Lotus Exige is pure performance

IAIN DOOLEY checks out the Exige from Norfolk-based Lotus, a car boasting a harder edge than its drop-top cousin the Elise.Engines - For anyone seeking a thrilling, long term experience 2004 was an important year in Exige's history.

IAIN DOOLEY checks out the Exige from Norfolk-based Lotus, a car boasting a harder edge than its drop-top cousin the Elise.

Engines - For anyone seeking a thrilling, long term experience 2004 was an important year in Exige's history. This was when Lotus made the switch to a Toyota engine, and it's the Japanese firm's 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit you'll find in the Exige. Flexible, powerful, yet refined and surprisingly economical, it's a fantastic unit. The default output is 190 horsepower, although some variants offered more and there's always the aftermarket tuning business to consider.


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Exterior - Rakish looks mirror that of the Elise from the same period in time. Compact and well proportioned, the Exige remains a head-turner due in particular to its looks and rarity value. And thanks to its solid roof and rear wing it looks more like a genuine race car than the Elise.

Interior - As befits anything from the Lotus family, the Exige is another example of how a minimalist approach can work. The car's cabin is on the basic side, but all the controls you need are easy to use and close to hand. Two-up and the cabin will feel snug, although driving solo isn't much different as you're sat low down behind the wheel.

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Driving - The Exige is not something you treat lightly. A genuinely quick car in the hands of a skilled driver, it's equally home on a track as it is your favourite B-road. Boasting rear-wheel drive and none of the electronic aids you'll find on mainstream performance cars, this is a pure and uncorrupted driving experience. The Toyota engine is willing and, in the dry, there's plenty of grip. The communicative steering and well damped ride will help you make the most of the clear road ahead.

Ownership - Unless you're a real hardcore enthusiast, the Exige is likely to be a second car in the household. As such, its modest storage options and long distance cabin refinement will be only minor considerations. On the flipside, the purity of the car's performance delivery should please the keen driver, as there will be no such thing as a dull drive in this car. Getting in and out of the cabin is a job for the fit and flexible, while all-round visibility is limited due in part to the low driving position.

What to look for - There's much evidence of a sizeable improvement in both areas in recent years, but the odd niggle is not uncommon.

That said, the car's powertrain is tough but still ask plenty of questions - has the car been raced or driven at track days, for example. Evidence of bodywork damage should be avoided, while a full history is essential along with conducting that all-important test drive.

Model history - 2004, Lotus updates Exige sports car with Toyota 1.8-litre petrol engine. Over life of the car, various states of tune offered alongside the base 190 horsepower variant. Basic standard equipment list supplemented by a small selection of options, although Exige initially pitched as a fast road and track day car and not a luxury vehicle.

Reasons to buy - Well-mannered for a dual use road and track day car, willing and powerful Toyota engine, snug cabin adds to race car feel.

Reasons to beware - Useable but not that practical day-to-day, need to be careful in the wet, cabin won't accommodate all sizes of driver.

Pick of the range - Exige Performance/Sport.

What to pay - 2004 04 �18,025; 2004 54 �18,525; 2005 05 �19,500; 2005 55 �20,050; 2006 06 �23,425; 2006 56 �24,200; 2007 07 �25,675; 2007 57 �26,375; 2008 08 �27,875; 2008 58 �28,750; 2009 09 �30,300; 2010 59 �31,950. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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