Exige can turn on the style

Lotus Exige.

Lotus Exige.

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Lotus has never built a bad Exige and it’s not about to begin now. This latest car is a little bigger and a whole lot more powerful in 345bhp supercharged ‘S’ guise.

It still represents a great way to beat up on Porsches at track days.

The engine will be familiar to many. It’s the Toyota Camry-sourced 3.5-litre V6 that debuted in the Evora S and which is supercharged to a heady 345bhp.

Yes, that V6 is a much heavier engine than the four-pot unit it replaces, but the extra 125kg is more than offset by the increase in power, and Lotus has worked to position the engine low and as far forward in the middle of the car as possible.

Power to weight ratios are up significantly, from 239bhp/ton in the old S model to 331bhp/ton.

Things have got very serious indeed.

Performance is suitably ludicrous, with the Exige smashing its way from standstill to 60 in less than four seconds.

It’ll make 100mph in around eight seconds, or only about a second shy of a Ferrari 458 Italia.

A three-stage DPM (Dynamic Performance Management) system is standard, with both Touring and Sport settings in addition to full deactivation.

An optional ‘Race’ pack adds a fourth mode, the imaginatively-titled Race, which features a launch control system so you’ll be able to replicate the acceleration figures of Autocar’s team of lead-foots.

With a kerb weight of 1080kg, rest assured that the Exige hasn’t succumbed to middle-aged spread.

Walk around the Exige a few times and you can’t but notice the belt has been loosened just a little.

The almost cartoonish muscularity of the first car has been morphed into something smoother and more elegant this time round and perhaps that is no bad thing.

Getting in and out of the thing still requires the flexibility of a Twister champion.

Let’s just say that the added 7cm grafted into this car’s wheelbase hasn’t translated into additional comfort behind the wheel.

The roof scoop that had also become a bit of an Exige signature has also been smoothed away, replaced by a ventral ridge line.

The front end looks a lot cleaner with a set of more aggressive air intakes and at the back there’s a moulded panel with inset tail lights and a big fixed rear wing.

Build quality looks to have improved, in line with the 2012 model year updates that Lotus applied to the Evora.

We’ll need to wait until we get a full UK road test to give a definitive verdict on the new Lotus Exige S, but first impressions certainly look promising.

While it might be a pity this fabulous performance car has stepped upmarket quite significantly, it’s broadly in line with the longer-terms plans of Lotus, the company realising margins at the budget end of the market were just too tight to be viable in the long term.

It’s possible a more affordable model will infill the Exige range beneath this supercharged S version but there’s just something ever so slightly unhinged about 345bhp in a car that weighs just a smidge over a ton. It is priced at £50,800.