Lotus Exige 2007 Review
Not only does it go like a bat out of hell, but a Lotus of any kind commands attention like few other cars on the road. And the rarely sighted Exige is no exception.
CARSguide recently took possession of the S version, and it didn't take long to discover there's no sneaking about unnoticed in this machine.
A stop at the lights in George St saw tourists whip out their mobile-phone cameras for a quick snap. And filling up at the service station inevitably involved a “Lotus” conversation.
The S, which is about a second quicker than the “normal” model, hits 100km/h from a standing start in just 4.2 seconds. And you feel every bit of the ride.
The near $115,000 asking price is just one of the costs of driving a car such as the Exige.
Because this car is designed for racing (and, in the case of Lotus, that's not just a marketing line), it has been stripped of almost every possible creature comfort.
It has no rear vision whatsoever. It's loud, hard, rough, impossibly difficult to get in and out of, and is one of the most uncomfortable cars we've ever driven.
It's also a hell of a lot of fun and, for a road car, one of the most thrilling driving experiences one could hope for.
You sit so low to the ground it feels as though your backside will hit the road each time you go over a bump.
Even a Holden Barina towers over you when you pull up to the lights. In fact, with doors open, it's not too much of a stretch to touch the tarmac from the driving position.
And you notice every bump, with the worst of them coming close to taking the wind out of both driver and passenger.
Really, it's a car that is best suited to smooth roads, which can be rather hard to find in NSW.
Although stripped of most comforts, the Exige still comes with a reasonable safety package, including driver and passenger airbags, ABS braking and a traction-control program (which, naturally, can be deactivated at the touch of a button should the driver be in a brave frame of mind).
Despite these safety features, the Exige feels very unsafe. Not only are you nearly completely blind to what's happening behind you, it feels as though nobody else can see you, either.
And for those in larger 4WDs and SUVs, that's probably an accurate assessment. They simply would not know you were there unless they made a meaningful effort to look down.
So defensive driving is the order of the day in a Lotus.
For everyday use, the lack of comfort and the lack of sight make for a pretty demanding car and, in some cases, a downright stressful experience.
Get into some tight corners, on the other hand, and the Exige is as involving a drive as money can buy.
The small, 1.8 litre, four-cylinder supercharged (the normal Exige is atmo) Toyota engine sits just behind your head. So when you put your foot to the floor, you can barely hear yourself think. You can also feel the heat rising from the back once the engine really starts to spin.
The (unassisted) steering is razor-sharp, throttle response is instant, and handling is, as you'd expect, superb from the grippy, semi-slick tyres.
The trick to getting the rather small Toyota engine to propel the Lotus so quickly lies in the overall weight of the car or, indeed, lack of weight.
You see, the Exige is one of the lightest cars on the road, at about 935kg. This gives it an enormous power-to-weight ratio and explains the tremendous acceleration and stopping power.
The super-stiff chassis and very low centre of gravity, combined with the semi-slick tyres, are the reasons it holds on so well around corners.
If you're thinking of parking an Exige in your garage, just make sure it's not your daily wheels. Over the week or so we had the car, we were well and truly sick of its harsh nature by day two or three.
But it would be an absolute riot to drive on a track, or even for a Sunday spin up your favourite country road.
Forget the Lotus for everyday use — unless of course you're willing to suffer for performance, and you have a very good relationship with a chiropractor.
Lotus Exige S
On sale: Now
Body: Two-door sports coupe
Engine: Supercharged 1.8 litre four-cylinder, 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i, 162kw/215Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel: Between 7 and 9 litres per 100km
Safety: Driver and passenger airbags, traction control and ABS