutch pedal is heavy, so some effort is clearly needed.

The exposed shifter linkage highlights the car's raw and mechanical focus
This notion of effort comes to define the driving experience. The more effort you put in, the more rewarding the car becomes. Driven hard, with aggressive, forceful gearshifts and generous throttle application, the Exige really comes alive, revelling in its track-focused nature.

The intense, visceral and mechanically involving driving experience also helps you to overlook or forget some of the Exige's compromises - namely, that it doesn't have quite a lot of things. 

The pursuit of lightness

The only adjustment you can make is moving the driver's seat forwards and backwards
It doesn't have much space. The boot, at just 112 litres, is frankly abysmal. If you're thinking of heading for a track day, it'll fit one helmet and one backpack, so I hope you're not thinking of taking a passenger along. In the cabin, you won't find much storage, either. There is neither a glovebox nor storage spaces in either door, and all you get are tiny shelves that'll fit maybe one wallet and one water bottle.

And, if you do want to take a passenger along, I hope that you two are very comfortable with each other - your elbows are going to be touching throughout the trip. 

Sport mode further sharpens the throttle response and intensifies the overall experience
Getting into the car is difficult. The door opening is small, and there's a high ledge that you have to scale to get into the cabin. Getting out is even worse. Unless you belong to Cirque Du Soleil, exiting the Exige is an ungainly and unbecoming sight - flailing limbs and faint groans as the car births you into the world.  

It doesn't have much visibility. The manually adjusted (as in literally by opening the windows and moving them with your hand) side mirrors are small, and you do tend to see a lot of the bulging rear wheel arches in them. And rear view mirror? You're better off just ditching it entirely, because I reckon your visibility is 70% obstructed by the supercharger and the slats on the rear windscreen. 

The fantastically modulated brakes help you immediately shed speed
It doesn't have many amenities. There's a 1-DIN aftermarket audio player with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and one additional USB port tucked away at the passenger side door. You also get a three-speed air-con and electric windows. That's about it.   

Overall build quality is also, well, pretty much what you'd expect for a car often jokingly described as being built by a man in a shed. There are gaps in the bodywork, exposed wiring under the dashboard, and imperfect seals around the windows.

You reap what you sow

The Exige delivers a unique experience you can't find anywhere else in the market right now
So, why would anyone buy a car like this? Well, it's precisely because of these compromises. You don't buy a Lotus because it's a daily driver packed with creature comforts (you'd buy a Cayman). You buy a Lotus precisely because it is so hardcore and raw and uncompromising and all of that. That's the experience, after all. It's as much about what it has than what it doesn't. 

And, the Exige has a particular personality about it that is undeniably endearing. Driving this Exige demands a certain amount of dedication and effort. It isn't always easy, it isn't always practical, but put in the effort and it certainly is rewarding. 

The Lotus Exige will amply reward drivers dedicated to putting in the requisite effort 
People who focus solely on what the Exige doesn't have are missing the point. These people will never buy a Lotus, and the company knows it. This car, or all Lotuses in fact, is made for a small, dedicated group of mechanical purists. If you care about such things, this Exige is sure to delight. It's deeply rewarding, provided you're willing to put in the work. 

And truth be told, there's nothing in the market like this right now. It's a distinctively unique, mechanical experience that, given the right enthusiast, is something to be savoured. 

Just make sure that you don't skip any of your arms days.
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Car Information

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Lotus Exige Sport 350 (M)
Rate it

Price

: $300,000

Engine Type

:

V6 Supercharged

Engine Cap

:

3456cc

Horsepower

:

257kW (345 bhp) / 7000 rpm

Torque

:

345 Nm / 4500 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (M)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

4.1sec

Top Speed

:

273km/h

Fuel consumption

:

10.6 km/L

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