What's it like?
Damned fast, in two words. The automatic Exige S is almost exactly as quick as the manual version. The 0-60mph sprint takes a deeply impressive 3.8sec, the car reaches 100mph in just 9.2sec and the performance is easily deployed using a superbly weighted accelerator pedal and a hard-pressed traction control system.
In fact, the best thing about this car is its easily accessible performance; not many performance cars as low and small can go as fast, and the thrust continues unabated well beyond 120mph. Our drophead test model was governed at 145mph to protect its roof from the 162mph winds the coupé version shows would otherwise be possible.
All Exige Ss come with a selector offering three driving modes: Off, Standard and Sport, which adjust chassis stability, throttle ‘alertness’ and the exhaust note. Sport seems most interesting since it allows some cornering slip on the limit, while rescuing you from disaster, and a sporty exhaust note most of the time.
For track-minded enthusiasts, there’s an extra-cost Race setting, the set-up that Lotus’s talented band of engineer-hotshoes have devised to make the car go around a track as quickly as it can. The rest of the car certainly supports such use; the unassisted steering is superbly accurate and perfectly weighted at speed, and the brakes are hugely powerful and easy to modulate.
The seats are spare but comfortable. The cabin feels snug and businesslike but distinctly old-fashioned against something like a Porsche Boxster. But in this car the performance dominates, as intended.
Should I buy one?
If performance with agility is your criterion, the Exige S is hard to ignore. A Porsche in the price bracket feels rather large and (whisper this) even a little cumbersome by comparison, although it is far better protected from effects like wind noise than the Lotus.
Still, this is a small, none-too-versatile Elise-related sports car that's showing its age in some ways, and a price approaching £60,000 is solid indeed.
If you want a brisk cruiser, there are better options, but if you truly desire the Exige’s exceptional performance-with-roadholding, it probably looks a bit of a steal.
Lotus Exige S Roadster auto
Price £56,600; Engine V6, 3456cc, supercharged, petrol; Power 345bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1182kg; Top speed 145mph (governed); 0-60mph 3.8sec; Economy 29.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 222g/km, 35%