More Geneva: the Lotus Exige S Roadster

March 8th, 2012

Lotus Exige, side view

A few folks have been modifying present Lotus Exige S cars, converting them into soft-tops (see comment by wallabyguy here), but now the factory does it for you. And it has made other alterations to make this a most desirable sports car.

This is part of Lotus’s comeback story. The firm has had lots of ups and downs but has always kept to the “less is more” mantra, and its new cars are finally getting the styling right as well. I think owner Proton (Malaysia) has done well by them.

The Exige S Roadster gives what is basically a track and rally car a little more class and some upgrades in appearance. Worldcarfans called it “an Elise with a bigger engine,” but now it’s better-looking too.

Performance comes from a blown 3.5-liter V6 (345 hp) that moves you to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and 0-100 in 8.5. Top speed is 145 mph. Best is its light weight—about 2,400 pounds. A 6-speed manual is standard; you can order Lotus’s Serial Precision Shift (SPS), with paddles and automated shifting.

Lotus Exige, rearThere are two suspension settings, and you can get a Race Pack for the track. Interior can be ordered “plush” or in more stripped-down, spartan, typical Lotus style. This is what a modern sports car should be, in my always-humble opinion, and if I had the $65-70K that it will probably cost, I’d be a customer.

Now comes the ridiculous part: The car is not coming to the U.S. market, but will go to Europe and Asia. Well, maybe it’s not so ridiculous. That’s where the money is for sports cars. And Lotus has gotten back into rallying and endurance racing in a fairly big way, not a sport that has gained much traction in the U.S.

Proton has quashed rumors that it will sell the company and is sticking with plans for a 5-year financial and product turnaround. The business plan seems to be very ambitious, to say the least, and I’ll bet Lotus will rethink it yet again and cut back on number of cars and models.

But, in any case, the U.S. will provide too small a venue for its products. To sell such cars successfully in America would require a lot of money and marketing talent.

What could change everything is, of course, the economy. If things continue to go badly in Europe and pick up in the U.S., we might just get the Exige S Roadster. But don’t hold your breath.

The market for high-end or even mid-priced sports cars has declined in the U.S. Do you think it will come back?

—jgoods

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  1. Randy
    March 9th, 2012 at 17:04 | #1

    I’ve always loved the Lotus philosophy that seemed lost in the USA for so long, with only the Mazda Miata maintaining a truly inexpensive, light, conservatively powered sports car. Past cars like the MG midget, Spitfire, Sprite were really fun to drive and very forgiving handlers. What I’d really love to see from Lotus is a small, light 150-hp 2 seater that sells in the mid 20K range but with Lotus styling.
    Perhaps the decline in the US for high and mid priced sports cars is due to the horrible roads, traffic congestion and idiot drivers. Here in Michigan, the roads are so bad that people want to spend their money on a classic muscle car rather than a supercar so they don’t arrive with bleeding kidneys. I once followed a Ferrari down one nuked road in one of the more expensive Detroit suburbs (Crooks road going through Troy) and I thought the license plate was going to fall off the Ferrari. Only time I’ve ever pitied someone driving a Ferrari.

  2. March 8th, 2012 at 15:07 | #2

    Hmm, this lotus actually doesn’t look too bad. It’s still has too much of a “toy car” look for me but that is their style and I can’t expect that to change. There are a lot of guys that would like this car but like corvettes it reminds me of a go-kart style car. I make this point because if you are doing casual in-town driving there are tons of douches that drive huge trucks and you get hit by one of those, you’re toast… I prefer a beefier fast car that can handle a collision – Shelby Mustangs are nice :).

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