AFTER the superb Elise SC drew a collective cheer from our squad of judges at Queensland’s first round of Performance Car ’08, we were drooling at the thought of the harder-core Exige S PP at Round Two.
This Performance Car Of The Year article was first published in MOTOR Magazine November 2008.
You see, some of us had already driven a car of the same spec in a comparison with a go-kart in July, and found it to be a razor-sharp track tool – even on an unflattering go-kart circuit. But the Exige S PP we were given this time around didn’t seem as willing to work with the driver as the first Isotope Green car we had.
And the lack of an LSD in our Burnt Orange Round Two PC08 car didn’t help matters, either. On the racetrack, turning into any medium- to high-speed corner with even a little trailing brake provoked the rear enough to squirm around uneasily, seemingly ready to pounce. Even Luffy thought it was hard work.
The Exige had to be driven with smoothness and precision around Wakefield Park, where the Elise SC seemed less threatening to the driver at Lakeside and could be hustled around with gusto. We expected the Exige S PP to be fastest of all, but Luffy’s best lap of a 1:08.1 only placed the Exige S PP in second spot, four-tenths shy of the M3 M-DCT.
This surprised us, given the fact that even though the Exige weighs 665kg less than the BMW, power-to-weight is within 2kW and the Lotus is also shod with semi-slick rubber. The M3 kept the Exige S PP honest through Wakefield Park’s slow- to medium-speed corners, but through the faster stuff, the Exige was virtually peerless, carrying an average of 5km/h more at the apex than the M3 M-DCT.
The Exige S PP’s brakes were sensational, too. There wasn’t a heap of feel through the pedal until you were really firmly into it, but the relentless retardation they provided was stunning. A lot of touring cars don’t brake that well. So, where did the Exige S PP lose time to the M3?
Most of it is lost in a straight-line, with the Exige 6km/h down on the M3 at the end of the main straight. But if you think that’s a big difference, then the acceleration figures proved a bigger surprise. Lotus boldly claims the Exige S PP will hit 100km/h in 4.16sec, but our car’s tardy 5.60sec run didn’t look anywhere near that.
The M3 clocked a resounding 5.27 and from there, things only got worse for the Exige S, and further explained some of its deficit around Wakefield Park. It lost a total of over to the M3 in the sprint to 200km/h, and even the slowest of the Aussies, the FPV GT-P, beat it by two seconds to the double ton.
If it sounds like we were under-whelmed by the Exige S PP, then you’re right. It’s still an expensive toy, and after seven years of judging Exiges, we’ve become harsh critics. But in the grand scheme of things, we’re splitting hairs really, because any Lotus two-seater still provides the most unfiltered, raw driving experience of any car here.
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“I reckon it’s a proper performance car … it’s uncompromising,” said Morley. And while we all agree, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the humble Elise SC offers 97 percent of what Exige S PP does, for around $25k less. And it’s a better road car to boot…