New Lotus or used Ferrari? Both can be had for £45k
26 February 2010

You can get a new Lotus Exige 260 and used Ferrari F355 for around £45,000 - but which closed, two-seat, mid-engined, out-and-out sports car should you spend your money on?

Autocar asked Andrew Frankel to test both the £45,950 Lotus Exige 260 Cup and a 1999 Ferrari F355GTB, on sale at Foskers Engineering for £42,995, to get an answer.

It's worth noting now, though, that this F355 is a very good car - with 28,000 miles on the clock, the bodywork is unblemished, the interior no more than lived in, and the extras such as the Fiorano handling kit all in place. Sound cars can cost £10k less.

On the road

Frankel explains that the Lotus stuns at first, then inspires. The supercharged 1.8-litre motor delivers 257bhp with the subtlety of an axe in the back. But if you are in the mood, its tiny dimensions, sub-900kg weight and sublime chassis make it possibly the most thrilling means of getting across a British public road.

Yet the Exige makes the ageing Ferrari feel as sumptuous and comfortable as a suite in the Dorchester. The F355 was based on the old 348, albeit evolved beyond recognition, and has a 380bhp, 3.5-litre V8. It's easy to place on the road and blessed with body control.

On race or track the Exige would romp away. It may be 100bhp shy of the Ferrari, but the F355 weighs half as much again. Their power-to-weight ratios aren't far off, though, and while the Exige will pop 4sec 0-60mph runs all day, the Ferrari needs just 0.6sec more.

The Ferrari is more practical, too. Having someone in the passenger seat is fun, whereas the Lotus is best savoured alone, as a selfish pleasure. The Ferrari loves wide, open spaces, the Lotus small, confined circuits.

The ownership proposition

Foskers will service a F355 for £550 a year, but every three years or 15,000 miles there's an engine out cambelt change that will cost £1500. Earlier cars are inclined to blow their exhaust manifolds, at £1000 per side. F1 gearshifts are largely trouble-free, but reduce clutch life 20 per cent - and a clutch change costs £2000.

By contrast, an annual service costs around £450.

However, F355 prices are rising, whereas the Exige's value will drop, especially if used regularly.

The conclusion

Frankel concludes that the Exige is Lotus's most exciting car, if you discount the lunatic 2-Eleven, but says he'd still pick the Ferrari.

He says: "Albeit for rather different reasons, the Ferrari is just as pleasurable to drive, a whole lot more useable and, well, a Ferrari. The F355 is simply one of the greatest cars ever produced by the most coveted supercar manufacturer on earth."

For the full Lotus Exige 260 versus Ferrari F355 comparison test read this week's Autocar magazine, on sale now.

Join the debate

Comments
35

22 February 2010

F355 every time. (Make sure the major service has already been paid for my someone else though!)

Whilst I know that the Elise can be viewed as a decent enough buzz-box for some fun on the track, I have to admit that I have never enjoyed driving any of the many variations of the Elise for more than a few laps. Cramped, over priced, a horrible engine tone, and truly epic amounts of understeer - whilst you need to be a contortionist to get in and out. I much prefer the VX220 turbo over the Elise.

So, a no brainer for me - the F355 is an appreciating classic and a joy to own and drive, to the shops on a lazy Sunday or hard on the track.

22 February 2010

None of the above.

It would be a used Exige for me.

The simplicity wins me over, plus the much lower running costs.

There's a slim chance for a 355 manual but I would never buy a used F1.

My neighbour had one and within 12 months he spent a small fortune on a new clutch and eventually a complete transmission rebuild.

22 February 2010

The F355 looks absolutely stunning in black, much nicer than in red.

currently a happy owner of a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin :)

22 February 2010

comparing new cars to old cars is not a fair comparison of value.

Maybe a 5 year old exige to a 15 year old ferrari is more suitable?

22 February 2010

I really fail to understand the appeal of the F355, despite what Clarkson, Frankel et al. may say. I borrowed a friend's car for the weekend (with a manual gearbox) and was wholly unimpressed:

- the interior was just a dolled up Fiat Croma i.e. plasticky beyond belief

- the steering wheel was huge and had a nasty thin rim with just a cheap Ferrari sticker(!) plonked in the middle of it (look at the photo!).

- the steering rack was fairly slow; even my company CLS Merc is sharper

- the engine note wasn't great and the response was nothing special either. It couldn't snap your neck like a Porsche Coxster

- the gearbox wasn't as satisfying as a Civic Type R.

When the F355 first came out Mr Frankel directly compared it to the Mclaren F1. I have never had the good fortune to drive an F1. But I strongly suspect that removing the badges from a car before testing might lead to a more objective appraisal.

But 'well done' to Autocar for venturing outside the realms of 'new' cars. It makes a change from the regurgitated road tests of E-types you continually see in the 'classic' motoring press.

22 February 2010

Sorry but having owned an F355 from new I would pick the Lotus any day. Those thinking the 355 is any good on the track are deluded. You'll struggle to keep up with a well driven impreza. 355s are painfully slow (for a Ferrari) and while it sounded nice I did not have a good ownership experience. I was a passionate ferrari supporter before buying one but mine was not very reliable and more importantly not that great to drive either. Certainly nothing like £100k great to drive. The 355 gained 140kgs during it's lifetime whereas the power didn't increase, meaning the later cars like the one I had, are slower. The V8 engine is rated at 350bhp (much more believable) with the remaining '25bhp' coming from the 'exhaust system' - ie there isn't another 25bhp. Exaggerating horsepower used to be an Italian tradition that is happily dying out. The only thing a 355 can do better than an Exige is attract gold diggers. For the business of driving fast on road or track (on anything other than motorway driving) the Exige is hugely superior. I know you're not supposed to say that but it's the inconvenient truth for anyone who puts (like I used to) Ferrari on a pedestal.

22 February 2010

@the pits:

Your comment was the most convincing piece of mind that I needed to break my mind from the delusion that is Ferrari.

Thank you.

22 February 2010

I'm gobsmacked, I owned that very car 10 years ago, sold it in 2002. The first owner had it from new but had suffered a back problem and couldn't drive it, he'd only covered 1200 miles in 2 years. It was my second 355 and the handling pack made all the difference, in my opinion it shares equal 1st with the 993 Carrera 2 as an ownership experience. I have to disagree with the Pits, I loved the 355, they sound great and reward good driving, especially with the Fiorano pack, agree about the interior though!

22 February 2010

"Foskers will service a F355 for £550 a year, ................

By contrast, an annual service costs around £450."

I don't get this bit. Does it cost £550 or £450 for a standard service?

22 February 2010

[quote roverfan1984]The F355 looks absolutely stunning in black...[/quote]

The 355 looked stunning in any colour. That's the mark of a truly beautiful design. There are few that cars match its looks.

I don't agree that it didn't make a wonderful sound, or that it didn't shift or handle brilliantly, at least for the time, but the interior was typical of that era of Italian exotica. For over-engineered, functional interiors from that time, you have to look to Porsche.

People rarely if ever moan about the Integrale because bits fell off the trim, and the 355 is in the same league of legendary classic.

It's only recently that we've come to expect modern Ferraris to be built properly.

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