Lotus Exige review: This lightweight sports car features a six-speed manual transmission and goes from zero to hero in 3.9 seconds

Lotus Exige

Sports cars don’t come purer (or more spartan) than this

The Lotus Exige is the purest, most engaging, most entertaining sports car on sale today. Bar none.

The Exige itself, in this third-generation Series 3 guise, is not strictly new, having been around since 2012, but it’s been the recipient of various running changes throughout the years, plus as of the middle of 2019, the Lotus dealership has come under new management.

Specifically, the management of Wearnes Automotive, which took over the reins from Richburg Motors, which is why we’re driving it in 2020, a good six years after we first took the third-generation car for a spin.

At any rate, the Exige isn’t new, and a good deal has happened in its segment in the ensuing years. However, the Exige has largely been immune from that power creep, mostly down to how lo-fi it is.

The wing mirrors have to be adjusted by hand, there’s no fancy electronic chassis trickery and there’s no infotainment system to speak of, just a single-DIN stereo. Oh, and it’s only available as a manual. You know, the sort of car you have to work a clutch pedal and row through the gears.

But all that really doesn’t matter if the reason you bought a sports car is because you like driving, because boy, the Exige offers the most unadulterated experience known to mankind.

The connection through the steering wheel and (with paper-thin padding, but surprisingly comfortable) seat is quite possibly the most tactile, most feedback-laden experience you’ll have in a car, short of a go-kart or hardwiring yourself to one.

Yes, the 3.5-litre supercharged V6 develops ‘only’ 350hp, but when you consider it’s hauling around 1,125kg, that power goes a long, long way. And that weight, like the Exige’s minimalistic ethos, turns the entire paradigm of the modern sports car on its head.

It doesn’t have big, headline-grabbing power figures, nor does it have a host of electronic gizmos and luxury car features on its side. What it instead has is a chassis and suspension so finely judged that it almost resembles magic.

The ride is firm, but there’s an underlying suppleness that it never jostles, which means you can take corners as hard as you dare, which in our case is not very fast.

Again, unlike any other modern sports car, the Exige needs to be treated with respect. If things go pear-shaped, well, that’s entirely on you. And that’s also why the Exige is so rewarding.

In all fairness, the Exige isn’t for everyone, but if it is for you, what you’ll find is a singular experience not found anywhere else… for better or worse.


PRICE: From $300,000 (excluding COE, excluding options)

GO: Magical chassis and suspension, driver engagement

NO GO: Quite a bit of money for not a lot at all