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I think even Lotus is struggling with this... Originally, it appears that the Exige was a more "track oriented" version of the Elise, and I had thought that the fixed roof contributed to improved structural rigidity. According to Nick Adams (Lotus engineer), this is not the case- both the Elise and Exige use the same chassis, and the roof section on the Exige is simply bolted in and does not serve as a structural member. With more bodywork, the Exige isn't any lighter, and if not stiffer, I'm puzzled by the potential advantage an Exige would offer...

To further confuse things, the US-spec Elise gets the 190HP Toyota drivetrain, while the european market is still stuck with the less peppy Rover engine; I have heard the hypothesis that this is due to engine supply agreements, and Lotus needs to continue using the Rover engine for the time being. There's a loophole, though- Lotus is putting the Toyota engine in the Exige for the european market, positioning it as a higher performance model compared to the Elise. I asked Nick if we were likely to see the Exige in the USA, and he hedged a bit- first off, Lotus has its hands full with the current Elise launch, without complicating things by adding more models right away, but there is also the marketing problem of whether the US market really needs the Exige. In other words, what differentiates it? It's heavier, and it's not any faster.

So here's the question, if anybody has a good answer they're willing to share- what is the reasoning behind the Exige model? Why does it exist in addition to the Elise?
 

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For the most part, I agree with you. In terms of the american Elise, the Exige doesn't really pose much advantage. The engine is the same, but the car in Euro form is lighter. Also, the bodywork is slightly more aggressive (more flared front and rear quater panels).

In Europe, the Exige makes sense as it will out do the current elise due to the change in engine. No the case here as you know. From the Autoweek article las month, it was stated the Toyota engine was good for 300hp. So, once the Elise hype dies down, maybe an Exige variant with upped HP will follow. That is the only way I see it coming. I hope it does.
 

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Personally speaking...I like the look of the Elise but I LOVE the look of the Exige!
I don't care if the two are comparable in performance and price...I dream of the day I can get behind the wheel of my Exige.
 

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I also prefer the look of the Exige over the Elise. One benefit of the Exige is that its fastback rear clamshell is more aerodynamic, and along with other minor changes the Exige's body design is supposed to create more downforce at speed.

I would DEFINITELY prefer owning an Exige to an Elise (The Exige is my ultimate dream car), but somehow I doubt that Lotus will be willing to release them for the US market. If not, I think I would seriously consider purchasing the parts necessary to make the conversion from Lotus Motorsports someday--I think such a conversion would be possible.
 
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