First off a huge thanks to Castle Lotus (click) for lending SELOC one of the few CO Exige S2's built so far. Compared to the two black one's on display elsewhere @ Donington, the CO one stood out by miles, the black ones just blended into the back ground.
Remember that I was effectively running the car in as it only had 45 miles on the clock when I picked up, so it was only yesterday (with 450 miles on) that I ventured into 4,000rpm + in short bursts in terms of the running in process.
The UK Exige S2 market
This is very much my own opinion, but having driven the car for the last 4 days (and having driven the 111R, S2, Exige S1, Audi TT and a Z4) I believe that this car is aimed at expanding the Lotus market share to take sales/convert ownership from Audi TT's/Porsche Boxsters/Z4's etc, a view backed up by Castle given who they have sold the 111R's too. Think of the Exige S2 in this format as the 111R coupe.
If you own an Exige S1 or regular track a S1 this car is not aimed at you IMHO. This car although its handling and ride is superb, on the road certainly (the car does by all accounts go extremely well on track, which I can well believe), is not aimed at the TD fanatic. That said, the handling will be something of a revelation to the standard S1 owner if the car has not had its suspension upgraded.
Ride and Handling
If you have driven the 111R, the steering feel is a more 'meaty' feeling. Partly the tyres and revised suspension. Not sure if the toe linkage, steering rack etc is uprated over the 111R.
Turn in is very positive regardless of the lock you put on, corner entry speed and severity of corner or how you approached the corner's apex. Grip levels and feel were superb, albeit, not quite as alive as an S1 in feel, however the twitchiness you sometimes get with an S1, depending on speed and road surface has been dialled out. The car felt very composed on all road surfaces irrespective of speed. Left to right flicks through an esse bend are stunning, the direction change leaves you breathless.
The suspension gives you the best of both world's allows you to enjoy the handling and levels of grip whilst at the same time being very compliant. It was the first thing my wife said when she went down the same road that she is familiar with when passengering in my S1 (She told me to buy it and get shot of the S1...). The suspension set up does not detract at all from the cars handling. I look forward to seeing comments from those who drive it on the track in the coming months. Mark Fullalove, spent a lot of time on the ride and handling, I'll be telling how good it is next time I see him.
If you own an Exige S1, don't knock until you try it, its the only way you can make a proper assessment, ideally on the track.
My personal favourite!
I cannot remember if the 111R has the Brembo's fitted as well, but they are bloody good. When I drove the 111R there was a lot (compared to an S1) of brake pedal travel. The Exige S2 has pedal travel, but feels far more progressive with bite coming in far earlier than the 111R, possibly because I was in effect bedding in the brakes.
They do inspire confidence, I would love to compare back to back with my S1 say at Brands where you literally stand on the brakes before Paddock, the back end twitching away in my S1. The S2 Exige, based on what I've seen would without doubt feel far more composed. They have far greater stopping power (OK they are servo'ed!) but you still retain the feel you get with S1 brakes. If someone comes up with a kit to retro fit the Exige S2 brakes to the S1 I'd have them straight away, oh and the bigger wheels too!
As the car was being run in, the gear change was a tad tight and notchy. This improved as the miles went on and was far smoother and quicker, higher up the rev range. Exact same throw as the 111R, i.e. quite long, but compared with an S1 and S2, positive and quick, even more so when this car is run in properly and you can explore the higher rev band. 6 speed box - yes please! Once your used to that extra gear, adds a bit more to the driving experience going up and down the gears on your favourite piece of road!
Compared to the S1 and early S2's its a world apart. The cabin interior is a happy comprise in terms of what Lotus stand for against providing enough creature comforts to convert and sell the car to the market I have indicated.
On the way back down the M1 at 80/85mph, I could have a civil conversation with Clem without having to raise my voice. This car had the touring pack and a rather nice Blaupunkt head unit, again the tunes can be heard clearly without having to turn the sound up to the point where your ears bleed.
The seats where the sports option, which after 250 miles, you didn't notice. In my book that means they are comfortable. Maybe Clem can add his comments.
The body work as many have already commented includes mesh everywhere. The front clam has mesh in place of the plastic above the rad as well as on the engine cover and looked better IMHO than the plastic Exige S1 engine cover. The black mesh against CO did look fantastic. The little rectangular pieces of mesh on the front clam behind the front wheels were a nice touch. From what I could see with the boot open, the vent on the roof is unblocked and does feed air thro to the engine bay. The rear is pretty much 111R minus the artificial plastic vents to the side of the lights.
The most controversial item is that wing. Now I must admit it grew on me. Any wider and it would have looked (more?) out of place given the lines of the body at the rear. Does it do anything? hmm yes is the official Lotus answer, no is mine, it vibrates badly at 75mph+ and is not directly attached to the rear sub-frame in any way. The best comment at Donny was that is was a glorified boot handle. In the fashion stakes (again KIV my perceived main market for this car) its an essential statement. The boot also had rather a nice hydraulic strut to hold it open! The shims on the boot hinges where it fixed to the roof caused a lot of debate at Donny, the argument being that each lid would have to be custom fitted to the rear clam to get a good fit, hence they had no choice in fitting shims in this manner. Sadly the fit of the boot lid on the rear clam was the worst aspect of the over all finish as it clearly did not sit flush when viewed from the inside. That said, its the only negative I can think of in terms of the build quality. Styling wise its not as aggressive as the Exige S1, again I refer you to my theory on this cars market.
Wheels in black look great against the CO body work. If your going to buy a car like this, get the high visibility colours, black just disappears into the background.
The car feels very solid, no rattles, bumps or squeaks.
Overall a great car, one of the best Lotus has built so far! and remember my opening comments, to many of us in the UK this car goes against the Lotus ethic of pared down, stripped out, power to weight ratio etc, and it does to a degree, but only enough so that it, with the 111R, opens a new market of Lotus ownership, which can only be good for the future of Lotus as a whole.
This is a car that you could quite happily live with on a daily basis, unlike perhaps the Exige S1, which means it will convert those who want to be seen in something different rather than the oh so common Audi TT, Boxster etc
No doubt as with the S1 and S2, more extreme versions of the 111R and Exige S2 (the SC is widely rumoured to be on the cards) will arrive once the base models are established in their target markets.
I'll put up pictures in due course taken yesterday.
In the meantime get down to Castle Lotus or your nearest dealership and book a test drive, the majority who drive one will not be disappointed. I certainly wasn't and look forward to having a go on the track in one!