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    Re: Press embargo lifted - Exige S reviews released

    Chris Harris On Cars: "LOTUS EXIGE S"

     
    Why you need to be excited about the 350hp V6 Exige S - having driven it Chris Harris already is...

    (25 April 2012)
     
    Bigger, heavier, faster, more expensive: not a collection of adjectives that fills a chap with joy as he’s about to try and understand the new Lotus Exige S. I mean who ever countenanced the idea of a 1,176kg Exige?
     
    No celebs, no nonsense - just a cracking car
     
    Don’t get hung-up on the weight though. From the seats forwards, this car may be very similar to the old Exige, but the improvements wrought in every single area of performance are so great that this car really deserves a new name.
     
    In Meccano-speak, this car is an Exige running an Evora S supercharged V6 powertrain with a bespoke rear chassis assembly, a new steering rack, new front suspension geometry and Bosch’s latest chassis electronics. For a sniff under £53,000, it offers 0-100mph in 8.5 seconds and has hit 170mph at Nardo. Around the new Hethel circuit the car is claimed to be five seconds faster than the last hair-brained four-cylinder Exige, the Cup 260.
     
    Like me, you’ll scoff at the claim – until you’ve driven the thing.
     
    Exige is all new from the bulkhead back
     
    In with the new
     
    But first the alterations. A completely new rear chassis assembly is bolted to the original Elise/Exige aluminium tub. All the components are new, and the suspension arms are of higher quality than those used on the Evora S. All the rear suspension bushes are taken from that car – they’re bigger and more capable than before. The front axle remains the same (sadly no Evora bushes for the front, they wouldn’t fit) but with new geometry and a different rack. There’s increased lock and reduced camber to keep the weight sensible – is this now the heaviest car without power assisted steering?
     
    Apart from some small calibration changes, the powertrain is pure Evora S: 350hp at 7,000rpm and 295lb ft at a usefully low 4,500rpm.
     
    Styling puts more ground between it and Elise
     
    The cabin is tight and familiar. Despite some snazzy seat trims and revised clock faces, it struggles to support the £50K price tag. You start the car using a key, which is a welcome change these days – it fires with a vigorous ‘parp’ and then rests. It never sounds expensive or sophisticated, because it isn’t, but it flings the Exige S up the road with some force. The cable gearshift is the best I’ve used in a Lotus – miles better than those early Evoras.
     
    Conditions: wet
     
    I only have time to drive the car on the new Hethel track. It’s wet, not something I would normally want in an Exige, but this isn’t anything like the old car. Its basic physics – 70mm longer wheelbase, more steering lock and more grip – immediately give the driver much more confidence than any predecessor carrying the same name, but it’s the way it works with the Bosch wizardry that takes the Exige into new territory for Lotus and, indeed, the trackday marketplace.
     
    A zingy 350hp from the Toyota sourced V6
     
    There are three settings, Touring, Sport and Race. In Touring the Exige is as close to unstickable as any track machine I’ve driven. Full traction control works alongside ESP and understeer control. In the lashing rain, you can use full throttle from before the apex and a few degrees of steering correction will suffice. Plough-in too early and the nose is trimmed by barely perceptible inside front brake applications. It will make less experienced drivers feel like instant heroes.
     
    Sport mode removes the understeer control, increases the slip allowed on the rear axle, sharpens the throttle response and opens a bypass valve in the exhaust. It feels more urgent, but the extra noise is for spectators – the cabin is already full of angry V6 intake and supercharger whine. The car now offers less protection for the foolish and more movement for the adventurous but, as with Touring mode, the interventions are so subtle and helpful, you never find yourself cursing them.
     
    Even in these conditions the Exige works
     
    Electronically enhanced
     
    The real gem is Race mode. What you’d expect is a further reduction is assistance and almost-spin levels of rear liveliness. You’d be wrong. What you actually get is a state-of-the-art traction control map that can learn not only the grip level of the circuit underneath you, but which of the two OE Pirelli tyres the machine is rolling on. After experiencing its freakish brilliance, I asked project chief Matt Becker to explain how the hell a black box can learn grip levels almost instantly. “I asked Bosch the same question and they sent me a massive manual,” he says. “I still don’t fully understand it.”
     
    You can quickly reach the point where you hold the throttle pedal wide-open and just feel the ‘brain’ juggling the input.
     
    Race mode 'reads' grip levels
     
    It’s not an inspirational powertrain like a GT3’s, but it’s vivacious, interesting and very effective. The brakes are superb in the wet (I didn’t try them in the dry) and the car now has much less roll than old Exige. All of the chassis changes and improvements centre around the new, much more robust rear axle assembly, and the rear anti-roll bar. Best whisper that last bit to keep the purists happy. The steering is especially gorgeous: faster than before, but wriggling with life and information.
     
    Fun for all
     
    The truth is the added rear support has allowed Matt and his team to make this car much easier to drive fast. That’s what I hadn’t expected. If you are someone of modest driving talent, there is much more to enjoy here than in a GT3 because the combination of mid-engined layout and quite brilliant chassis systems make it so much easier for the driver. More experienced hands will just revel in the traction control – it’s like a racer’s.
     
    Familiar - and cosy - in here
     
    What’s wrong with it? I think the rear bumper’s a bit heavy-handed, the cabin as mentioned feels cramped and old, and you still can’t sit low enough relative to the wheel. It could also do with some lightly-locking rear differential for more pleasurable hooning. We were using the optional £2,000 track pack suspension, which still felt supple, and the standard Pirelli Corsa tyre which was blinding in the wet. There’s a stickier Trofeo version for an extra £800.
     
    For the money, I can’t see anything to touch this as road / track device other than a used 997 GT3. It’s fast, capable and very desirable.
     
    At last, from within the madness, Lotus has produced a world-class sports car.
     
    LOTUS EXIGE S
     
    Engine: 3,456cc V6, supercharged
    Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
    Power (hp): 350@7,000rpm
    Torque (lb ft): 295@4,500rpm
    0-62mph: 4.0 sec
    Top speed: 170mph
    Weight: 1,176kg
    MPG: 28mpg (NEDC combined)
    CO2: 236g/km
    Price: c. £53,000
     
     
     
    The car oversteered in a manner I hadn't ever experienced before. If I had managed to throw every last degree of opposite lock at the slide at the right moment, it might just have been catchable, but I didn't get anywhere close. I was in a Lotus Elise, my two-month-old Lotus Elise - and it was about to undergo some choice bodywork modifications courtesy of my fledgling's lack of skill, a large grass bank and a maroon Volvo 440.
     
    I use this tale, and the arrival of this superb Exige S to illustrate why this new car is so impressive. It isn't just an even progression from the 1996 Elise to the present day. To drive, it's a completely different machine. Tyre technology, chassis electronics and human knowledge have all had a drastic effect on what was, dare I say it, a pretty wild handling car from day one.
     
    What the Elise had, from the start, was suppleness and clear, unhindered responses. Up to about 8/10ths, it was a masterclass in why all other sports cars weighed too much and carried way too much spring rate. Beyond that point, the original Elise was lethal. As mentioned above, I experienced this first hand. Big roll angles meant big lift-off oversteer, and the old P-Zero was shambolic in the wet. Don't buy into all this stuff about the early Elise being a honey - beyond 8/10ths it could be more spiteful than a 1977 911 Turbo.
     
    Why so? Partly because the pure Lotus chassis thinking made it that way, but also because the team of test drivers, the Kershaws, Beckers, McQueens, were so handy that they could sort a wayward Elise at 100mph in the wet - the trouble being few other people could.
     
    I ran a series one Exige in 2001 for eight months and 12,000 miles. It was a hoot, but its trick Yokohamas could also be a flipping nightmare in the wet. It was a car you didn't deliberately provoke because you weren't quite sure of the consequences.
     
    The big change came with the series two Elise and its totally revised chassis and Bridgestone tyres. It was a much, much easier car to drive at the limit, and it set the tone for all subsequent improvements. Thereon in, the car became faster, meaner and aided by more complicated electronic systems, but it was still a saddled with too little power to be able to drive you out of a slidey-problem, and it lacked rear chassis stiffness, causing it to sap confidence when you turned into higher-speed turns. You turned the wheel and there was always this initial, disconcerting movement from the back of the car.
     
    With the Exige S, that movement is gone. The car gives you way more confidence than the Sport 260, its systems are bewildering in their capabilities and the car now has proper propulsion. Switch the systems off, which you can do, and it'll hold slides. Silly, but fun.
     
    This car doesn't drive like a continuation exercise. For me, it nails any Evora or outgoing Elise because it feels quite different to any other Elise-based product I've driven.
     
     
    "Lotus Exige S track test: 350hp, chassis from the Gods - Chris Harris On Cars"
     
     
    "Take the Evora S supercharged V6, change the suspension and go chase the Porsche GT3. This is the best street / track car Lotus has ever built. Let's just hope it isn't too little too late..."
     
     
     
    ...thanks and all due credit to Chris Harris!

    Smiley SmileySmiley


    Re: Press embargo lifted - Exige S reviews released

    When the Elise Mk1 came out I wondered why the press were making such a fuss about such a funny little car from a manufacturer famous for just about the worst ownership experiences imaginable. Until I drove it.

    Just 2 months later I acquired one, which at the time left me fairly bereft of funds.  And two an a half years of driving it every day left me feeling a bit schizophrenic about Lotus.  

    But now I really want to try this car, despite being half terrified of history repeating itself


    --

    Gen II Cayman S


    Re: Press embargo lifted - Exige S reviews released

    Driven: Exige S

    2012_Lotus_Exige_S-24.jpg

    http://www.thelotusforums.com/latest-news/lotus-cars-news/driven-exige-s/


    --



    Re: Press embargo lifted - Exige S reviews released

    I was fearing they'd made it a GT-Exige but apparently they've done very well... Can't wait for its Cup-offspring!


    Re: Press embargo lifted - Exige S reviews released

    Porker:

    I was fearing they'd made it a GT-Exige but apparently they've done very well... Can't wait for its Cup-offspring!

    Yes, they did very well. It's considerably faster than the former Exige CUP260 around the Hethel race track.


    --


    Re: Press embargo lifted - Exige S reviews released

    They certainly got my attention indecision


    --

    2011 987S, 1964 Type 1


     
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