Lotus Exige S 240
The light fantastic
*Nobody fear. I have a plan for when the aliens show up and demand that we justify our continued existence. We'll start with a movie: The Great Escape. You can't lose with McQueen. Then we'll head over to The Haus of Pizza for lunch, maybe an afternoon concert from Brian Setzer. And to really push us over the top, we'll go driving. But we won't just drive any car. It will be the new Lotus Exige S 240. I have yet to experience anything that sums up the true essence of driving quite the way this lightweight track star does.
For the 2008 Exige, Lotus has raised the bar yet again. Upgraded interior, adjustable dampers, variable traction and launch control, and the addition of 20 hp builds on what was already an amazing car. A big part of the power increase came from increased intercooler effi ciency and ECU programming. Sharp eyes will notice that the roof scoop now extends to the leading edge of the roof, just behind the windshield.
The 240's dampers are now 10-position adjustable, to make the car easier to live with on the street while also providing an option to go even stiffer for track work. There's also a new traction control setup that allows the driver to dial in exactly the required amount of electronic help. The new launch control system is simply amazing. The driver can select launch revs, which makes the system adaptable to all sorts of conditions and requirements.
The blokes from Lotus were nice enough to set up an entire day in southern Nevada to sample the new S 240 at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Country Club in Pahrump, Nevada. Located about an hour outside Las Vegas, this facility offers two tracks perfect for testing a variety of cars and honing one's skills. Lotus picked the 1.5-mile road course to show off the new Exige's handling abilities. Spring Mountain also has a 2.2-mile course, but too much time is spent in a straight line to really be fun.
We started out with dampers on a street setting of 3 at all corners (1 being the softest) and traction control on full assist. Even on street settings, the Exige is still one of the most responsive cars found on a showroom floor. Its 240 hp may not sound like a lot, but it's only required to move just over a ton of mass. My six-foot-two, 200-pound frame added almost ten percent more weight to the vehicle. It's plenty fast and, if I owned one, the first modification I would make would be to my diet.
Pulling out of the pits, you appreciate how precise the shifter is, a quick snick-snick between gears feeling more like a rifle bolt than rowing a bowl of oatmeal, as in other vehicles. Not only is the shifter good, the gearing is perfect for the engine's powerband. I never felt 'in between' gears and the supercharged 1.8 pulls strong from the midrange. Power is smooth and linear, never a violent shove like in a turbo-just predictable motivation toward the next turn.