What is it?
It’s been a year of finales at Lotus. Accompanying the announcement that production of the firm’s famous Elise would be ending came the much-expected news that the Exige’s reign would also be drawing to a close.
And though Lotus has a fine tradition of creating special-edition models, this one – the Exige Sport 390 Final Edition – really is the last of the line. Fortunately, we’ve managed to grab some time behind the wheel to see what this final Exige is like out on the road.
First released all the way back in 2000, the Exige became synonymous with the blossoming track day-focused scene. It was a car that people could use every day, blast around the circuit in ultra-quick time and then drive home – and the Exige continued to deliver that enlivening experience to great success to the present day.
This Final Edition car shows what the Exige really can do, with more power, more aggressive aerodynamics and a series of interior modifications.
What’s under the bonnet?
The engine used by the Exige is a great example of just how serious this car is. Despite its 1,138kg unladen weight, it’s powered by a 397bhp 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine, which sends its power to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. It boasts more punch than the outgoing Sport 350, with an extra 47bhp coming from revised calibration related to the supercharger. Peak torque is 420Nm, too. Coupled with that light weight, it means the Exige has a power-to-weight ratio of 349bhp.
It isn’t too bad in terms of economy, either. Lotus claims you’ll see up to 27.7mpg combined, while CO2 emissions stand at 230g/km. Not bad for a car that’ll go from 0-60mph in just 3.7 seconds and crack 172mph flat-out.
What’s it like to drive?
Slot in behind the Exige’s beautifully well-positioned steering wheel and you’re immediately aware that this is a car geared up towards making the most of driving. Move off and you’re met by a clutch that isn’t too heavy or difficult to get used to and an open-gate gearbox with an action as close to perfection as you’ll get from a road car.
That 3.5-litre V6 grumbles away behind you, but build the revs and it quickly transforms into a kicking, screaming animal of an engine. It’s accompanied by a change of pace which is genuinely intoxicating, with the engine’s torque giving you the ability to simply lean on the throttle and very quickly gather some serious pace. But it’s that unassisted steering which is the star here, delivering genuine feedback and allowing you to utilise cambers in the road to its advantage – the Exige seems to dive into undulations in the road and use them to slingshot itself forward in quite impressive fashion.
How does it look?
If you want an example of how a small car can have presence, take a look at the Exige. Of course, a huge rear wing and a widened body kit will inevitably have an effect on how a car is perceived, but the way the Exige turns heads is impressive, to say the least. Our car, in bright orange, looked particularly stand out, while the contrasting black sections on the bonnet, roof and diffuser only pushed the flamboyance further.
But it’s what you expect from a Lotus Exige. It’s never been a car to fly under the radar nor shy away from attention, so it’s almost reassuring to see it retaining its larger-than-life styling features.
What’s it like inside?
As you’d expect from a car so focused on the art of going quickly, the interior of the Exige isn’t one overburdened by features or systems. The steering wheel, as mentioned, is positioned perfectly and is trimmed in Alcantara, too.
You’ve got sport and race modes within easy reach to edit the car’s settings on the fly, while the gear shifter is placed at just the right height – though we’d argue that its all-metal design might get a touch cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
You can add some creature comforts, such as cruise control, while air conditioning is a £1,250 option. If you’re planning on using your Exige during the summer, then we’d argue that this is a worthwhile purchase.
What’s the spec like?
Though the Exige isn’t a car you’ll look towards when it comes to the latest technology, Lotus has added some new features to this Final Edition car. It incorporates a new TFT digital dashboard which can be configured to show one of two displays. The first is a more conventional setup in place of ‘regular’ dials, while the second is more like the one you’d find in a full-on race car with a digital read-out and engine speed bar.
A range of exterior colours is available for the Exige which hark back to some of Lotus’ classic models. You can also add an interior colour pack for an extra £500 which will add some trim sections finished in the same shade as the exterior to the cabin.
Driving the Lotus Exige Sport 390 Final Edition is an experience that few others can match. It’s all-encompassing, hugely exciting and feels like a true example of how chassis and engine can be perfectly linked to one another. As a road car it’s sensational and on the track – which we experienced for a few laps – it’s on another level.
Of course, seeing it bow out was never going to be a happy occasion. But to finish on a high like this feels like a more than fitting tribute to the Exige’s legacy.