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Lotus Exige S launched

The new improvements include improved leather interior trim with extra padding in the door insets and the seats.

The new Lotus Exige S, launched at this week’s Frankfurt motor show and in Australia early next year, picks up the Evora’s supercharged V6 engine and shoehorns it into the refreshed Exige’s 1080kg body. But the engine - a major upgrade on the 1.8-litre base engine - is only one of the Exige’s highlights.

“It’s a lot less like a toy,’’ says Lotus PR head Alastair Florance. The redesign has made it look bigger and more aggressive.’’

It opens the door to the Exige R-GT which is Lotus’ new rally entrant. “There is a need to go back to rallying,’’ Florance says. It is necessary. We’ve been so successful in every motorsport arena - Le Mans to Indy, Formula One to rallying.’’

The R-GT goes for a shake-down year in 2012 and is expected to hit the circuits in 2013. It will participate in the newly-formed FIA GT category of the FIA Rally Championship on asphalt in San Remo, Tour de Corse and Monte Carlo.

It gets the same 3.5-litre V6 engine as the Exige S but Lotus has made “significant’’ changes to the gearbox and the restrictors in the engine, Florance says. Lotus also showed its Evora GTE and has been stunned by demand.

“We had plans to build a road car off the back of the GT racer and so the GTE was born,’’ Florance says. We planned 25 units at about (the equivalent of) $150,000 each. Immediately, we had 114 orders from China. So we’ve raised the production.’’

Other Lotus cars on show included a new Elise CR (club racer) with a 1.6-litre engine and robotised manual gearbox with steering wheel paddles; the Elise S that picks up a supercharged engine for 165kW/250Nm and a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds.

But following some notes in Carsguide recently about the Evora’s perceived quality, Mr Florance says big steps had been taken to improve the car.

The results will be seen in the next shipment to Australia, but essentially there were 140 changes. “They’re small, but in total make a big difference,’‘ he says.

They include improved leather interior trim with extra padding in the door insets and the seats, contrasting double stitching of the leather dashboard and improved door mechanisms. Lotus also showed its fuel-cell London taxi on which it did engineering work. A few of the cars will do duty as a taxi during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

There was also the Evora 414E hybrid that has two electric motors producing 310kW/800Nm fed by lithium ion batteries that are charged by a Lotus-Fagor range extender engine.

Lotus has designed two Fagor-built engines - a three-cylinder as fitted to the 414E - and a new two-cylinder unit that is more compact and can be mounted in virtually any position to power a battery pack. The sole 414E is regarded as a demonstrator but Lotus says it is keen to get more built for the road.