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First Drive: Lotus Exige 3.5 V6 S 2dr (2012-2015)

£54,920 when new

Car specifications

Brake horsepower
Fuel consumption
0–62 mph
Max speed
Insurance Group


So a
new Lotus Exige. It looks a bit… different.

Ah, you spotted the fact this is no mere
facelift. The Exige, Lotus’ most hardcore, track-focused model, has been
thoroughly overhauled, gaining new design, a rather funky wing and a longer
wheelbase to make room for the supercharged V6.

A supercharged
V6? What’s that doing in a lovely flyweight thing like the Lotus Exige?

Yes, the Exige used to have a teensy
1.8-litre four cylinder and the new Exige S has the same 3.5-litre V6 as the
Evora. This has changed the car somewhat.


making it heavier presumably?

Yes, by around 240kg. But there’s more than
enough power to offset that – 345bhp gives the Exige S a similar power to
weight ratio to a Porsche 911 Turbo, and means 0-62mph in four seconds flat
even with a standard six-speed manual rather than some super-snappy
double-clutcher. Major league performance.

the Exige was never about power…

No, it was about handling purity, not blunt
acceleration. But the feeling at Lotus was that the Exige needed to change
tack, to become more habitable, to be an everyday-feasible car, one that you
could take to a track day without needing the services of a towbar-equipped SUV
and a trailer. The trouble is, adding everyday comfort (and that big V6) ups
the weight and loses the focus. But hell, 1176kg isn’t much in the grand scheme
of things and Lotus is capable of handling miracles. 

as much. How good is it then?

This might just be a) one of the greatest
driver’s cars Lotus has ever made and b) one of the best handling cars
available today. Seriously. It’s just sensational. It single-handedly proves
that Lotus has lost none of its ability to make cars ride, handle and steer
better than just about anyone else on the planet. It’s not just that it’s
chuffing fast across country due to the outlandish grip and mighty V6 shove,
but that it’s just so pure, so much fun. You can pootle around town and still
get loads of enjoyment from the steering response, the way the ride deals with
everything with so little fuss. I was skeptical about the Exige’s new
direction, the extra weight, but I’m 100 per cent convinced that this is the
way to go.

not a rival for a Caterham or Atom anymore then?

Nope, think Porsche 911 GT3 instead.

eyes must be deceiving me, I thought I just read 911 GT3.

You did. The Exige may not have the
pedigree, or quite such a charismatic engine, but that’s the way to look at it
– as a 911 GT3 for £30,000 less.

so you like it. Any drawbacks?

It is noisy on long trips and the radio
struggles to overcome the road noise. The manual gearshift is also a bit stiff.
But this is a hardcore driver’s car, you have to be prepared to make
sacrifices. One of them might be your ears. Another your back when clambering
in and out. Small price to pay.

I’ll never be able to buy one because Lotus is having problems, right?

Don’t be so hasty. Yes, Proton, the
Malaysian company that owns Lotus, has been bought by an even bigger fish and
that big fish is currently evaluating its options. Based on their latest words
to the media, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and we remain
hopeful that the ambitious model plans laid down by Dany Bahar will one day bear
fruit. After driving this Exige, the thought of never experiencing the 550bhp
Esprit supercar fills us with horror.

more pictures and the full story on the new Lotus Exige, you need the brand new
Top Gear magazine – more details here

What do you think?

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