A hardtop sibling of the Elise roadster, the Lotus Exige S is a super lightweight, back-to-basics machine focused on providing a pure and engaging driving experience. The Exige S received a host of improvements inside and out for the latest model year, though United States safety regulations mean that it will be sold stateside solely as a track-only car.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the latest Exige S is its new powerplant - a supercharged 3.5 liter DOHC V6 unit mounted transversely behind the passenger compartment. With 345 horsepower, the engine is far more powerful than the 256 horsepower 1.8-liter four it replaces. Allied to a six-speed manual transmission, Lotus says the motor is capable of motivating the car to 3.8 second zero-to-60 mph blasts and a 170 mph top speed (up from 145 mph).
Though the new 3.5 undoubtedly makes the Exige S a quicker and faster car, it also helps to add weight - mass is up from 2,077 lbs in the previous model to 2,380 lbs.
Also new for the Exige S is a Lotus DPM (Dynamic Performance Management) system that allows the driver to toggle between three difference driving modes - Touring, Sport, and DPM off - at the flip of a switch. An optional Race Pack furnishes a fourth driving mode that maximizes traction out of corners, an optimized track suspension setting and Launch Control.
If the Exige S strikes you as a bit larger than the outgoing model, you're on to something - the car has gained roughly 10 inches in length and two inches in width. The twin headlight look of the old model is gone in favor of a triangular design shared with the Elise, while the new front splitter and fascia are much more simple and elegant than before. The clean, sleek look is continued in the roof, which Exige fans will notice no longer sports the gaping air intake of the old car, and in the rear, where the spoiler is smaller than before.
The spare interior of the Exige S has changed little, though a pair of newly available packages up the ante of comfort and style. The Premium Package adds leather trim on the door panels, steering wheel and handbrake, among other places, and also brings more sound insulation. The Premium Plus Package nets an ebony black/slate grey SuedeTex interior upholstery combination, a SuedeTex center console and more.
Exige S models sold in the U.S. feature a full roll cage, racing seats and harness as well as an electrical cut-off switch.
As a lightweight, minimalistic track machine, the Exige S's main competition comes from the stripped-down, performance-focused Porsche Cayman R. Buyers could also conceivably cross shop the Nissan Nismo 370Z and the Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, both of which offer plenty of power but are much heavier than the Lotus.