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The Top Gear car review:Lotus Exige
For:Joyous handling, performance, character
Against:Expensive and impractical
What is it?
Let’s cut to the chase. Forget Lotus’s financial ups and downs (y’know, the promises of expansion and transformation that was quickly followed by retrenchment and now a pivotal takeover from Chinese firm Geely).
And forget those countless tartan-lined special editions that spout out of Norwich and onto TopGear.com seemingly weekly. See, when it comes to Lotus’s bread and butter – lightweight sports cars – it still makes some of the best in the biz. Fact.
The Exige is a testament to this. It’s an analogue gem that now shines brighter than ever in the growing crop of sanitised, synthesised and podgy performance cars.
Slotting in between the diddy four-cylinder Elise and heavier, more GT-orientated Evora, the Exige is the focused lightweight of the family with a big Toyota-sourced supercharged V6 at its heart. The Exige line-up is now divisible into three specs, depending on how fast you’d like to go and whether your preference is to thrash it on road or track.
The bottom rung of the ladder is the 345bhp, 170mph Exige Sport 350. The top? The potty, downforce-laden Cup 430 – the quickest street-legal Lotus ever. But now there’s a 1,054kg Sport 410 - the lightest V6 Exige ever - to bridge both the performance and £40k price gap. Its inherent duality now makes it the pick of the bunch. Even if it does cost £85k.
See, the Exige is an exquisitely engineered sports car. Being small and positively anorexic with an incredibly mechanical setup, it communicates its surroundings in a way only a Lotus can. Its damping (helped by three-way adjustable Nitron dampers) is nothing short of delicious. With so much body control, it seamlessly entices and enthrals driving enthusiasts to push harder, evoking raw emotions and feelings that are rapidly being lost in an era of digitisation.
The 410 is also chuffing fast. Let’s make no bones about that. Not having to push much mechanical lard around is good for a power-to-weight figure of 389bhp per tonne, a 3.3sec 0-60mph time, 180mph top speed and with all those juicy aero goodies, good for 150kg of downforce. Something you can now also enjoy with the roof off in a 410 Roadster, which you can’t do with the 430.