First DriveWith less weight and more focus, the Exige Sport 350 feels a very Lotus way of making an already fast car even faster. We drive it in the UK
First DriveThe Lotus Exige S Roadster is everything the Exige coupé is. Arguably more so, in fact
What is it?
It’s a Lotus first drive with a difference. Unusually for a car from Hethel, the story here isn't about performance tweaks, the addition of yet more lightness or keener handling.
No, the big news behind the 2010 model-year Exige is that it emits less carbon dioxide and uses less fuel than before.
Lotus Exige S emissions for the 2010 year are now 199g/km, down from the 2009 car’s 216g/km, which significantly changes the first-year rate of road tax. True, it makes far less difference thereafter, but a sub-200g/km output may stay important as tax rates change, plus it's a four per cent reduction for benefit-in-kind taxpayers. In short, it's worth having.
What’s it like?
To drive? Mostly as it was. The reduction in consumption come from changes to engine management and a slight alteration of the aerodynamics. You might have noticed those: the big new rear wing and the front splitter?
I'm not convinced they do anything for the aesthetics, but they make the same downforce as before while causing less turbulence. The lateral slats on the front wing air intakes better direct cooling air, while there's a larger air intake for the supercharged 218bhp engine's intercooler too.
Spec the optional Performance Pack (as fitted to our test car) and power rises to 237bhp; remarkably, emissions stay the same because the legislative test cycle doesn't put the pokier engine into a rev zone where it's using more fuel.
The Exige's performance is as fantastic as ever. Throttle response remains keen and there's decent power and torque through the mid-range (158lb ft or, with the Performance Pack, 170lb ft), so riding third and fourth gear is ample on the road, though it's fun to use all the revs on a track.
The ride and handling are unaltered, which is no bad thing. Few cars steer so delicately and, though the Exige's ride is harder than an Elise's (which now has lower emissions too), there's a suppleness to it you won't find in any other car that's so focused.
Small tweaks as ever, then, but this time not in the usual direction.
Should I buy one?
For sure. These worthwhile changes take absolutely nothing away from the Exige’s ability, nor do they affect how compelling it is to drive. They just make it a touch more frugal and cheaper to run.