This is a brand new Exige from Lotus which was launched just earlier this year. It joins the recently announced Lotus Elise Sport and Elise Sport 220 delivering a lighter and even more performance-focused driving experience.
A product of the Lotus ride and handling team the Exige Sport 350 weighs just 1125 kg and has shed 51 kg compared to the previous model Exige S. This reduction in mass is the result of a thorough re-evaluation designed to deliver a pure driving experience.
Lotus engineers weighed every component in the previous Lotus Exige S in order to save weight, the result of which includes, amongst many other changes, the introduction of a louvered tailgate panel, a lighter battery, lightweight engine mounts, a lightweight centre console featuring an exposed gearshift mechanism, lighter HVAC pipework and the optimised use of sound insulation.
This new Exige is just great to look at, but every design feature has its purpose in handling and speed. The nose it low with large headlamps on its side. Its side profile is like the Elise, larger and wider is its arches. Replacing the previous car’s glass tailgate, the newly designed lightweight, strong and stiff, rear louvered tailgate not only helps lower the Exige’s centre of gravity, but also aids engine bay cooling – a feature first introduced on the Lotus Esprit Turbo in 1980. The Lotus Exige Sport 350’s aerodynamic styling produces 42 kg of down force at 160km/h with the very unique rear wing and flat underside both contributing to its phenomenal aerodynamic performance and finely balanced handling.
Lower yourself into the Exige’s’s sporty and firm leather seats and you know you’re in a proper sports car. You sit low and still with my 5’ 6” height I had good view out front and side. The high doors sills and waistline and low windscreen header rail lend a feel of hewn-from-rock solidity to the cocoon-like cabin, which serves to make the excellent driving position. When you get behind the wheel of this Exige you immediately feel at one with the car. The meter cluster is simple and informative and air condition vents are well positioned. The billet made gear knob invites and my palm grabs it ready to deploy some hard hitting action.
The 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine generates 345hp and 400Nm of torque at 4500rpm, offering scintillating, progressive power to the road, while revised suspension tuning and wheel geometry contribute to un-matched vehicle dynamics and steering precision. Coupled with the car’s lower mass, this power and torque enables the Lotus Exige Sport 350 to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a supercar territory of 3.9 seconds before reaching a top speed of 274km/h.
The manual gearbox has been heavily revised, giving more precise and quicker shifting. The gearshift mechanism uses light weight machined and cast aluminium components which are so technically aesthetically appealing they are no longer hidden within the transmission tunnel but exposed through an open-gate design, further reducing weight.
The weight balance is perfect thanks to the aluminium tub, and the balance gives optimum traction from all the wheels. The engine is responsive from ignition or even from 3-digit speeds, so at whatever speed you’re driving the performance is just responsive, wet or dry. In addition, the soundtrack emitted by the exhaust system is entertaining and it invites to work the engine even more. There is a flood of torque, with the peak of 400Nm being delivered at 4,500rpm. Even below 2,500rpm the engine is sending a wave of information to your palms begging to be driven. Yes, you can drive it like a compact hatch in traffic and have little else going on, but its acceleration when requested is rapid and scary if you are not ready as the engine revolution rushes to the redline like a hyperactive civet cat. There is a deep-throated sound, more like what you hear from a 1,000cc superbike from Suzuki or Kawasaki.
Without any doubt, Lotus has a true winner with this Exige Sport 350 with very impressive power-to-weight ratio, a lot of style in its design, exhaust notes that inspire even Ferrari drivers and GRIP…..lots of GRIP. Just get past the notion that all things fast and enjoyable needs to be German or Italian and this humble Lotus will leave most of the competition behind as it races from rest to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds.