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?
A whole Autocar first drive seems like an extravagance of space to tell you about what amounts to an option. But then the Performance Pack - a £3000 temptation now facing buyers of Lotus’ supercharged Exige S - is some option, taking the already superb Exige S and turning it into quite possibly the finest British sports car you can buy.
The headlines include a more greedy looking roof-mounted air-scoop and changes to the supercharger that give additional power (240bhp from 221bhp) and torque (170lb ft from 158lb ft), plus larger front brake discs and beefed-up brake pads to cope with the extra pace. If an extra 19bhp doesn’t sound much then remember that the Exige S weighs just 935kg, so a little extra goes a long way. It's the effect, rather the numbers, that render the Performance Pack such a marvellous triumph.
The massaged torque delivery is felt from 3500rpm onwards, the delivery not just stronger but smoother and longer-lasting as well. The extra power comes on stream from 5000rpm onwards and at a rate of growth that doesn’t diminish until it crashes into the limiter at 8000rpm. Together the effect is of an Exige S with a mid-range punch that chimes in earlier, hits harder and lasts longer, and (although those familiar with the car may find this difficult to imagine) an even more frenetic top-end.
What’s it like?
Whether on track or on road, the improvement in performance is staggering, and in percentage terms easily worth the 9 per cent of list price that the Performance Pack costs. This may push the Exige S up to £37,550, but makes it the car the Exige always deserved to be – as quick and invigorating round the bends as it ever was, but now properly, addictively rapid in between them.
If that weren’t enough reason, the PP Exige S sounds better too. The supercharger whine is now balanced with a rushing induction noise on full throttle that gives the soundtrack added edge, plus Lotus’ variable traction control system complete with launch control gets thrown in too.
Our Exige S PP test car also gave us an opportunity to sample modifications made for 2008 Elise and Exige models. Inside, all models now get the dash formally offered as a Super Touring option, with twin airbags and 'bug-eye' air vents. For ‘08 the plastic quality has been improved and a starter button fitted.
The instruments unit is also updated, now finished in black, with ‘secret-until-lit’ warning lamps, a higher definition multi-function LED screen and three-sequential change-up lights. Small changes but ones that help refresh a delightfully simple design.
Should you opt for the £2,000 touring pack you’ll also get an iPod connection and a cup-holder, although the latter is typically Lotus in its simplicity of design. Finally, and about time, Lotus has sourced an integrated, attractive key and immobiliser fob.
Should I buy one?
Lotus’ motivation for the Exige S Performance Pack may not have been as pure as simply pushing the envelope. There will soon be a supercharged Elise so, in order to maintain the model hierarchy, the Exige S needed something extra.
Whatever the reason though, we’re mighty glad of the result. The Exige S Performance Pack is further evidence of Lotus delivering its very best. Forget the ‘quite possibly’ you read in the opening paragraph: the Exige S now is the finest British sports car on sale today. And so for those in the fortunate position of ordering a new one, the Performance Pack isn’t an option after all – it’s a must-have.