My first fortnight with the Exige

SNV31923_4abcddde2ed06-lightboxI pictured sunshine, champagne and a posh showroom. The reality was pouring rain, a plastic cup of water and a small room attached to a Ford garage. But none of that mattered, as buying a Lotus is about focused driving thrills, not superfluous gimmicks.

My Exige is the limited edition Sprint, of which only 40 were made, a mix of blue or yellow cars. Each one is marked with an individual year between 1967 and 2008 minus 1982 when Colin Chapman passed away. I know people will scoff at the Touring Pack and A/C for not being hardcore enough, but I’ve got to live with it everyday and at the end of the day an A/C unit weighs around 4kg, are you really gonna notice that? The best extras are the Performance Pack (240bhp, AP racing brakes) and Sport Pack (harness points, sport seats and adjustable front anti-roll bar) plus unique yellow and black interior and the classic Lotus external colour scheme.

Leaving the garage into light traffic you realise that it’s very different to any car you’ve driven before; visibility is good provided you’re looking forward (rear vision is marginally better than a crab’s), the steering is light once on the move, although as there is no power steering you won’t want to tackle too many 3 point turns. It gets quite noisy over 50mph, and what immediately strikes you the first time you enter a motorway and look to your right as a Ford Fiesta over takes you, is how you can’t remember them being so huge and tall! What is very impressive however, is the ride. Don’t get me wrong it’s firm but the damping is exceptional, even over typical, scarred British roads it never crashes or finds itself wrong footed. You do tend to scan the road for pot holes like you would on a bike but I think that’s more to do with the quantity of suspension killing craters we have these days than anything else.

If all these things sound negative, they aren’t. They are all part of what makes the Lotus experience so special; as you’re reading this, I’m assuming you are similar minded to me in that you want your car to provide an experience on even the most mundane journey to work, and not just to be a means of getting from A to B, and it’s here that the Lotus is in its element.

To many people, the fact you need an actual technique for getting in and out is ridiculous, but to us it just adds another level of fun to the experience. The fact there’s no rear view mirror, rear window, cruise control, bluetooth, climate control, ESP, or luggage space in a car costing over £30K is criminal in most people’s minds, but I don’t care, as I have variable traction control, unassisted steering with better feel than any Ferrari, massive AP Racing brakes, 240bhp, 935kg and semi-slick rubber which will get me down any A or B road with a bigger smile on my face than anyone else.

The reaction you get in the Exige is another plus point. Everyone seems to love the little mad yellow & white Lotus, whereas in the 350Z I felt I was looked at as a bit of a tosser who takes himself too seriously. In the Exige you get a real mix of smiles, pointing, respectful nods and even laughter, although it may help that the guy behind the wheel is beaming like a Cheshire cat. My first fill up at the petrol station was delayed by a 10 minute chat with an enthusiastic motorist, and just this morning, whilst drawing out some cash, a lad of around 8 came up asking ‘How fast does it go mate? Can I see the speedo?’.

I hate the fact that 95% of supercars are kept in storage never to be seen, and like most petrolheads if I see a Lamborghini or a Ferrari on the road I get genuinely excited. I know the Lotus is far from being in their league but if by chatting to a guy in a forecourt, letting a young lad sit in it, or just seeing it drive past, makes someone smile then I’m more than happy to share the fun.

The fact my last fill up showed an average of 33mpg despite spirited driving just adds to the guilt free enjoyment of owning the Lotus.

Right, I better get back to giving friends, family and anyone who can get in it passenger rides, and driving to nowhere in particular! Next time I’ll get into the nitty gritty of the driving experience in more detail, and I’m also about to book in on the Lotus driver training course so will report back on that too.

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Lee Hawley