From £52,9009
The Lotus Exige S Roadster is everything the Exige coupé is. Arguably more so, in fact

What is it?

A Lotus Exige S Roadster. So isn’t that like a Porsche Cayman convertible? Lotus has anticipated your question and prepared a Powerpoint and everything to suggest that no, it isn’t. 

The roadster variant of the Exige is ostensibly the same as the Exige S coupé, most notably with the roof removed and replaced with a hood from an Lotus Elise (the Exige and Elise share the same chassis tub). 

But the Exige Roadster is different, not just to the Elise (it has a 70mm longer wheelbase, is 243mm longer overall and has a supercharged 3.5-litre V6), but also, subtly, to an Exige coupé, too.

Changes are small but significant. Gone is some of the coupé’s aero package, specifically the front splitter and rear spoiler. That lowers drag minutely (by about Cd0.04) and makes a larger difference to downforce. Not enough that would trouble most manufacturers, but, well, this is Lotus.

So the rear roll bar has been stiffened to keep the back feeling planted at speed, while geometry changes at the front (where negative camber is reduced) and the rear (where negative camber has increased) attempt to compensate similarly. The front changes also reduce steering effort at manoeuvring speed, helpfully.

Other changes? Weight is down by an inconsequential 10kg. Top speed is limited to 145mph. The price is the same as the coupé's, so it's £53,850 on the road.

What's it like?

Different to the coupé  However, arguably just as important as any of the other changes is that that our test Roadster was not equipped – unlike every coupé we’ve tried – with the Race Pack that optimises (read 'hardens') the suspension to suit the Trofeo tyres. 

If you like a spot of compliance in your suspension – and I do – Lotus tells me I’ll like this car at least as much as the coupé  That’s a car that finished third in our Best Driver’s Car 2012 contest. We like it a lot.

The new-found compliance is immediately evident. The Roadster rides with impressive absorbency and plenty of Lotus magic; more so, arguably, than in a Race Pack-equipped coupé  It flows over poor roads – still all apiece, still with terrific body control – with a level of comfort that genuinely broadens the Exige’s appeal. You don’t feel compelled to be continuously ‘on it’. 

It’s still chuffing fast when you want, mind. The fastest ever soft-top Lotus, they say. Less focused? A little, inevitably, without the Race Pack. But it’s still a great track car – solid brakes, fabulously steering and, although a subtle limited-slip differential would make it more throttle adjustable, still a great balance and with neatly adjustable handling.

Should I buy one?

Maybe. The nice thing is how much more accessible it makes the Exige range, so even if you weren’t considering an Exige S before, you could now. 

A standard-setting Roadster differs from a Race Pack-equipped coupé notably and requires less effort to drive, yet on the road it is just as rewarding, with only a small compromise on track. If we had access to both, on track days we’d take the car with the Race Pack. However, we suspect that, overall, we’d spend quite a bit more time in the standard-suspended Roadster.

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Lotus Exige S Roadster

Price £53,850; 0-60mph 3.8sec; Top speed 145mph; Economy 28.0mpg; CO2 236g/km; Kerb weight 1166kg; Engine V6, 3456cc, supercharged, petrol; Power 345bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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kowalski99 2 July 2013

and the people that buy Porche cars are..

My former boss used to buy a new Porche every 6 months and parade around in it like the prat he was. Sad thing was he was obese, without any personal style and an agressive bully who had the whole workforce against him. He had a lovely rs 2 before I thankfully left the company, but im tainted associating a brand with a prat.

Lotus has many problems but not one of idiots driving their cars to look cool. Porche on the other hand.....

Ray60 26 June 2013

I should point out that I am

I should point out that I am Ray60, while Ray6O (with a capital 'o' instead of a zero) is a low-life trying to imitate me. Please don't associate me with his rude and offensive posts.

IAD 26 June 2013

Liking your work Mr Coco

I really like it but rear needs a bit more work though. They really need to develop the Elise designed by Donato Coco.