Our deputy editor gets his first taste of Lotus machinery courtesy of the Exige S Roadster. Or he will do once he’s found out how to get in…
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V6, supercharged, 3456cc||345bhp @ 7000rpm||295lb ft @ 4500rpm||4sec||233kph (limited)||1166kg (296bhp/ton)||$79,500|
Last year Lotus gave crankandpiston.com the chance to try a brand new Evora S, the company figurehead capable of seeing off the fastest(ish) Porsche, Mercedes and even Ferrari had to offer. The onset of rain during the shoot simply made the drive yet more memorable. And I remember being thunderously pissed off, since I missed my opportunity to have a go. You see, before this year, I’d never driven a Lotus, an activity incredibly high on my bucket list.
Fortune as it happens though occasionally favours the whiny. With the invaluable help of Journals scribe/Lotus nut Sean Cain, I managed to grab some time with the Exige S Roadster, among the latest of the company’s diminutive super-esque-cars. Like the S, the Cup and the Cup R that complete the Exige line-up, the S Roadster boasts a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 that produces 345bhp and 295lb ft of torque, enough for a 233kph top speed. Interestingly, thanks to a specially lightweight construction atop the aluminium chassis (plus ditching the rear wing and front splitter, since the open targa-esque roof made them aerodynamically redundant), the Roadster weighs in at 1166kg, some 10kg less than the coupe. For added cornering ability, the suspension has been softened slightly – ever so slightly – for the sake of the ride, but the Exige S is still a track-orientated car.
All very good, but ultimately pointless if I can’t fold myself into it.
I say this because the Roadster sits almost impossibly low to the ground and stands less than four-feet tall, leaving me with little room to get in. Thankfully, unlike Lotus’ of old, the door sills have been redesigned, the slicker mounts proving easier to crawl across. My attempts – all four or five of them – elicit much giggling from our photographers, and it’s only by bending my legs in directions hitherto I thought impossible that I manage to drop into the Lotus’ bucket seat. I have ample time to survey my surroundings while the guys stop laughing.
It’s very minimalist on the inside, a radio, a fire extinguisher, no floor mats and carbon-framed bucket seats about it: even the wing mirrors need to be adjusted manually. It’s a similar principle on the outside too where, a rather bulbous Ford GT-esque arse aside, everything from sleek headlights to semi-rippled bonnet and 17/18-inch lightweight alloy wheels is more delicate than muscular and aggressive. From the off, the Roadster S does not shout its intentions with a loud paint finish or raucous interior. It’s pure business, as I soon discover on firing the supercharged V6 into life.
Adjustments for the steering column are limited, meaning the wheel itself is mounted lower than I’d like. Couple that with the scale of the diminutive wheel, and it’s not with the greatest of confidence that I chuck the Lotus into the first corner. All concerns immediately disappear though as the front-end bites, understeer and bodyroll figments of the imagination. It’s incredible.
A low centre of gravity and a super stiff chassis (which has received no mods) means there’s barely any movement at all through the turns, the whole car seemingly glued to the road surface with only the smallest of chinks from the rear wheels as I downshift through the six-speed manual. I’ve had the privilege of driving much faster, much more expensive sports cars than this in my time, but few that handle with such immediate and direct impetus as the Lotus: such is the weight of the steering that it’s impossible not to feel connected to the front wheels.
That’s not to say the engine isn’t impressive. Acceleration from the V6 is raw and guttural, the supercharger ensuring potent pull from the deepest depths of the rev range. It’s a pull that’s not aggressive or violent, but there’s no arguing with its effectiveness. Braking is similarly raw, there being little in the way of travel in the pedal and more immediacy than I’d expected, but it’s an urgency that still leaves me in control.
I love this: the precision of the steering, the swiftness of the back-to-basics manual gearbox, the glorious sensation of speed, the raspy V6 soundtrack. It’s the very definition of the thrill of driving and it’s an experience I’ve waited nearly 15 years for. I don’t want to get out.
Which is ironic, because, I kind of can’t.
Technical specifications available on page 2