By KBB.com Editors
"To add speed, add lightness." That was the motto of Colin Chapman, engineer, race-car driver and founder of Lotus Cars. The principles of lightness and simplicity have guided the design of Lotus automobiles for the past sixty years. The spirit of Chapman's original vision carries on in the 2008 Lotus Exige. Featuring an epoxy-bonded aluminum chassis and fiberglass body, the Exige tips the scales at a wispy 2,077 pounds. Its low curb weight and minimalist design are major contributors to its outstanding levels of acceleration and handling, but at the cost of comfort. The ride is firm, the cabin a bit small and there's no fancy audio or navigation system but, for the money, few cars deliver a more engaging driving experience than the Lotus Exige.
Few street-legal cars can compete with the unfiltered communication between man and machine that occurs when piloting the Exige. If you believe that as little as possible should stand between you and the experience of driving, we think you'll like the Exige.
The Exige offers top-notch excitement for a driving enthusiast but not much in terms of luxury. Unless you are willing to endure a stiff ride, loud interior and limited list of features, you may not like the Lotus Exige.
New for 2008 is the Lotus Exige S 240, a more powerful model that features adjustable launch control and traction control systems. Other changes include a new soft-touch dashboard finish, tire-pressure monitoring system and a revised instrument cluster.
Driving Impressions Considering its diminutive stature, it is easy to assume the 2008 Lotus Exige drives like a go-kart but, in reality, it feels much more relaxed. Unlike many high-performance cars, novice...drivers quickly feel comfortable behind the wheel and, in the hands of a well-seasoned driver, the Exige's precise steering and strong brakes can be used to clock impressive lap times at the track. On the street, the Exige presents a number of challenges, including a tight, loud cabin, firm ride and a low stance that limits the view of the road ahead. Even worse is the view to the rear, where the legally-required rear-view mirror gives the driver an excellent view of the engine, but little else. With those flaws in mind, those who know how to skirt potholes, use the side mirrors and truly love driving will find commuting in the Lotus Exige a fun adventure.
If straight-line acceleration excites you then you'll love the launch control system of the Exige S 240. To execute a perfect launch, simply floor the gas pedal, watch as the tachometer holds a pre-selected RPM, then dump the clutch. The ensuing rush of speed is exhilarating and easily repeatable.
Adjustable Traction Control
The Exige S 240's adjustable traction control system lets skilled drivers adjust how much the rear tires slip when powering out of corners. A small knob allows anywhere between zero to a 10 percent speed difference between the front and rear wheels.
Like the exterior, the interior of the Exige has been designed with weight savings and functionality in mind. Just entering the Exige takes a level of dexterity typically reserved for yoga classes. Once inside, exposed aluminum, lightweight plastics and a sparse dashboard let you know that comfort and style take a back seat to performance. The bucket seats are firm but supportive and hold occupants securely in place, even when circling a racetrack. The cabin features several storage cubbies and underneath the rear hatch is a small trunk just large enough to accept a pair of duffle bags.Exterior
The 2008 Lotus Exige is exquisite proof that functionality can be beautiful. Its compact body features a variety of vents, a conspicuous rear wing and even a roof scoop, yet every detail is not only functional but essential to its performance. Its eye-catching shape gathers attention wherever it goes, due to both the scarcity of Lotuses on American roadways and the sheer raciness of its design. A wide range of exterior colors are available to play up or tone down the Exige's visual presence, including pearls, color-shifting paints and custom hues specified by the buyer.
The Lotus ethos of lightness and performance is further reflected in the standard equipment list. Basics like air conditioning, front airbags and a four-speaker Alpine stereo are included, but certain "luxuries" have been omitted in exchange for weight savers, including crank windows and manually-adjustable side mirrors. There are, however, power door locks and an anti-theft system with engine immobilizer controlled by a key with integrated three-button control fob. Other standard features include a leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel, LED tail lights and a suspension outfitted with Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs.
Options for the 2008 Lotus Exige are divided into two major packages called Packs. The Touring Pack includes an iPod connector for the audio system, leather-trimmed interior, extra sound insulation, full carpeting and a trick-looking aluminum cup holder. The Track Pack adds adjustable Bilstein dampers, an adjustable front anti-roll bar and threaded spring perches that allow adjustment of the ride height. Other options include a limited-slip differential, clear paint protector and a variety of paint choices.
The 2008 Lotus Exige features a mid-mounted 1.8-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine. In the Exige S the engine is rated at 218-horsepower and in the Exige S 240 the rating is, appropriately, 240-horsepower. The Exige S 240 also includes a specific clutch, clutch cover and clutch damper to deal with the added stresses of its higher output engine. The only transmission offered for the either model is a six-speed manual.
1.8-liter in-line 4 supercharged
218 horsepower at 8000 rpm
156 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/27
1.8-liter in-line 4 supercharged
240 horsepower at 8000 rpm
170 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26