Back from the Dead
Remarkable changes are taking place at Lotus. The automaker is currently preparing to enter the North American market with its second generation Elise later this year.
While that may be good news for longtime fans, other news about the company itself is not so good. Only one standing model stays in the Lotus lineup seeing that the M250 midsize was canned and the long-running Esprit is officially dead.
To help tie the marque over until its next supercar comes around Lotus has revived the Exige that ran from 2000 to 2002. The new car maintains the same lightweight core values which the first generation featured.
The most recent news concerning the Elise 111R revolves around the new Toyota 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. Reasons for change include reliability, increased efficiency, and the fact that Toyota's inline four will pass worldwide emissions standards without challenge. It generates a very impressive 192 horsepower, backed by 134 lb-ft of torque. The engine's general characteristics should equal the high-revving K-Series British motor, so fans of the original Exige should not be disappointed.
While the Rover K-Series was an admirable engine powering one of Lotus' best vehicles, the Toyota motor packs its own special traits. It is true that the Rover motor featured VVC, Rover's version of variable valve timing, however the Toyota powerplant packs this trait (VVTL-i) as well, plus two camshafts. Between idle and 6,200 rpm, the car utilizes a normal cam, but as soon as this line is crossed all goes wild thanks to an aggressive cam setup that increases valve lift for extra engine breathing. Though the Exige will never reach the limit on its 10,000 rpm tachometer, enthusiasts will be impressed by the car's 8,500 rpm redline and 7,800 rpm peak power delivery.
Performance has always been a key factor to the Exige's success, and though it is true that the new model will be heavier by 90 kilograms, it has a 15-hp advantage over the old car. The new engine allows the 875 kilo (1,925 lb) coupe to reach 100 km/h in just 5.2 seconds, with a top speed of 237 km/h (147 mph).
Despite the ability to offer near infinite thrills, the Exige will return a remarkable 8.8 L/100 km (26.7 mpg) on the average mixed cycle, something that very few extreme sports cars can match. As mentioned before, the Exige can squeak past the Euro4 emissions regulations, a set of tests that has caught and smothered many high performance cars (or at least invoked them to change dramatically). The car is mated to a six-speed gearbox, and like all Lotus vehicles, features a performance exhaust system engineered in-house.
It is commonly assumed that an Exige is little more than a regular Elise with a hardtop and redesigned 'backbone' rear section, but there's much more to it than simply this.
Lotus has spent a great deal of effort honing the 3.80 meter (149.5 inch) long vehicle's aerodynamics to optimize ideal levels of downforce. Although front and rear spoilers are used, much of the work occurs underneath the car. A flat undertray reduces under-vehicle turbulence, while there's a diffuser in the rear - both being traits of high-downforce vehicles that are used extensively in Formula One racing. Meanwhile, the car receives lightweight black-painted eight spoke alloy wheels measuring 16 inches up front and 17 inches in back.
Important for North American enthusiasts, the new Exige isn't the stripped-out, back-to-basics vehicle that the original car was. Depending on your needs, it's possible to equip an Exige with a radio and CD player, central locking system, ABS brakes and air conditioning. These features help explain the car's weight increase.
Lotus will also offer two separate packages. A Touring pack includes power windows and Alcantara (suede-like) seats, while a Performance pack will offer sports seats and other race-inspired options. Three colors (orange, gray, and green) will be also available, and are exclusive to this model.
And what will it cost? The asking price for the Lotus Exige Mk II is E44,900 ($73,160 CAD, $58,870 USD). If the Exige intrigues you, your best bet is to contact your local dealer. If you're in Vancouver give Weissach Performance (www.weissach.com
) a call or if in Toronto, Gentry Lane (www.gentrylane.com
). If anywhere in between, either of these two dealers would no doubt deliver.
Price Range (estimated MSRP): $73,000+
Body Type: 2-door coupe
Layout: mid-engine, RWD
Engine: 1796 cc 192 hp, 132 lb-ft of torque, 1.8-L, DOHC, 16-valve I-4
Transmission: 6-spd manual
Acceleration: (0 - 100 km/h): 5.2 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 8.8 L/100 km (26.7 mpg)
Curb Weight: 875 kg (1925 lbs)
Top Speed: 237 km/h (147 mph)
Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS
Length: 3,797 mm (149.5 in)
Width: 1,727 mm (68.0 in)
Height: 1,159 mm (45.6 in)
Wheelbase: 2,300 mm (90.6 in)
Seating Capacity: 2
Trunk Volume: 112 liters (4.0 cu ft)