Lotus Exige Sport 350 Review
Union Jack of One Trade

Words and Photos by Clifford Chow
7 Sep 2020
 

There is very little electronic trickery between you and the rawness of driving pleasure. If rawness is what you do crave, the Exige packs plenty in its drive, and some more in how it is built.

The Lotus Exige is uncompromising on one thing, and that is to deliver a pure driving experience. If you like your cars just like how the title of the Lightning Seeds song goes, ‘Pure And Simple Everytime’, or like your coffee black - ten scoops, no sugar… heck… no water even; the Exige could be the car for you.

There is very little electronic trickery between you and the rawness of driving pleasure. If rawness is what you do crave, the Exige packs plenty in its drive, and some more in how it is built.

The British built sports car’s fibreglass bodywork which sits atop a lightweight high strength aluminium bonded frame is a familiar sight, since the Exige has been around for a good number of years in one form or another. Its roof panel in which you can opt for in lightweight carbon fibre, unlike the removable one on the related Elise, is bolted in (less of-course you opt for the Roadster variant, which would probably be a special order here).

A little fun fact, those manually adjustable wing mirrors are sourced from the now defunct Rover’s Metro/100 bargain basement hatchback (you rolled back on that one to take a look didn’t you?).

Being a Lotus, everything you see is placed on the car for a reason. For instance, the ducts on the car are purposeful; and so is the rear metal diffuser and rear wing, which are both there to generate more downforce for better high-speed stability.

Inside

In ensuring an optimum power-to-weight ratio, the Exige’s bare interior is fitted with equally bare essentials to keep things civilised. While most cars have progressed with digitised air-conditioning controls and fancy state-of-the-art fingerprint-attracting touchscreen infotainment units, the Exige still relies on time tested knobs for the former, and a Single DIN car entertainment unit. The plus is, you do shave off some weight here.

Even with the Exige in its latest form, the British manufacturer has stubbornly not budged with adding more creature spoils to attract a wider range of buyers. The strict weight savings would mean that even the passenger seat is fixed, since seatrails do add weight. The earlier-mentioned manually adjustable wing mirrors would mean no motors and added switchgear. You do however have an interior stitched with leather, and there is some carpeting to take off some of that raw edge.

The party piece we feel is the exposed gearshift linkage, where you intrigue yourself with its mechanical movement as you shift cogs… then again, if you did, you’re not looking at the road.

While the Exige is a very dedicated sports car, it does have a small 112 litre boot, just after the engine.

The Drive

The Exige Sport 350 is the mildest of the three available variants offered by Lotus. There are also the higher-spec 410 and 430 cars available. The numbering denotes how much power (PS) the cars are packing.

The Exige is powered by a Toyota-sourced 3.5 litre V6, with a Roots-type supercharger bolted on, linked to a six-speed stickshift. As expected, you get 350PS, while torque at 400Nm may seem quite decent for something high in performance. But paired to a car which weighs in at only 1,125kg, together with very good balance and suspension geometry, the Exige 350 can be a formidable track weapon, when put in the right hands.

Acceleration is quick, with this Daytona Blue example hitting the benchmark 100km/h at 3.9 seconds. But the pleasure is not in the numbers but in the experience. The slick and accurate gear shifts are done in short throws, and surprisingly, the clutch is quite forgiving. Your experience is further amplified by the mechanical whiz-bang of that V6, with the whirring supercharger on-top, right behind your head. Opening the exhaust flaps, by way of a dubious unmarked button on the left of the steering column, enhances the pleasure you can milk from the Exige on a twisty clear road in a way only a few cars can.

The Exige delivers accurate and quick throttle response as you feed in the power when it is needed. A steering which is unaided, therefore you can feel most anything the road is feeding back to you, are just some of the things worth waking up that rusty left foot of yours. The brake and throttle pedals are also well-placed for you to expand on your muscle memory of your right foot, as you rev-match that engine while working southwards, the ratios of that lovely six-speed gearbox.

While you will enjoy the twists and turns, and opening up the throttle on open roads, or punching it on a track. Exige is just good for that… a master of one thing only. 

Long distance drives are at the risk of your own sanity. If the firm suspension does not do you in, the intrusion of noise into the cabin would definitely come to bite you in the long run. 

Our Thoughts

If you are planning to buy one, the base-spec Exige will set you back at around $300,000 excluding COE. For that money, you would be wondering where a good amount of that went, since the car is rather spartan. 

Furthermore, the build quality is in the sense, almost kit car-ish, with some ill-fitting bits and bobs.

For similar money, there are cars more civilised, like the near end-of-life BMW M2 Competition, more relaxed Audi S5 Sportback, or even a mid-engined Porsche Cayman. But if you are looking for something this analogue… old-school if you may, Lotus might be one of the last few manufacturers still building cars really quite special.

In Summary

We Like

Absolutely stunning to look at. Superb around the turns. Mid-engine balance.

We Don't

Questionable quality and fit of some parts. You do pay more for less.

Verdict

If you are one who would enjoy the quirks of cars built by small volume manufacturers, the Exige has plenty of them. Ideal if you have cash to splash on a second car, and are looking for something delivering an experience this pure.

Car Loan Calculator - Lotus Exige Sport 350

SGD 300,000 (23 Jul 2020)

This car is eligible for minimum 40% down payment

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Engine

Engine Capacity 34565cc Supercharged
Engine Type V 6
Power 345bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 400Nm @ 4500rpm

Performance

Acceleration 3.9s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 273 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 10.6 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 6 -speed Manual
Drive Type MR

Measurements

Body Type Coupe
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(4084 x 1802 x 1129) mm
Wheelbase 2370 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity 43.5 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs