So why did I only think I knew where I stood with the Exige? Well now that I’ve had it a while I have progressively been pushing the car more and more, all within sensible realms of course, but still attacking familiar roads with slightly more vigour. On my way to work on a dry bright morning the other week I took the long B road route. No traffic, lets go! Sweeping jink left then right, over crest, brake, slow through blind right, exit corner onto well sighted straight, full throttle through 2nd until one, two, three change up lights are on then flash to tell you to grab 3rd, quick squirt, spot usual braking point, brake, realisation I’m going waaaay quicker than in any other car I’ve driven down this road, brake harder, get that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach you get when you think you’ve overcooked it, turn in, apex clipped, exit corner with absolutely no fuss or drama. The Exige eats these corners for breakfast!
Further down the road the same thing happens twice more until I realise you really have to recalibrate in your mind what the car can do, relax in your seat more and trust that the Lotus will do the things it clearly can, and still be well within its limits. Where in most other quick cars you would approach a corner and need to reduce your speed by say 50% to make it round, the Lotus will approach at the same speed but only need to knock off 30%, and you’ll be on the throttle sooner too. At the very limit on long sweeping corners or roundabouts you eventually get understeer, but it’s well telegraphed and isn’t that scary wash completely wide understeer, plus all it takes is a slight lift and the nose tucks in immediately.
Other points to mention are having giving dozens of passenger rides to friends and family, the most common comments apart from the pace in a straight line, is how ‘car like’ it is when driven normally, and how they expected it to be a lot bumpier.
Despite it seemingly being impossible to spin the wheels in the dry, the rear tyres are nearly on the tread depth indicators after just 4,500 miles, eek! I guess I’ll have to budget that in as a twice yearly expense! Although on the plus side I’m told by the dealer that the fronts should last around three times as long.
I’ve also had the roof off which Lotus don’t recommend for no other reason that I can find but to keep the Elise and Exige separate on the model line up, but I have to say it’s great! Now that I’ve got a battery screw driver the roof takes under 3 mins to take on or off and apart from a bit of buffeting at motorway speeds is fine for a steady drive out. Lotus claim a drop in power with the roof off due to the reduced roof scoop which I was initially sceptical about thinking the scoop was as much for show as anything else, but you definitely notice it in the mid range with the extra surge at the point of the cam change blunted, and the top end not being quite so mental, but I only have the roof off at times when I’m not going to be thrashing it anyway, plus the car takes on a really different personality when topless, maybe a bit too ‘Miami’ and definitely not inconspicuous, but iv always been a fan of open top driving so it’s great that the Exige can multi task too.
Negatives so far? The boot, although perfect for a couples’ food shopping by keeping everything tightly in place, does get quite warm, to the point that some peppers actually got a bit ‘oven baked’ after my 20 mile drive home from Sainsburys.
The fuel consumption is good (settling at around 28-30mpg) but doesn’t quite make up for the tiny fuel tank and erratic and misleading fuel gauge which caused me to run out of fuel the other week whilst visiting my parents having covered only 230 miles on that tank. How can the first of the 6 indicator blocks on the dash be consumed in 90 miles, yet the last flash by in 25?
Then there is one other thing that is genuinely irritating. Like most people, I get in the car and immediately turn the engine on to get the fluids warming then reach for my seat belt, however the Lotus insists on beeping to tell me I’ve not put my belt on until I’ve done so! No need! Chill out! I’ve only just got in AND I’m not moving! It’s so out of character with the rest of the car it bugs me more than it probably should. I’ve found the solution though, a small cable under the seat can be unplugged to stop this which was an easy job whilst I also fitted a Schroth 4 point harness to the driver’s side, just to make getting in and out even more of a challenge!
I’m loving every minute with the little Lotus; it’s exciting, charismatic and very special. I was even made welcome at a classic car event at Prescott Hillcilmb I chanced upon recently, it was nice to meet the ancestors!(see pic)