So inimitable is the Exige proposition that you might wonder how it came to be. The textbook answer is ‘via the Elise’.
The Exige was conceived simply to be the hard-top, hardcore version of the tiny roadster that transformed Lotus in the 1990s. But the less obvious answer is Ducati motorcycles.
After the sales disappointment of the front-driven Elan, it was the pared-back beauty, jewel-like componentry and bone-deep purity of these Bolognese motorbikes that inspired chassis designer Richard Rackham and stylist Julian Thomson during the conception of the seminal S1 Elise. Four years later, the Exige arrived and, if anything, its uncompromising approach made it even more Ducati-esque.
The Elise and Exige shared Lotus’s unique extruded-aluminium structure but the Exige gained adjustable Koni dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, throttle bodies for Rover’s 1.8-litre K-series engine, scoops and wings, plus track-specific Yokohama tyres. All in, it was 49kg heavier than the Elise but, at 780kg, the Exige was still deliciously lightweight and spectacularly engaging to drive.
That was 21 years and three generations ago. Since then, the Exige has put on some weight (as an interesting reference point, it now weighs 75% of what a contemporary Porsche 911 weighs, rather than 60%, as was the case in 2000), but some of that can be chalked up to the fact that the third-generation car carries not an atmospheric four-pot but a supercharged V6.