How can Lotus improve on the Exige S?

Exige is the name that Lotus gives to the most hard-core, extreme car it makes. This new one is beyond brilliant; so good, in fact, that we're not sure whether it can be improved upon.

A return to Hethel in England is always a pleasure. Lotus' home always gives me a little bit of a tingle in my "yes" place and the chance to muck about in the new Exige S amplified it to near priapismic heights.

When Lotus calls a car "Exige," you know it's not mucking about. Similarly, you know that you're likely to leave with a big grin on your face. Of course, Lotus' current nomenclature means that adding "S" to a name means it's got a supercharger, too. Which is nice.

The current car is the third Exige -- the first was based on the S1, and the second was based on the rather delicious S2 and came with all manner of engine tweaks. Anyway, compared with the new one, they're child's play.

This one gets the 3.5-litre supercharged V-6 straight out of the Evora S. The result: 345 bhp, 295 lb. ft., a top speed of 170 mph, and 0-62 mph in less 4 seconds. All in a car smaller than R2-D2.

On top of its silly power plant, there's also the fact that it was developed by Lotus -- that means it's one of the finest-handling cars in the world. It'll slide when provoked, but otherwise it'll grip like nothing else.

As well as having silly power and handling finesse, the Exige S boasts a first: traction control. The Dynamic Performance Management system, as Lotus calls it, gives the Exige an electronic brain that not only stops you from falling off the road, but can give you a faster lap time as well. Touring mode is the "don't crash" mode; Sport is best called "hero" mode, as it lets the Exige's rear step out of line from time to time; and Race mode -- it's really clever. Race mode will learn the track you're on and will give you access to its fearsome power when it thinks you're capable of using it -- no matter how hard your foot is pressed on the go pedal. A Lotus development driver told me that in a race around Hethel, a car set to Race will be quicker than one with no traction on at all. So not only is this the most powerful Exige, it's also the cleverest.

The Exige is a car that fills its driver with confidence; it fires you from A to B with such ferocity that you can't help but grin like a loon. To go along with the power, its noise is pretty incredible. You won't forget there's a 3.5-litre V-6 mere inches behind your ear in a hurry.

On a track the Exige S will humble things twice its price and cars with horses for logos. Quite simply, it's the ultimate Lotus.

Specs
Engine 3.5-litre supercharged V-6
Power 345 bhp
Torque 295 lb. ft.
0-60 mph 4 seconds
Top speed    170 mph

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