Lotus Exige S Roadster: All other soft tops are sissy

Exige is a name given to the most potent cars Lotus produces, but does removing the roof dumb it down?

Many moons ago it was easy to tell the difference between a Lotus Elise and an Exige. The Exige had a roof and it looked like it was going to shank you. Not any more, though, as Lotus has taken the roof off the Exige. But would doing that remove some of the Exige's hardcore edge?

On the looks front it certainly does. As well as losing its wig, the Exige S Roadster loses the coupe's spoiler and front splitter. For good reason, though, as the spoiler needs a fixed roof to do its job properly, so why bother keeping it? Losing the spoiler, splitter and roof also saves 10kgs over the hard top. So while it looks less angry, it is a touch lighter. Lovely.

Its engine is...awesome. It's the same 3.5-litre supercharged V-6 you get in the Evora S and pumps out the same 345 bhp, 295 lb ft and intoxicating noise. Of course, without a roof you get to hear that noise even better than you do in the coupe...

Zero to 62 mph happens in 4.0 seconds and it'll go on to 145 mph -- nearly 30 mph less than the hard top. Admittedly that might seem a little bit of a shame, but the soft top doesn't cope too well with high speed and do you honestly NEED to go faster than that? Really? Didn't think so.

As a driving experience it's every bit the Exige. It rides hard, but not so hard that you'll need a proctologist after a drive to the shops. Its chassis is stiff and encourages you drive it as hard as you dare, even though deep down you know it'll be perfectly stable above and beyond your limits. The V-6 revs delightfully freely, encouraging you to hit the red line time and time again. Of course in doing so you'll end up well above the speed limit. The acceleration is as brutal as its zero to 62 mph time suggests. You're pinned in to your seat with each stab of the throttle, the car urges you to go faster and faster, singing for its supper. It leaves an impression, as well as everything else, in its wake.

It corners wonderfully, too, though that's no surprise in a car hailing from Hethel. It's been honed by the world's best after all. Sanity is something that is rarely linked with an Exige, but the Roadster is a touch more sane. As well as a more muted mush, its springs have been given a bit of a break -- it's softer, marginally, than the hard top. Does that make it more of a cruiser? More relaxed? No, it really doesn't. This thing is still pretty mental, but in the best possible way.

Slippery weather does let the Lotus swing its bum out on occasion, even the slightest shimmer of damp will cause it to twitch a little even in ultra-safe Tour mode. Sport is positively hilarious when used in a safe environment, or course.

In all, the Exige S Roadster is damn good fun. It's not as focussed as the coupe, but only just. What it does do, rather well, is make every other soft top out there look a little bit lame.

Specs
Engine 3.5-litre supercharged V-6
Power 345 bhp
Torque 295 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 4.0 seconds
Top speed    145 mph
 

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