After attending more autocross events this year a very consistent theme developed – balanced, light cars equal lower times. From there the hunt was on identify the perfect weekend track partner ,when it hit us. There was a car that coasted across the radar with 190 horsepower when it was first introduced back in 2006: the Lotus Exige. Think of the Exige as the fixed hard-top (a.k.a. coupe) variant of the Lotus Elise. Yet, on this side of the Pond, we didn’t see the more powerful Lotus Exige S until mid-2008 and during the 2009 production year when it came in two optional trims: S240 and S260.
However before that, the major difference between the 2006 and 2007-08 Exige S was a tiny supercharger which produced an extra 30 horsepower over the standard 190 hp coming from a 1.8 liter, in-line four. Then midway through 2008 (from what we can fully understand) Lotus decided to make things a bit more interesting and introduced a more “up-beat” Lotus Exige S240. Simply put, the numeric part of the name indicated how much horsepower the Exige was putting out; in this case it was 240 ponies, 170 lb-ft of torque and weighing in at about 2,100 lbs. Power management, ensuring the driver stays in the fun, comes from a close-ratio six-speed gear box was created to match the car perfectly.
Then the S260. Here the difference is simple, more power and a diet of 60 pounds by replacing the engine cover, rear wing, front splitter, roof and side ducts with carbon fiber pieces. The engine on this version squeezes out an extra 17 horsepower and pushes the torque up by 4 lb-ft, bringing everything to 257 hp and 174 lb-ft all in a car that weighs a touch over 2,000 lbs. Both cars achieves 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Both cars all have the sames seats: the driver’s seat moves forward and back, while the passenger seat is fixed. Surprisingly the seats are comfortable for a 3 hour road trip, although one would not get that impression at first glance. The other similarities between the two is the missing rear-view mirror, which is blocked by a single, giant, channel that draws air from the roof air scoop directly into the supercharger intercooler. Redline comes in a tall 8,500 rpms. Shifting taking place on a short-throw, aluminum shifter and stopping power is delivered to the a pair of front 4-pot AP brakes with cross-drilled rotors.
With all that said it makes sense why this car would be an excellent choice for either autocross or a big track day. The only major downside is cracking either the front or rear bumper will set you back $12,000 USD as the car is constructed in a two-piece clam shell. Yet with all this exciting talk and wondrous setup we have yet to find enough of these cars roaming the roads. We would expect to see more cars with this level of agility being exploited. Until then, enjoy the pictures from a distance and taste the rainbow.