The Exige has always had a way of exposing the uninitiated. He’ll be the one trying to get in one leg at a time.
This is a significantly less usable car than the related Elise, let alone a Porsche 718 Cayman. It’s the fixed roof that does it on the coupe. Roof off in the roadster, as with an Elise you can step over the wide sill and then lower yourself in. But given the roof doesn’t come off the Exige coupe, there’s only one approach: head first into the intimate cabin.
The rigmarole of embarkation will put off a decent chunk of customers and should make a bigger chunk think about how much use they’d get out of the car. But it won’t matter a jot to anyone buying a Lotus Exige for the right reasons, which we’ll come to.
Once you’re in, you’ll find that neither head nor elbow room is generous. The former limitation will affect you if you’re taller than 6ft 2in and – like everyone – you wear a helmet on trackdays; the latter might if you tend to carry passengers much and prefer not to dig them in the ribs every time you engage second gear.
These, though, are long-established issues for the Exige disciple. If you’re in the fold, you might be surprised to find how sparsely kitted out the interior is, with the Sport 350 getting front airbags, sports seats, a part leather upholstery, and central locking as standard, while the Sport 380 gains an Alcantara upholstery. The options list is extensive with air conditioning, leather upholstery, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth all boxes that need a tick prior to finding them on your Lotus. While further insulation, an automatic gearbox and cruise control are limited to the Sport 380.
The Race 380, is a ultimately a track car and the interior reflects this, with its carbonfibre seat and racing harness, a fire extinguisher, quick release steering wheel and battery isolation switch.
Overall the Exige remains a uniquely purposeful, pared-down driving environment. The seats are supportive but not overly comfortable over long distances, and the offset pedals make a bad situation slightly worse. Drive to Le Mans and you’ll notice both, but over four 20-lap stints at Oulton Park, or on a 90-minute B-road thrash, you won’t care about either.