Lotus Exige Sport Final Edition review: farewell, Exige

Is the Exige still worth boring?

Yes. Well, assuming you want an intense driving experience. Other sports cars are faster, almost all are more powerful, many have more downforce and other track-related titles to earn. But very, very few are truly more rewarding and engaging to drive than the Lotus Exige. And this is your last chance to get a new one.

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Really? They have released many limited editions in recent years…

Basically, they tried to keep production alive while they came up with the model plan and the funds to create the cars that will replace it; the cars we now know are coming later this year.

So yes, Lotus insists there will be no definitive Final Edition. Just those two Exiges and the Elise.

Wait, two final edition requirements?

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That’s right, you can choose between the £64,000 Sport 390 Final Edition and the £79,900 Sport 420 Final Edition.

Which one would you have?

It’s a little early for that, but since you ask, I’d have the 390. To me, it’s a smoother, more forgiving car than the 420. A little slower, a little cheaper. And also more modified than the 350 it replaces. Yes, you’re right, it’s got an extra 40bhp from the same charge-cooled supercharger that’s in the rear of the 420. This car gained just 10bhp (an ECU tweak) and targets a different audience.

The red car in the photos is the 420, right?

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Correct. More carbon, more aggressiveness, upgraded fully adjustable Nitron suspension, Michelin Cup2 tires. Same curb weight of 1,110 kg, perhaps surprising. It’s the couple’s tracker. But it’s still in the range below the 430 Cup. Quite below considering the 430 Cup’s six-figure costs.

But you don’t like this one?

Yeah, it’s just that it’s more compromised than the 390, it has less bandwidth. It’s very track-focused and pretty unforgiving on the road, unless you’re willing to play around with those damping settings. I’m also not sure I’m much better off to justify the expense. Admittedly, Hethel was soaking wet when I visited, which put more stress on the 420’s Cup2 tires than the 390’s Pilot Sports. Accurate on the other side, but it wasn’t transformative.

The 390, on the other hand, does the job very, very well on the trail, but it will be much less taxing for the round trip. You will be less tempted to tow it into place in other words.

Does it make a better road car, in other words?

This does. The Bilstein shocks have a bit more compliance, round out bumps better and allow the body to roll on the chassis. It’s a more absorbing ride, though it’s still a solo travel car. Talking to a passenger isn’t easy, and you’ll emerge on the other side feeling a bit restless, not because the ride is turbulent, but because there’s quite a bit of ruckus inside.

Especially not the engine. As for the noise that only wakes up when the exhaust valve opens at 4500 rpm. Next, it’s pretty mixed. Instead, it’s the overall NVH that gets to you: the roar of the road, the buzz of vibration in the steering and seat, the constant and diligent communication of exactly what’s going on through the suspension and steering. Great on back roads, less great when you have 150 miles to go. If you want a comfortable Lotus, the Elise surprisingly does it better. And the Evija probably will be too. Even if it’s a little more money.

And much more speed…

There is that, although how much speed do you really need? Lotus claims the slower 390 is good for 60mph in 3.7 seconds and a top end of 172mph. Apparently the 420 chops boils down to 3.3 seconds. I doubt it a little. The Cup2s will have more traction, but the power-to-weight ratio only goes up from 350 hp/tonne to 378. And remember, there is no efficient little robot pulling the gears for you, you do it yourself.

Which really is a treat, just as sweet here as it is at the Elise. When I got back from riding the Exige 420, I sat on it for a while and pushed and pulled the lever, watching how everything worked. Incredibly geeky, but it’s that kind of car.

I’ve never been a big fan of the 3.5-liter transverse V6. Like the 1.8 in the Elise, it originally comes from Toyota and has tended to be a bit characterless in the past. But credit where it’s due feels more personalized now than ever. Amazing response as there is no turbo lag with a supercharger always available to you, decent noise especially beyond 4500rpm and extra power as it focuses on the 7000rpm cutoff. At its best from 5 to 7 km, but more than healthy everywhere. With little weight to push, a 400-hp Exige is an absolute ripper.

Any downside to this?

Early Exiges (released in 2012) seemed to have a high center of gravity and didn’t handle as well as the equivalent Elise. That has been eradicated over the years, and both cars feel super sharp and incisive. The main drawback of the engine, apart from its thirst, is that the accessories mounted on it interfere with visibility to the rear.

How are the two inside?

The 420 comes with carbon solo seats which, while coming from the same mold as the 390’s GRP (glass reinforced plastic) seats, have taller side bolsters. Other than that, it’s mostly about spec options. There’s a trunk behind the engine, but anything you put in it gets hot.

Will you miss the Exige when it’s gone?

Not as much as the Elise. This car was truly a game changer, it was still the tough nut, the hot rod that came out of the Elise platform. The role it serves and its legacy once it’s gone will remind you that no one cares as much about driving as Lotus. Porsche, Ferrari, Alpine, Ariel, Caterham – they’re all great, but when it comes to making cars that are agile and communicative, I still don’t think there’s a company that comes close to Lotus. Disagree? Give your opinion in the comments below.

Score: 8/10

Specs: 3.5 liter supercharged, V6. 390bhp/311lbft or 420bhp and 318lbft, 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds or 3.3 seconds, 172mph or 180mph max, 27.7mpg/230g/km both

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Source : topgear.com

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