Surely a softer Lotus Exige is a bit like the McDonald’s healthy choice menu – the answer to a question no one was asking.
But don’t worry, tweaking the suspension and losing the roof hasn’t turned the Exige S into a sofa on wheels, it’s still hardcore and still lives for the racetrack.
Fortunately, Lotus arranged a private testing facility for the car’s launch, though sadly the weather on the day would’ve had Noah readying the ark. So can I tell you the altered camber settings and larger rear anti-roll bar have subtly softened the Exige’s character? No, I was too busy trying to stay alive.
What can be confirmed is that, thanks to the Exige being designed with the soft-top in mind, losing the roof hasn’t harmed its ability in any way. It may have even enhanced it – the Roadster’s fabric cover cuts weight by 10kg in the very place of most benefit. Certainly, 1166kg isn’t much to shift when there’s a 258kW/400Nm 3.5-litre supercharged V6 providing the push.
Claimed 0-100km/h is a mere (and very precise) 3.96sec, but even more impressive is the way it howls like buggery through third and fourth gear. The Harrop-sourced blower gives a lovely, linear power curve and switching to Sport or Race mode allows the Toyota-derived V6 to rev to 7200rpm.
Race mode also raises the ESP intervention point to ‘oops, almost crashed’ levels and allows the engine to make its presence felt in another way. Trail the brakes or lift the throttle in a slow corner and the back quickly swings around, requiring swift reflexes, some serious effort (due to the lack of power steering) and a dose of luck to catch before slamming into a wall. And in a fast corner? Don’t lift. Just don’t.
Driven with more restraint, the Exige’s Pirelli P Zero Corsas extract huge grip from even a soaking wet surface (though they struggle with standing water), and the unassisted steering feeds a beautiful stream of information to your fingertips. And the brakes are superb.
Getting in and out of a Lotus is still a palaver but while the interior remains more spartan than the movie 300, healthy lashings of leather provide a dash of luxury. Removing the rear wing has also made the Roadster look more road car and less track day refugee.
A drive on road will reveal just how much compromise is required for day-to-day use, but on first impressions the slightly softer, yet every bit as exhilarating, Exige S Roadster appears to be the healthy choice.
Engine: 3456cc V6, DOHC, 24v, supercharger
Power: 258kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 4500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.0sec (claimed)
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