Be honest. Your favourite ex-girlfriend was not the willowy blonde or the brainy brunette, was it? Nope, we all know it was the redhead with a gun licence. She was edgy. She could surprise you and she could bloody well scare you. She reminded you that you were alive. For now. May I present the four-wheeled version.
It’s not that the Lotus Exige Sport 410 isn’t gorgeous to look at because it is, with that three-quarter scale Le Mans thing going on. Nor is it lacking when it comes to going fast or keeping you, er, entertained. But it does make my palms just a little sweaty at times.
Mainly I worry about what would happen to me if I had to get out of the bastard in a hurry. I’m hemmed in by the seat, the high, wide sill and the pitifully small door opening. Instant nightmare.
But the car’s manners at the limit would also play on my mind a little. It didn’t, for instance, seem to want to carry the corner speed I was expecting of it. The brakes were strong but lacked feel and feedback, and the steering tends to load up. That’s fine if you’re expecting it, but not so good if it starts to wind up just as you realise you’re somehow in too deep. That’s when the gun-toting redhead emerges.
But you have to love this thing. The exposed gearshift is pure porn. The driving position feels like your toes are brushing the back of the front number-plate. The yowl from the blown V6 is tantalising, and with just over 1100kg for 306kW to manhandle, the Exige can leave Dodge City like few others. Hell, even the price-tag isn’t outrageous given that you’re buying a mid-engined quasi-supercar.
So why did it finish down in sixth? Mainly because of that lap-time thing (oh, and the general ergonomics, of course). True, it was third-fastest around The Bend, but it trailed the AMG and 911 by a good chunk. The concern there being that, as such a track-focused car (the most focused of this group, surely), it should have been closer to P1.
Working out what went wrong is a simple case of looking at the lap-time V-max. At 230km/h, the Exige is a full 15km/h down on the GT63. That lack of corner speed is the key here, as it simply denies the Lotus the ability to spring onto the main straight with as much pace.
The other figures produced were better. Nought to 100 in 3.9 is going some, and so is a quarter-mile time so close to a 12-dead it isn’t worth arguing over. And 31.8m to haul up from 100 is astounding. Welcome to the world of redheads. And get yer hands in the air.
10 finalists, on road and track on Performance Car of the Year 2020
2020 LOTUS EXIGE SPORT 410 SPECS:
Engine: 3456cc V6, DOHC, 24v, supercharger
Power: 306kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 3000-7000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-400m: 12.07sec @ 192.68km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 33.7sec
Dylan Campbell - =8th
"The things you enjoy most about this car, might not be what you expected."
Louis Cordony - 6th
"It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry."
David Morley - 5th
"Loved it, but couldn’t live with it. Bigger doors for bigger blokes next time, Lotus."
Scott Newman - =5th
"A pure driving experience, but not as fast or as fun as it should be."
Tim Robson - 5th
"Compromised and largely pointless, but so what? What a noise and what a show."
PCOTY 2020 Scoring