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The Lotus Exige built upon the Elise’s engineering prowess, doubling down on power while fine-tuning the handling to deliver responsive, track-optimised thrills.
Initial concepts for the car that would become the Lotus Exige iterated upon the Elise chassis, with a more powerfully tuned engine and hardtop roof. As the idea developed, the Lotus Design team sketched a radically new concept, and the Lotus Exige was truly born.
The Lotus Exige deviated from the Elise’s roadcar spirit to create a truly race-optimised sportscar. The Exige debuted a more aggressive full coupe design with flared wheel arches and a roof-mounted air scoop. The new design proved popular and broke new ground as an engineering concept – all the new body panels could be fitted to the existing Lotus Elise chassis.
The Lotus Elise gearbox was swapped out for a non-synchromesh racing box and the Exige was fitted with a single centre-mounted seat, non-removable hardtop roof, kamm-tail rear bodywork and a pylon-mounted rear spoiler. The Exige implemented its own version of the Elise’s pioneering, bonded aluminium chassis, adding a unique rear subframe and forged aluminium double wishbone suspension at the rear of the car.
Under the rear panel, the Lotus Exige packed the same Rover 1.8-litre 118bhp K-Series engine as its predecessor, tuned for more power output. This generated a top speed of 219b kph and a quick 0-100 kph mph time of 4.6 seconds.
Following its track success, a more road-friendly version was developed. The Lotus Exige was still a track car at heart, but this new variant added an extra front seat, as well as a track-derived front splitter and rear wing, and road-legal Yokohama track tires. Comfort features such as air conditioning were notably absent. Leaving its status as an Elise variant behind, the Lotus Exige was officially unveiled at the Autobytel series race in 2000 – with the name derived from the French ‘exiger’, meaning ‘demanding’.
Name: Lotus Exige
Year of production: 2000 - 2021
Volume: Approx. 10,497
Engine: Rover K-Series + Toyota V6
Power output: 430 bhp / 436 PS / 321 kW @ 7000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed Toyota EA60 close ratio manual transmission
Weight: 1,056 kg
Launching in 2019, the Lotus Exige Sport 350 demonstrated the simple effectiveness of a high power-to-weight ratio. Swapping out the engine for a torque-heavy 3.5 litre supercharged V6, the Lotus Exige Sport 350 was optimised for snappy acceleration and instant response. Without power-assisted steering, the Sport 350 offered an incredible level of feedback and all-condition driving excitement.
The Lotus Exige Cup 430 Final Edition was developed to celebrate the Exige’s last year of production. Featuring a range of additional interior and exterior features – including a 3.5-litre supercharged V6, with a baffled sump – the Cup 430 edition sat on top of the Exige range. Chargecooled for a consistent 430 bhp and capable of generating 171 kg of downforce, the Lotus Exige Cup 430 is considered one of the quickest-ever sportscars, in terms of its real-world performance.
Also launching to celebrate the final year of the Exige’s production run, the blazing fast 420 Final Edition includes the upgraded 3.5-litre supercharged V6, as well as a range of interior and exterior features. Most notably, the dashboard was upgraded to a TFT race-style display with choice of two screens. The Lotus Exige Sport 420 Final Edition released in a new selection of colourways, paying tribute to iconic liveries from Lotus history.
The Lotus Exige Sport was produced to replace the outgoing Exige Sport in the last year of Lotus Exige production. Its configuration could produce an extra 47 bhp thanks to the Edelbrock supercharger with chargecooling. As a result, the Exige Sport 390 Final Edition could generate a mighty 420 Nm of torque, accelerating to 100 kph in just 3.7 seconds before reaching its top speed of 277 kph.
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