A Track Car For Everyday Use
Go Flat Out has already driven the Lotus Exige S in manual guise at the Clark International Speedway under the hands of James Tagle and John Carlos. I, meanwhile, was busy at that time so I was unfortunately not able to take the manual Exige S on track. Luckily, I am now given the keys to the Lotus Exige S, but interestingly, this is fitted with an automatic transmission. The first thing that popped onto my mind was, seriously? A Lotus with an automatic transmission? That’s like having all the good stuff but without the drawbacks, like Coke Zero perhaps? So instead of my usual review wherein it is segregated into detailing the exterior, interior, and so on, I’ll be completely natural in reviewing this, as this is a pretty special car that I have here.
While it’s not my first time to see the Lotus Exige S, having been able to see this during the launch of the Lotus brand in the Philippines, and multiple times after that, seeing one is still an occasion. Her bright green paint and black alloy wheels are simply the real deal. While I would normally prefer a conservative shade of silver, grey, or blue, this bright green color is clearly not an exercise of restraint. Wherever she goes, stares, nods, and thumbs ups are drawn upon her, with passer-bys determined to find out who’s the lucky bastard dating this sexy beast of a sportscar. She’s pretty light too, as she has clearly been raised by the Lotus caretakers to be a svelte athlete, tipping the scales at 1,080 kg.
With great looks come great responsibility. Climbing aboard the Lotus Exige S is always a chore. For a person like me to be blessed with genes that enable me to become tall brings a lot of benefits, such as being able to eat more than the average person with less chances of getting fat (I’m not fat, I’m just fluffy). Unfortunately, this also brings a few drawbacks if you are handed to the keys of a car that wasn’t designed for tall people like me in mind. With the door sill being large, the door opening height short, and the entry height low, it feels like forcing your way back inside your mother’s womb, and just like your mother’s womb, you’re merely met with the essentials for survival, or in this case, driving. There’s no navigation system, Bluetooth, manual instead of automatic air conditioning, heck the seats barely even have any adjustment to comfortably fit my huge frame in it, plus the steering, which has no power assist whatsoever, doesn’t even tilt or telescope at all. However, I do appreciate the interior’s materials, which are done in nice, supple leather and metal trims, with even exposed metal frames and bolts, bolstering the true nature and purpose of the Exige S from day one. I then slot in the key and twist to bring life to the transverse, rear mid-mounted supercharged 3.5 liter V6 heart, which produces a snarly growl upon start up, hiding any hints that the engine is actually based from the humble Toyota Camry V6’s VVT-i engine, which produces 345 hp @ 7,000 rpm, and 400 Nm of torque @ 4,500 rpm. Well would you look at that. How often do I actually use keys to start a car these days. Car keys, you will one day be missed.
With low and wide stance, great visibility up front, but limited visibility at the rear, I initially thought that she’d would be intimidating to drive in the city. Alas, with the automatic transmission in D, she was actually easy to handle around town, plus if you are unable to restrain her, electronic nannies keep her in check. She has 4 modes, touring, track, race, and a fourth mode where all electronic aids are turned off, a mode I would like to call naughty, wherein she lets herself completely lost under your spell.
Surprisingly in the hustle and bustle of the city, when left in D, and with all the shifting left to her duty, her transmission is surprisingly refined, plus she knows how to crawl in traffic and parking spaces, an ability that other supercars usually suck at, unless you are Porsche, Audi, or Ferrari. I, however, leave all the controls to myself, shifting up and down using the steering column mounted paddle shifters, since most of the time the transmission isn’t in the gear I want it to be in whenever I accelerate from a stoplight or overtake another vehicle.
And with all the controls left to you, she willingly cooperates, just like any other supercar should, upshifting and downshifting under your command without any clunkiness in the gearbox, and when you do find an open space for you to stretch her legs, she rewards you with breathtaking acceleration, with her caretakers claiming she can sprint from 0-100 kph in 3.7 seconds. Unlike many sports sedans and supercars nowadays, there’s a greater sense of speed with her, as many supercars nowadays have become too refined and too quiet for the driver to feel the sensation of speed.
While long stretches of road are clearly lacking in the Philippines, she can still be appreciated through the twisties in and out of the cityscape, and boy is she quite easy to handle, quite contrary to my first impressions toward her. She’s been blessed by God with great agility and precise turn ins. The very rigid chassis feels great, with your buttocks being able to tell how well the car rotates tidily through a corner. Sadly, testing her full capabilities was not the best option, as I was wary of being the next Dash Cam Diaries Philippines sensation.
As she doesn’t have a power assisted steering, she proves to be a lot to handle during low speed parking maneuvers, but not entirely cumbersome, and what this means to you and me is that, there’s direct communication between your hands and the wheels. The steering is sensational and full of feel as to what is happening to the front wheels, making you feel truly intimately connected to her, something rare in this day and age of electric power assisted steering systems that in worst case scenarios feel like a video game. The only other steering that’s as good as her’s so far are those found in go karts, which also lack any sort of power assistance.
While I slowly crawl to a stop at the next stoplight and snap back to reality, free from any imaginations that I am in a crazy relationship with a car that doesn’t even have any feelings for me, I then draw my eyes to the cabin, and I realize, there’s only so much a company can do to make a track car fit for everyday use. There’s storage, or a lack thereof, inside the cabin, with merely a tiny shelf that I could imagine will only be used by nannies as a napkin dispenser. Does it have a trunk? Nope, not even in the front. That’s where the air compressor is located.
As I hand over the keys back to Lotus Manila, and stare back at her as I leave her at her true home, I realized that Lotus may be making a case here. Sure, a track car for everyday use may sound daft, but not everyone goes to the grocery everyday. Some people even use a huge Ford Expedition to go to work, yet I’m willing to bet the Expedition’s space is barely even utilized. One could argue that the BMW M4 would be a better everyday track car, and I’d probably agree, but the Lotus is on a different league. It’s tougher, more raw, and it competes with the Porsche 911 GT3/GT3 RS or Porsche Cayman GT4, and not a BMW M4 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. It’s a raw, track day car, that has been made more friendly and more accessible thanks to that 6-Speed Automatic Transmission. Just like what I said in the beginning, the Lotus Exige S is similar to a can of Coke Zero, but just like Coke Zero, it’s not the full, arguably tasteful experience. Meanwhile, the Lotus Exige S with a manual is a can of regular, sugary Coke. Full of sugar and not exactly good for you, but once in a while, just like the manual Exige S, is every bit as tasteful and eventful. While I normally rate cars based on the 10 usual criteria I set, it wouldn’t put justice to how great and how this car is a unique proposition. My mind says 3.8, but my heart says 4.5.
Price: P7,800,000 (Est.)
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Quality: ★★★☆☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 3.8 out of 5, based on my oh-so-sensible metrics, but my heart says 4.5 as this car is better dealt with the heart and not the mind.