Lotus Exige S: Review

There’s been an argument in the Wheels office. Hair has been pulled and fingers pointed – all over the Lotus Exige S. Mostly because I like it, a lot, and others...well, they’re less convinced that it’s all it needs to be.

But let’s start with something we all agree on: this is an exciting car. Like the angry bastard-child of a Stormtrooper and a fighter jet, it feels alive. Brutal, even.

Drive it and the whole car tingles, vibrates, bangs and pops. It sounds good, too, kind of like an orchestra of hoover-powered violins. Being chainsawed.

Then there’s the sensation of speed. It rockets from 0-100km/h in 4.0 seconds, but it feels even faster. Maybe it’s the lack of sound-deadening, or the fact you sit so low you could lick the ground, but mashing the loud pedal is a raw, visceral experience. Unlike other high-performance cars, in the Lotus you feel like you’re in the trenches pulling the trigger, not in the General’s tent directing the action.

Its real party piece, though, is its steering. Very little this side of a Porsche can match the Lotus for feel, with its small, unassisted steering wheel seemingly hardwired to the front contact patches.

Yes, it’s ridiculously heavy at low speeds – parking is a chore – but show the Exige some bends and it all makes sense. The wheel bucks and jumps in your hands, with the car feeling like an oversized, numberplate-wearing go-kart. It sticks, too. On dry roads the big (265/35), optional semi-slick rear Pirellis hug the road, taunting you to go quicker, drive harder.

So what don’t we agree on? The biggest sore point is the engine, with some thinking the 3.5-litre supercharged Toyota Aurion V6 isn’t “special” or “sweet” enough. Rubbish, in my opinion. Admittedly, it’s not the most refined engine in the world, but its raucous, mechanical feel fits the character of the Exige perfectly. And no one can argue it lacks grunt. With 258kW/400Nm on tap in a car that weighs 1166kg, it really is neck-snappingly quick.

I will concede the Exige has some flaws, though. Only Olympic gymnasts can manoeuvre in and out of it with any dignity, the car is so low other drivers can’t see you in traffic, and despite some lovely aluminium work, the interior doesn’t fit the $120,000 price.

But these are foibles you can live with. No one buys an Exige for a comfortable ride or luxurious feel. They buy it because it’s exciting; because it’s a no-compromise racing car for the road. Think of it as a giant syringe of adrenaline – one that’s injected into your heart every time you turn the key.

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