Lotus Engineering, Hethel, Norwich, Norfolk, NRI4 8EZ. Telephone (0953) 608000 Telefax (0953) 606884
It's great on a road or track, but flawed for the daily grind
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The Exige coupe is a road-going replica of the Sport Elise used in Lotus' one-make racing series. It uses the roadster's aluminium tub, but the front and rear tracks have been widened to improve stability. A prominent wing provides additional downforce at the rear, while a front splitter has a similar effect at the front. Despite the obvious Elise overtones, this coupe has a much more aggressive, purposeful stance.
Peer through the Ferrari 360-style perspex engine cover and you'll spot the same 1.8-litre Rover engine that's used in the minimalist Lotus 340R. In this trim it develops 177bhp and 126 lb ft of pulling power. The Exige weighs 81kg more than the standard Elise, but the hike in power helps it sprint from 0-60mph in 4.7sec and on to a top speed of 136mph. These figures mark a 1.4sec and 10mph improvement over the roadster.
Pronilnent rear winq adds extra downforce
The wider tracks, together with larger, specially developed Yokohama tyres and a slight retuning of the Elise's suspension settings, result in a subtly different sports car. Rear-end grip is astounding and the Exige is much more benign on the limit than its sibling. Whereas the Elise's rear-end will step out abruptly if you lift off the throttle near the limits of adhesion, the Exige requires ham-fisted provocation before its tall will wag. It's quicker on the track, but there's no denying that it's lost some of the sensitivity that makes the Elise so rewarding.
Don't think, though, that Lotus has gone soft. The Exige does boast comfortable seats, a fine driving position and an excellent ride, but all hopes of a refined package are destroyed by the cacophony of engine noise. Add awkward access and a token boot and the Exige is seriously compromised as an everyday car.
As a road car, the £10,320 premium over the Else is hard to justify, but if Brands Hatch or Silverstone feature in your diary, this is the car to have.
brilliant road and track car, but less than easy to live with day-to-day
Top Speed: 136
0-62mph (sec): 4.7
Best Rival: Audi TT