Lotus is still alive. This may be news to some of you. And now, for the first time since the open management style of Dany Bahar was replaced by the much more conservative approach under new Malaysian owners DRB-Hicom, we have a new car to talk about.
The Exige S Roadster isn't a massive step on from the Coupe. It uses the same 3.5-litre supercharged V6 and has required precisely no extra strengthening to its bonded aluminium chassis. The metal roof has been replaced by the Elise's simple yet effective roll-up canvas. It's good for up to 145mph, but not beyond, so Lotus has limited the Roadster's top speed to 27mph less than the coupe's.
But Lotus wouldn't be Lotus if that was it, job done; not if there was suspension to tinker with and aerodynamics to adjust. For instance, turbulence over the open cockpit so disrupted the airflow that the rear wing was largely redundant, so Lotus has done away with it. To balance the car's airflow, they've also done without the front splitter. Combine this with the non-permanent lid, and the Roadster looks a fair bit softer than the coupe, which is misleading, because although the suspension has been fractionally softened off as well, the Exige is still a track-orientated car. Don't forget that.
The car we drove was on the standard Sports suspension rather than the harder Race set-up, and I'd say this was a good thing. It may still be a track warrior, but as a road-going convertible, you want it to be able to loaf. It manages this for the most part. The ride is exquisite, of course, the steering delicate and nuanced, but it's not a great convertible for the simple reason that the roof is basically a targa lid so doesn't feel that open. Yet it does get rather rowdy and turbulent for occupants. But then that's the joy of a drop-top, isn't it?
On track, it doesn't feel compromised. It's sharp, agile, adjustable and very, very quick: 8.5secs to 100mph fast, Porsche 911 GT3 quick. It's another great-driving Lotus, the sort we take for granted, one that zaps about in a delicious way, yet feels a bit raw to be a car we'd consider as a daily driver. Shame, as it's good value - it was cheap to convert coupe to roadster, so Lotus hasn't bumped up the price. Good on 'em. Now let's hope it sells.
3456cc, V6 s'charged, RWD, 345bhp, 295lb ft, 28.0mpg, 236g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 3.8secs, 145mph, 1166kg, £53,850
Don't make the mistake of thinking that the convertible Exige has gone soft. It hasn't