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Lotus Exige 2013 review

We didn't even have it in Race mode and it's frighteningly quick, totally engaging.

If you are really serious about your driving, about pure unadulterated 'drive feel', you'd be hard pressed to look past the new Lotus Exige S V6 Coupe.

It's a raw experience right down to manual (non power-assisted) steering, nearly rock hard seats, cabin access with a high degree of difficulty and a rigid, racetrack-bred aluminium tub chassis.

You can feel every dynamic event affecting the car through the wheel, the brakes and the seat of your pants. You can hear the whirring, bellowing engine just behind your head.

Value

This is all well and good but what you really need to appreciate is all of this Porsche beating performance is available at less than half the price of the German thoroughbred.

The test car (ours had expensive option packs) is pitched from a starting price of a snip under $120 grand - about half what you'll pay for a Porsche 911 which wouldn't see which way the Lotus went.

Take that back to the Porsche Cayman at around $150 grand and it's the same story. But the two Porsches are much more civilised everyday cars with nice seats, easy steering, premium audio, luxury goodies and relatively mild manners when you compare them to the Lotus.

Technology

This is the latest Exige two seater and comes this time with supercharged 3.5-litre,V6 power courtesy of the Lotus Evora and before that, Toyota.

Yes, it has a Toyota Avalon heart beating amidships - but the engine is substantially modified from it's whitegoods beginnings.

The supercharger is a Harrop 1320 unit mounted neatly to the right top of the compact V6 which resides, on display, under a glass fastback cover.

It drives the rear wheels through a six-speed close ratio manual transmission after transiting a lightweight flywheel and button clutch arrangement.

Power output is a hearty 257kW at 7000rpm with 400Nm of torque available at 4500rpm. It's enough to propel the 1176kg Exige V6 from 0-100kmh in 3.8 seconds, a figure we actually achieved with the help of the launch control system. Gets 10.1-litres/100km too.

Design

The aero package includes a flat undertray, front splitter, rear wing and rear diffuser and ride height is extremely low. The Exige S V6 looks impressive on the road with elements from both the Lotus Elise at the front and the bigger Evora at the rear.

It's longer and wider than the earlier four cylinder Exige and looks the better for it. Inside is functional and tight but there's aircon, cruise, a power outlet, OK audio and two drink holders.

The instrument pod looks like it came off a motorcycle but who cares, this car is all about the drive.

Driving

This car is an ANIMAL. We didn't even have it in Race mode and it's frighteningly quick, totally engaging.

Not only in a straight line either because it corners like a big racing kart limited a tad by a lack of weight over the front wheels.

Go through the Exige's spec' sheet and it's all the real deal in terms of performance component suppliers. AP four piston brakes, Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, Bosch tuneable ECU, Pirelli Trofeo tyres in 17-inch front and 18-inch rears. The aluminium suspension is double wishbone both ends and the car can be dialled in within certain parameters. It all looks to be hewn from solid billet aluminium covered in swoopy fibreglass/plastic bodywork.

We marvelled at how much get-up the Exige has -  instantly available under the right foot. It punches hard right out of the blocks through to the 7000rpm redline and then the same again and again through each gear. Wow, makes your head spin.

Then, backing up the go department is an impressive dynamic package that is deceptively comfortable despite being set up hard. The dampers must have some sort of tricky blow-off system for sharp bumps because the car floats over normally jolting bumps.

No other road car comes close to this level of connection with the driver though we have yet to drive something like a Caterham Seven which we suspect would be kinda similar.

Lotus facilitates this back-to-basics race car drive experience with a tiny steering wheel, mechanical feeling  gear mechanism, minimal noise deadening and four-mode dynamic control including stability control `off' and launch control.

Verdict

It's a track car that can be easily driven on the road rather than the other way around which applies to most of the competition. Hand built in the UK, striking looks, astonishing performance and handling. What more could a driving enthusiast want? A Lotus for free?

Pricing Guides

$68,585
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$63,800
Highest Price
$73,370

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
S 3.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $63,800 – 73,370 2013 Lotus Exige 2013 S Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$63,800

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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