- Max Speed
This review was first published in Issue 191 of Top Gear magazine (2009)
Empty your pockets. Shave your eyebrows. Disown your friends. Whatever you can do to free up an iota or two of extra space in the cabin before you slide into the Exige 260, do it. You’ll need it: this car redefines the concept of packing light. No bins, no cubbyholes, certainly no boot: just a pair of roughly human-shaped holes carved into the carbon fibre, three pedals and a tiny steering wheel.
But, when you’ve stripped down to your y-fronts and performed the yogic feats necessary to get into the driver’s seat, it’s all worth it. The 260 - the most extreme Exige ever, the track-day special of a track-day special - is simply a monumental, mind- reading machine. At speed, up near 9,000rpm, there’s an almost bewildering linearity to the Exige’s responses, a mockery of the whole concept of ‘handling’ to an even greater extent than the stock Exige. Look, point and you’re there. Quickly. It’s actually quite a spooky feeling.
Yes, there’s extra power from the supercharged 1.8-litre Toyota-sourced engine (up 39bhp over the Exige S’s 218bhp). The roof-mounted air intake is sculpted in carbon fibre, as is the roof, rear wing, front splitter, sills and even the skinny bucket seats. Anything that doesn’t contribute to the going-faster thing has been axed: there’s no radio, no sound deadening, no central locking, no aircon. Oh, and no airbag. Lotus has lathed down the alloys removing a combined 10kg, contributing to a 38kg reduction overall, bringing the total kerbweight under 900kg and the 0-60mph time down to four seconds flat. And it certainly feels faster.
You need to drive the 260 hard. Scrap mechanical sympathy and keep the revs up over 6,000rpm, where the supercharger starts to blow hard and propel the Exige towards the horizon with wild-eyed eagerness. Don’t even contemplate left-foot braking unless you’re (a) very, very good or (b) fancy a steering-wheel-shaped hole in your forehead. the uprated brakes are brutal.
This isn’t a second or third – or, truth, even a fourth, fifth or sixth – car. On price, it might look like a competitor for, say, the Cayman, but you could actually live with the Porsche, contemplate a medium- length journey in it. Not a chance in the Exige, which you’ll drive straight to the track by the shortest route possible. But on that track, this Exige will destroy your Cayman. And, in the right hands, it’ll make mincemeat of your F430, your Gallardo and any other piece of extortionate exotica you might own. Is it worth the 10 grand premium over the standard Exige? Of course not. Does that matter? Does it hell.
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