Lotus Exige Mk2


Debut: 2004
Maker: Lotus
Predecessor: Exige Mk1



 Published on 26 Jun 2004
All rights reserved. 
Exige can be seen as a track-biased Elise, fulfilling those who drive their cars to work on weekdays and race their cars on "track days". Based on the same mechanicals as Elise 111R, i.e., the 192hp Toyota Celica engine and 6-speed gearbox, the Exige received some aggressive treatment. Most obvious is the addiiton of a composite roof and fastback engine lid, whose purpose is to reduce air turbulence and lift of the open cockpit. A black lip spoiler and black rear wing spoiler help generating 19kg and 21kg downforce front and rear respectively at 100mph. Engine cooling is also enhanced by larger side intakes and an additional air scoop at the roof.

As for chassis, the Exige rides on 10% stiffer suspension setting than the Elise 111R. But most significant is the adoption of Yokohama A048 semi-slick tires, which give it superior grip on track. The new Exige corners quicker and flatter than the Elise, especially at higher speed where downforce starts digging in. When it slide, the Yokohama tires keep that happen progressively, therefore oversteering is confidence inspiring. Compare with the first generation Exige, it rides more supple, handles more tidy and is quieter in the cockpit. Besides, standard ABS and power steering make it easier to live with.

Nevertheless, I suspect Exige is slower than the equivalent Elise, as the additional bodywork adds 15kg to the kerbweight. Lotus claims the same acceleration figures and a slightly lower top speed at 147mph, blame to the drag generated by the rear spoiler.

The problem is, the second generation Exige differs not that much from the Elise and does not deserves a separate label. If you remember, the first generation Exige had wider tracks, stronger engine, a more diversified look and a far sportier character to distinguish it from the contemporary Elise. Now this Exige is just an extension of the Elise range.
Verdict:
 Published on 25 Apr 2006
All rights reserved. 
Exige S
Since 2 years ago we have been questioning why the second generation Exige differed so little from the Elise, even sharing the same power plant. Now Lotus finally gave us an answer: a supercharged version of the Toyota 1.8 engine. The intercooled Roots type supercharger boosts horsepower count from 192 to 218 at the same 7800 rpm. More crucially, it sorted out the biggest problem of the high-revving VVTL-i engine: torque. It lifts peak torque from 133 lbft to 159 lbft while lowering its occurrence from 6800 rpm to 5500 rpm. This mean the power band becomes stronger yet easier to access. Moreover, from 2000 rpm there is already 80% of the maximum torque available, so the torque curve is not only shifted towards the center of rev range, but also flattened a lot.

With the new engine, the resultant Exige S can accelerate from rest to 60 mph in merely 4.1 seconds, and then 100 mph at 9.8 seconds. This edge out the late Esprit V8 to be the company’s fastest production car ! Top speed, however, is merely 148 mph because of the high downforce shape and the relatively modest top end power.

If the existing Exige is a performance bargain, then Exige S is even more impressive as a giant killer. Its UK price of £34,000 is equivalent to a base Porsche Boxster 2.7, but its performance runs neck to neck with a 996 GT3 RS in the real world.

As always, the handling of Exige S is sensational, thanks to the ultra-lightweight chassis, tremendous grip from the Yokohama A048 semi-slick tires, massive downforce and the excellent tuning by Lotus. Its track performance is amazing, because it was born as a part-time racer - see the massive spoilers and the roof-mounted air intake and you'll know. Moreover, it has adjustable dampers all round. At track setting, the suspensions provide sharp and roll-resisting handling. At road setting, they provide superb damping in the tradition of Elise, so the Exige S feels at home on B-roads.

Such double-edge quality has always been a unique feature of the Elise family. Now Exige S has added accessible power and even supercar performance into the equation. The result is naturally a winner.
 Published on 5 May 2012
All rights reserved. 
Exige S V6


Lotus Exige has always been a version of Elise, albeit with a roof, full aero kits and track-tuned suspensions. That impression has to be abandoned now because Lotus has modified it into another animal. The 2012 Exige S is a much larger, pricier and stronger performer than the car from which it derived. It falls into a higher performance category as well as a higher market segment than any previous Exiges. Priced at £53,000, its closest rival should be Porsche Cayman R, yet its performance is closer to the territory of 911 GT3 RS.

Style-wise, the new Exige S is easily recognizable as an Exige, primarily because it still employs some vital parts from the old car (and Elise). These include the windscreen and doors which dictate its shape, and the aluminum chassis tub which dictates its interior. However, you can also easily see that the new body is much larger. By how much? Tape measure found its length exceeds the old car by 255 mm, its shoulder is 85 mm broader (all spent to the wider tracks and tires), while its wheelbase has been stretched by 70 mm to accommodate a larger engine. Behind the aluminum tub almost everything is new – the subframe, the suspension control arms, springs, dampers, bushings and anti-roll bars. Up front, the steering ratio has been quickened to compensate for the longer wheelbase, so that car keeps the same turning circle. Much of the front suspensions are carried over, but they are set with less negative camber in order to loosen the unassisted steering, which could have been made too heavy by the increased kerb weight. The latter is now 1176 kg, 240 more than the last car.



Don't be too worry. This car is still a good 120 kg lighter than Cayman R. Moreover, it gets a much stronger power plant, i.e. the 350-horsepower supercharged V6 from Evora S. Having learned this, its £53K price sounds almost a bargain, doesn't it? Not only the Exige S is £9K cheaper than its same-heart cousin but it is also significantly faster, with a Nardo-proved top speed of 170 mph and a 0-60 mph time of only 3.8 seconds! 0-100 mph sprint is equally staggering at 8.5 seconds. Mind you, we don't fully trust the acceleration figures supplied by Lotus, but even after some reasonable adjustments its performance is still likely to worry Porsche. You know, the GT3 RS asks for no less than £128,000. The Lotus offers 90 percent of its performance at less than half the cost. This must be very attractive to track days enthusiasts.

Although the supercharged V6 is not as mad as Porsche boxers for rev and sound, it is blessed with superb linearity, quick throttle response and a good spread of torque, so performance is easily accessible. That is a sharp contrast to the peaky manner of the old 1.8 supercharged four. The gearchange of the cable-operated 6-speed manual is a little clunky though.



As before, the Exige S is designed as a road-and-track car. On the one hand its suspension leaves enough compliance to feel comfortable driving on B-roads, on the other hand its chassis setting and aerodynamics are tailored for race tracks. Its massive rear wing, diffusers and all-round spoilers generate positive downforce to keep the car on rails in fast bends. Its unassisted steering delivers tactile road feel and a directness that few road cars can rival. It demands strong arms at parking, but once up to speed the steering lightens up considerably and feels natural, just like an extension of your body. Its AP Racing brakes are designed to withstand laps after laps of abuse. Its beefier rubbers (205/45ZR17 front and 265/30ZR18 rear) are semi-slick Pirelli P-Zero Corsa, or even P-Zero Trofeo if you are really keen on track days. Few road cars are so focused on track performance.

You might think the installation of a heavier engine at the rear would hamper the old car's excellent balance. No, on the contrary, the new Exige S is better balanced and easier to handle. Its new rear subframe, revised rear suspension geometry and harder bushings result in a much higher lateral stiffness, hence less weight transfer in hard cornering. This allows the car to use softer springs and dampers and introduce an anti-roll bar to deliver a more comfortable ride yet better roll control. Besides, the new double-wishbones have anti-squat angle built in so to resist squat under acceleration. Therefore the new car displays a poise and stability absent in the old car.



Cornering attitude becomes more benign, too. When you push it beyond its very high limit of adhesion, it understeers gently. Provoke it with a sudden throttle lift and more steering lock, the tail slides out progressively. Then the interesting thing is: you can hold the power slide with opposite lock and throttle, something unimaginable in its short-wheelbase predecessor, which would swap ends ten out of ten times.

Another thing worth praising is the new switchable handling control called Dynamic Performance Management. The Bosch-developed system combines engine management, traction control and ESP stability control with the possibility of selecting your preferred mode – Touring, Sport, Race or complete Off – from a rotary switch located on the dashboard. Touring provides the highest security that is preferable on wet roads. Sport is the fun mode. It kills understeer and allows more slip at the tail while maintaining a safety net. It also sharpens throttle response and enhances exhaust noise by opening the bypass valve. Race mode is even more brilliant. Instead of loosening the intervention further, it actually involves more, constantly calculating to maximize traction and grip – it even recognizes which tires you use by calculating slip angle. Even the best drivers will find it returns the fastest lap time. Moreover, the Race mode never feels intrusive. The DPM seems even better than Ferrari's Manettino!

The 2012 modification has transformed the Exige completely, making it a near perfect road-and-track car. It is fast, controllable and fun to drive. Flaws are few, such as the lack of limited-slip differential (which means a half-hearted power slide could end up in spinning the inside rear wheel) and the usual weakness of its interior (no need to explain I think). A more graceful engine and gearbox wouldn't hurt, too. Having said that, for a road-and-track car at this price level the Exige S is virtually unbeatable. Forget the fancy model plans of Dany Bahar and the uncertainty surrounding them. At this moment, Lotus has returned to its best in its specialized area.
Verdict:
 Published on 15 Dec 2015
All rights reserved. 
Exige Sport 350


The second generation Lotus Exige has been around for 11 years yet there is no replacement in sight. Cash-strapped Lotus could not afford to develop an all-new successor, nor another heavy modification like the S V6 introduced in 2012. All it could do with a limited budget is to extract the unused potential of S V6. Fortunately, there is still some.

One of the areas is weight saving. Yes, I mean weight saving. Although the 1176 kg Exige S V6 was already very light by industrial standard – for instance, it was lighter than a Porsche Cayman GTS by 170 kg – it is not light enough by the standards of Colin Chapman. The team of Jean-Marc Gales found many components could be made lighter without increasing costs. For example, by improving the manufacturing process of the glass-fiber body panels, they could be made thinner and save 12 kg. A redesigned engine subframe can save 3 kg. New piping in ventilation system shaves another 3 kg. A new gearshift mechanism made of machined aluminum cuts 1.5 kg. New forged alloy wheels and AP dual-cast brake discs (with aluminum hubs) eliminate 5 kg each. Removing sun visors and sound deadening materials save 1 kg and 3 kg respectively. Replacing the glass rear window with a louvered composite panel saves a further 3 kg. Another 7.5 kg is shelved by putting the air-conditioning on option list, which is an acceptable compromise for a track-oriented machine. All in all, the resultant Exige Sport 350 has lost 51 kg on the diet.



Lotus could have put the 406 hp version supercharged V6 of Evora 400 into the engine compartment of Exige, but that would have added 40 kg (including the Evora’s limited slip differential) and hampered the balance of Exige, not to mention the added costs which would put it at a higher market position and face stiffer competition. All things considered, Hethel decided to keep the 350 hp engine unchanged. After all, the old car was never short of performance. With added lightness the new car is even quicker, taking a claimed 3.7 seconds to go from 0-60, while top speed is unchanged at 170 mph. It laps Hethel test track some 2.5 seconds quicker, too. As before, the supercharged V6 is not exactly world class, but it offers plenty of linear power for your disposal.

One of the weakest links of the old car was its loose gearshift. The Sport 350 borrows the new shift mechanism from Evora 400, whose mechanicals are visible in the redesigned, see-through transmission tunnel like Pagani. Its gearshift becomes much tighter and more positive in feel, although it is neither as slick nor short-throw as Porsche gearbox. It is no longer a pain to use.



Modifications to the chassis are subtle. The suspensions keep the same springs and dampers but the camber, toe angle and steering geometry have all been revised. As a result, the Sport 350 has eliminated the slight initial understeer of the existing car. It responds sharper to your steering input but not nervously so. The first class chassis tuning means the Lotus handles direction changes, braking and acceleration in a progressive and predictable manner. The Pirelli P Zero Corsa provides strong traction and grip. The suspension feels firmer than the old car’s due to reduced kerb weight, but it still covers B-roads with ease (if noisily). Thanks to the communicative unassisted steering and vice-free handling manner, you have full confidence to push it right to and even beyond its very high limits. Lotus’ Dynamic Performance Management (aka traction and stability control) keeps oversteer and slide in your control, almost as clever as Ferrari’s SSC. For raw driving thrills, the Sport 350 could probably beat a Cayman GT4, at least before you take powertrain into consideration.

On the flipside, the Exige is not a proper road car, of course. Its cabin is difficult to enter. There is not much creature comfort to speak of. Now even the thin layer of sound insulation and the precious rear visibility have both gone. However, as a track car or a toy for sunday blast, you will need a 911 GT3 RS to beat it. As the Porsche costs more than double the money, the Exige should enjoy a comfortable position in the sports car market, something can't be said to the pricier Evora 400.
 Published on 6 Dec 2016
All rights reserved. 
Exige Sport 380


In the era of Dany Bahar, Lotus lost 3 years in developing some brand new cars that never saw the light of day. During that period, the existing Elise, Evora and Exige were ignored and left untouched. Following the arrival of Jean-Marc Gales with his realistic approach, the existing cars received continuous development again. In 2015, each of them introduced a new version (Elise S Cup, Evora 400 and Exige Sport 350). This year they are updated again (Elise Cup 250, Evora Sport 410 and Exige Sport 380). Hopefully we shall see some improvements in each model year, just like American car makers used to do.

The new Exige Sport 380 follows the Gales Law – more power and less weight means a better car. Its 3.5-liter supercharged V6 gets a revised pulley to speed up the supercharger, hence producing higher boost pressure. The result is 30 extra horsepower, hence the name Sport 380, and 7 pound-foot of extra torque. The peak torque arrives at 500 rpm higher the rev, but the torque curve is actually improved, sustaining longer thus you can push the car harder. To cope with the increased boost, the ECU, fuel pump and exhaust are also modified. If you opt for titanium exhaust (like Evora 410), you will find a more exciting exhaust note as well.



The titanium exhaust alone saves 10 kilograms. There are many other weight saving measures, such as using carbon-fiber to construct all its aero kits (saves 2.6 kg), carbon-fiber racing buckets (-6 kg), lithium battery (-10 kg), lightweight forged alloy wheels (-10 kg) and replacing the glass rear window with a polycarbonate item (-1 kg). The whole car tips the DIN scale at 1100 kg with the optional exhaust, so it is 25 kg lighter than the existing Exige Sport 350. It could have been lighter still if not the use of larger fuel tank and transmission oil cooler. 25 kg seems not much, but you have to remember that the Exige is already a lightweight. A Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman S carries 250 kg more weight!

There are no changes made to the chassis or suspensions, but the front tires get 10 mm wider to enhance front end grip, and the rubbers themselves are changed from Pirelli P Zero Corsa to Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, which offer even more grip. The new AP grooved brake discs, borrowed from 3-Eleven track car, offer better stopping power. Meanwhile, the revised aero kits produce more downforce, i.e. 140 kg instead of the previous 88 kg at top speed, all the while without adding drag. As a result, the Sport 380 has its top speed raised from 170 to 178 mph, 0-60 mph slashed by two-tenths to 3.5 seconds only and its Hethel test track lap time cut by a significant 2.5 seconds. BTW, that’s 1.5 seconds faster than the Evora Sport 410. In terms of track performance, the much lighter and purer Exige is still unrivalled.



So how does it feel on road and track? The extra power might not be huge, but you can really feel it, in particular at high rev where the Exige punches harder. The delivery of the supercharged V6 remains linear and predictable compared with turbocharged rivals. It will spin happily to 7000 rpm. Flexibility is also remarkable. There is plenty of torque in mid-range, and the car is light, so you can drive it all the time at 3rd or 4th gear. If you want to shift, you will enjoy the quality of gearshift as well, which is much sweeter and more precise than older Lotuses, if not as good as Porsche’s. The exhaust noise is deafening loud and sporty, easily beating the four-cylinder burbles of Porsche 718.

With more front-end grip, the car shows even sharper turn-in and nearly no understeer into corner. The unassisted steering remains full of feel and confidence inspiring like no others. The car’s compact size, lightweight and low center of gravity make it an ideal track car. Ditto the strong braking and grip. At the limit, the car is very friendly. You can get the rear end rotating progressively without fearing of losing control. At high-speed bends, the extra downforce gets into play and keeps the car stable. On back roads, it also excels with impressive agility and predictable handling. The suspension is surprisingly supple for a track-oriented car, especially one without adaptive suspension. If not the noisy and spartan cabin and the high door sills, it could have been useable on daily basis.

Any weaknesses? Very few. Lacking LSD, wet road handling needs caution. At £68,000 (+£5,000 for the titanium exhaust), it is £11,000 more expensive than the Sport 350, which will be kept in production as long as demand exists. Yes, Porsche 718 is not quite as fast or pure, but a GT4 version could threaten the Exige, even though by then Lotus could have already introduced another upgrade.
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Exige
2004
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3797 / 1727 / 1159 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota-Yamaha
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
-
-
192 hp / 7800 rpm
133 lbft / 6800 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 195/50WR16
R: 225/45WR17
875 kg
147 mph (c) / 142 mph*
4.9* / 4.8**
13.0* / 13.1**
Exige S
2006
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3797 / 1727 / 1159 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota-Yamaha
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
Supercharger
-
218 hp / 8000 rpm
159 lbft / 5000 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 195/50WR16
R: 225/45WR17
935 kg
148 mph (c)
4.1 (c) / 4.1***
9.8 (c) / 11.1***
Exige S V6
2012
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
4052 / 1802 / 1153 mm
2370 mm
V6 by Toyota, 60-degree
3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, VVT
Supercharger
-
350 hp / 7000 rpm
295 lbft / 4500 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 205/45ZR17
R: 265/30ZR18
1176 kg
170 mph (c)
3.8 (c) / 4.1*
8.5 (c) / 9.6*




Performance tested by: *Autocar, **R&T, ***C&D





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Exige Sport 350
2015
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
4084 / 1802 / 1129 mm
2370 mm
V6 by Toyota, 60-degree
3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, VVT
Supercharger
-
350 hp / 7000 rpm
295 lbft / 4500 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 205/45ZR17
R: 265/35ZR18
1125 kg
170 mph (c)
3.7 (c)
-
Exige Sport 380
2016
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
4084 / 1802 / 1129 mm
2370 mm
V6 by Toyota, 60-degree
3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, VVT
Supercharger
-
380 hp / 6700 rpm
302 lbft / 5000 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 215/45ZR17
R: 265/35ZR18
1100 kg (with Ti exhaust)
178 mph (c)
3.5 (c)
-



























Performance tested by: -





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Exige Sport 350

Exige Sport 380


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