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?
This is the Lotus Exige S 260, the Lotus for track day enthusiasts who, strange as it may sound, think that a regular Lotus Exige S isn't quite hardcore enough.
The Lotus Exige 260 is lighter and more powerful than the standard S, thanks to some details from the Exige Cup race car, including a power upgrade to 257bhp (the regular Exige S has 218bhp, the Exige S 240 has 237bhp). The 0-60mph time falls from 4.1sec to 4.0sec.
There’s a prevalence of carbonfibre, including for the engine cover, dashboard, door sills, and to replace the Perspex partition to the engine bay. The wheels, meanwhile, are of a new design; they are lighter than wheels that Lotus already claimed were the world’s lightest.
There are no airbags, the pyrotechnic pretensioners for the seat belts have been ditched, the stereo has gone, as has most of the sound deadening and the central locking, while there are new, Lotus-made, carbonfibre FIA-approved seats and a lighter motorsport battery.
In all, 38kg has been lifted from the Exige, taking its unladen weight to less than 900kg.
The dampers and spring platforms are adjustable, and the adjustable front anti-roll bar is stiffer than usual.
This is also the first 'small platform' Lotus (Elise, Exige, 2-Eleven, Europa) we've tried that has been fitted with a limited-slip differential, which is standard on the Exige S 260.
What's it like?
As a road car? Very raw. The supercharged Toyota-sourced 1.8-litre engine fizzes and rattles behind you. It has alloy supercharger U-bend pipes, a lightweight flywheel and sits in a revised subframe, and it seems a fair deal louder than normal. There's a lot of road noise too.
The power delivery itself is not actually more extreme, though. In all, 257bhp has been extracted from the standard Exige, but the 260 has been boosted mostly through the upper mid-range, so it feels more urgent all the time and you feel no compulsion to rev it right out on the road, or stir the pretty ordinary gearchange more than usual.
It’s a fidgety car on the B-roads that surround Lotus’s Norfolk factory. It’s alive and pure but, in some respects, not as satisfying as a regular Exige. It’s still very controlled and, in a car like this, you can put up with a firm ride, but the Exige’s steering seems more corrupted by road surfaces than usual. As well as being more affected by braking and throttle inputs.
There’s some tramlining and a mild tendency to pull straight under braking, while when you come on the throttle, it feels like it's pushing on a bit, which is probably down to the differential. By everyday road car standards it’s still a thing of wonder, but I think a regular Exige is better suited to bumpy B-roads.
The payoff, though, comes on a track, where the Exige 260 is even more focused and alert, and the lively steering and firm ride exploit the extraordinary grip and agility of the chassis. The understeer is still there but the extra oomph, the limited-slip differential and the reduced weight make it even more adjustable than usual. It’ll even hold a drift.
Should I buy one?
If you plan spend a lot of time on the road, maybe this isn’t the car for you; the standard Exige S filters out the nasty messages a bit better and leaves the good stuff flowing through.
If, however, you’re serious about using an Exige on a track, the Lotus Exige S 260 gets the absolute best from the Exige chassis. On a dry, familiar circuit little will touch it.