Lotus added a brand-new Exige coupe to its lineup for the 2006 model year, only to replace it in late 2006 with a supercharged Exige S. It joins the Elise roadster, which debuted in the U.S. for 2005. The limited-production Exige S is marketed toward high-performance enthusiasts and is intended mainly for operation on a racetrack.
Like the Elise, the Exige S coupe is built in Britain.
Even though the Exige S looks similar to the soft-top Elise, the two sports cars use different sheet metal. Only the door panels are shared. Both are based on the same 150-pound aluminum chassis — featherweight, by automotive standards. Both models are flamboyantly styled, and each car's appearance is augmented by a variety of vents and curves — some shapely, others practical in nature.
The Exige S sports a body-colored rear wing and black ground effects. A single exhaust pipe replaces the twin pipes in the Elise, and an updated roof scoop channels air to the mid-mounted engine's intercooler.
Bilstein shock absorbers work with Eibach coil springs, and cross-drilled rotors and twin-piston Lotus/AP brake calipers are installed. Built on a 90.5-inch wheelbase, the Exige S measures 149.5 inches long overall and is 45.6 inches tall.
As in the Elise, only two people can fit inside the Exige S. The small steering wheel is barely more than a foot in diameter. An air conditioning-delete option is offered, and composite sport seats come only in black. An optional Touring Pack includes leather seats, additional sound insulation, an upgraded stereo system and full carpeting.
Under the Hood
The supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder in the Exige S pumps out 220 horsepower and 165 pounds-feet of torque. Lotus says 80 percent of the torque is available at just over 2,000 rpm, giving the Exige S a flexible power band.
The sole transmission is a six-speed manual. Options include traction control and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential. Meant to distribute power more evenly between the rear tires during autocross competition, the limited-slip differential permits more aggressive acceleration when exiting corners. An engine control system can vary the rpm at which the engine's variable valve timing kicks into motion.
Lotus says the Exige S scoots from zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds.
The antilock brake system is specially calibrated for delayed actuation, which allows competition-oriented drivers to perform "threshold" braking.