Lotus Exige S

28 Nov, 2012 10:00am

No Performance Car of the Year test would be complete without a Lotus, and we had high hopes the Exige S would put in a great display for the beleaguered British marque.

The lightweight Exige frame and supercharged 345bhp V6 Evora engine is a tantalising combination, so an eighth-place finish is quite a disappointment.

To look at, nothing in our test screamed performance more than the Exige S. To turn it into a racing car, all you’d need is some numbers on the doors.

Inside, it’s as spartan as they come. There’s a neat iPhone dock and decent stereo, but it fights a losing battle with the wonderful noise from the supercharged V6.

This snarling exhaust note can be further enhanced by pushing a button on the steering column, which opens a tailpipe valve for increased aural thrills.

On the road, the Exige S is a phenomenal performer. The engine has a huge wave of mid-range torque. Better still, the steering is dripping with feedback, there’s bags of grip and the perfectly judged suspension strikes a great balance between tight body control and a supple ride.

However, many Exige S buyers are likely to want to use their cars on track days, which is where the Lotus fell down on our test. Yes, it has lots of power, but without a limited-slip diff it couldn’t put this down cleanly on the exit of corners. The 62.9-second lap time was disappointing, especially when you consider that this was matched by the far heavier Mercedes SL63 AMG.

Some suspect build quality and a thirsty engine – with a miniscule fuel tank that forces you to stop to fill up every 100 miles or so – only added to the feeling that the Exige S was the underachiever in this year’s test.

Behind the wheel

Dean Gibson, Deputy road test editor

Driving the Exige S from Lotus HQ in Norfolk to Wales was an experience. Even getting in was the work of a contortionist, due to the low-slung body, narrow door openings and wide sills. Once you’re aboard, though, the huge performance and razor-sharp handling make the Exige great fun. But the tiny fuel tank means you’ll soon be contorting yourself again to get out and fill up...

Key specs

  • Price: £54,900
  • Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Peak power: 345bhp at 7,000rpm
  • Peak torque: 400Nm at 4,500rpm
  • 0-62mph: 4.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 170mph
  • Kerb weight: 1,176kg
  • Lap time: 62.9 seconds
AEX 1337
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