Lotus Exige S 2008 Review
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Nosing into a city street someone volubly denounces me with the word that rhymes with “banker.”
Harsh ... must be the collar and tie.
“I'd rather have a car in this colour,” I tell the sturdy yeoman with the loud shirt and mouth to match, “than have to be wearing it to work.”
If it's not easy being this shade of green, it works on the Lotus for the same reason as old mate's clobber. This low-slung projectile is in constant danger of becoming a mobile speed hump for a bargee in an SUV. It pays to be visible.
If this hue is not for shy and retiring types, then neither is is the 2008 Exige S, least of all with the $11,000 optional Performance Pack.
This is good for 179kW/230Nm, equalling the limited edition Sport 240. There's new instruments and alarm/immobiliser. The power hike comes via a Magnuson/Eaton M62 supercharger, faster flowing injectors, higher torque clutch system and an upsized roof scoop. So the Exige S PP can achieve 100km/h from standing in 4.16 seconds.
The 245km/h top speed is barely short of the track-only 2-Eleven that recently made carsguide gibber. As always with Lotus, the key is found in the power to (light) weight equation; 191kW per tonne. At 935kg, this is a pocket supercar for a mere fraction of the ask.
The hero feature combines the launch control and variable traction control function from the 2-Eleven. A dial on the steering column selects starting revs for optimum standing starts. Shove down the loud pedal (seldom is that term for the accelerator more apt than with Lotus), let go the clutch and almost immediately the horizon has become the foreground.
The traction control's degree of intervention is similarly adjustable, to the extent of 30 increments, from 7 per cent tyre slip to all bets off. The launch function, which we sampled on the 2-Eleven, was not set up on our car. That might be as well, because while the Exige S is a track-day rapier we perversely did some 500km on the goat-tracks that pass for public roads in NSW. On the more isolated of these, the Exige shakes a few rubes from their reverie.
Torque surges on smoothly from about 3500rpm, the power 1500rpm later, and crescendos massively until eight grand. If you tire of this visceral rush, then you're tired of life. The accelerative thrill is matched aurally with a supercharged whine that — mere centimetres from the back of your head — sounds otherworldly. Steering that's unadulterated by assistance completes the Lotus equation.
Ride is, of course, awful on all but the state's ever rarer expanses of smooth tarmac. Yet the fact we went out for a bit of a steer and just sort of kept going for 500 clicks, says everything.
Lotus Exige S
Price: $114,990 (Performance Pack $11,000)
Engine: 1.8L/4-cylinder supercharged; 179kW/230Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; RWD