The Exige S is staggeringly quick, thanks to its combination of a low weight and a supercharged 3.5-litre V6 engine that develops 345bhp. It’s as quick as more exotic machinery that costs twice as much, with an official 0-60mph time of 3.8 seconds. The engine is a little slow to build revs, but once it gets into its stride it's brutally effective.
The Exige’s ability to carry its storming pace through corners is mind-blowing, and the optional race pack includes a sophisticated stability control system that gives outstanding traction. Although the steering is heavy at parking speeds, it comes alive on the move and you feel everything that’s going on through the wheel. The ride is firm, but brilliantly controlled.
Not a vehicle for a romantic evening for two. You hear just about everything that the mid-mounted engine is doing inside the cabin and it doesn't sound especially musical. There's enough wind and road noise – even at moderately low speeds – to render the stereo all but redundant. The gearshift has a direct feel, but requires a very firm hand.
While you don’t enter Exige S ownership expecting low ownership costs, it's not as scary a financial prospect as you might think. Combined fuel economy of 28.0mpg is respectable, although you're unlikely to get anywhere near that if you make the most of the performance on offer. Residual values are likely to be reasonably good, if not as strong as those of cheaper Lotus models. Our main quibble is the Exige S's unreasonably high list price.
No longer do Lotuses have a reputation for fragility – the Elise consigned such thoughts to history. The Exige S's plastic composite body is sturdy, while the aluminium chassis is equally robust. The bare-bones interior provides nothing in the way of touchy-feely materials, but what little there is feels solid and durable.
The Exige S comes with remote central locking, an alarm and an immobiliser, but that’s it in terms of security kit. Front airbags are fitted, but side and curtain airbags aren’t available. A sophisticated stability control system comes as standard.
The Exige S's bucket seats hold you firmly, although some may find them to be too narrow and there's no backrest angle adjustment. The steering wheel is also fixed, and those of shorter stature could find the clutch pedal a bit of a stretch. Forward visibility is good, but the rear view isn't as clear. At least the minimalist dashboard is easy to navigate.
The Exige is built for two – and they’d better be on the best of terms. The cabin is small, verging on claustrophobic, and there’s only a small cubby situated behind the engine for your luggage. This is not a car to take for a two-week camping holiday to the Alps. The Roadster version has a removable roof panel that's small and rather fiddly to operate.
The Exige comes with little in the way of standard equipment. Lotus would argue that's due to the need to keep weight down, but it also means that they can charge extra for what comes as standard with many rivals. You do get a CD player and central locking, but air-conditioning, a USB input and even a cupholder are options. A range of option packs add features such as leather trim, extra carpet and additional sound-deadening material.
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