Lotus Exige S Test Drive

After ensuring I could fit in a Lotus Exige S V6 and that I could also wear my crash helmet, a test drive was what was required next.

The test drive was in the Cotswolds. From the outside the carbon grey Exige S looked pretty menacing. The dealer got in and turned the key and the Exige S burst into life with a theatrical whoop and settled to a barrel-chested, fast idle. Whilst the Exige S warmed up I took another good look around the car both inside and outside. Then, after a couple of minutes, we were ready to get off. The door of the Exige S is small and to get in I find that putting the left leg in first and then following in with the rest of the body and finally pulling my right leg is best. Once in you feel very low down, even if you are just over 6ft tall.

The Exige S uses Lotus’s familiar aluminium tub, but beyond that it’s a very different animal from the previous incarnation. It features wider tracks at the front and especially the rear, a 70mm longer wheelbase, and the rear subframe and suspension layout is similar to that of the Evora. Oh and engine is from the Evora S’s supercharged 3.5-litre V6, all 345bhp and 295lb ft of it. The Exige S has 298bhp/ton and it’ll run from 0 to 60mph in 3.9 seconds and 0 to 100mph in 8.5 seconds.

I put the gear lever into 1st and slowly lift the clutch moving across the loose gravel drive. A turn left put me on a damp stretch of road that crosses a field with cattle ramps at each end. One of the first things I notice is that you can feel everything on the road surface come through the steering wheel so you fully understand what surface you are going over. The gear change is smooth and each gear is easy to find. To start with I’m in Tour mode designed for sensible driving and utilises Bosch’s stability-control system and ‘understeer avoidance’ programming to keep you completely on the straight and narrow. As the speed increases and the tyres warm up you can feel that there is tremendous grip from the Pirelli Corsa tyres, which are designed for high performance driving and cars destined for the race track more than damp, wet country roads. Nevertheless the Exige S feels planted along the twisting Cotswold roads. As I continue the drive I select Sport, this opens up a valve in the exhaust for even more noise, makes the throttle more responsive and introduces a fair degree of slip so you can experience the Exige’s limits with a reassuring sense of security. As this is a test drive with the dealer sat next to me, I stay well within the cars boundaries and only start to push the car on a couple of clear wide straights and easy corners.

After the 20 minute test drive I have a great smile on my face and am truly impressed. The Exige S is certainly a leap forward in performance and grip from my Clio V6. The only criticisms I have are how hard it is to get in and out of, and the cabin is basic and small. However, that does make it feel pretty special and I’m sure I could become an expert at both entry and exit. In fact with the extended wheelbase and wider build, the Exige S looks low and exotic. Although I did not explore anywhere near the full capabilities of Bosch’s stability-control system I believe that this will offer a great help in getting to grips with the Exige S on track. There are 4 modes in total, Tour, Sport, Race and Off.

I pretty much convinced that the Exige S will be my next 2nd car. Now I need to find the right one for me.

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