Lotus unveils its fastest ever roadster and calls it an Exige..


When is an Elise not an Elise? When it’s an Exige with its roof removed. Kind of like an Elise, but not. If you see what I mean.

No? Well neither did we.

Before we even get to admire its design and performance, we’re stumbling over its name and when your objective is to ‘sell cars’, that’s not a terribly smart way to engage potential buyers. That’s like Porsche making a convertible version of the Cayman and then calling it the Cayman Roadster, rather than… Boxster.

And selling cars is a huge problem for Lotus at the moment. According to the latest SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) report, Lotus registered just 2 cars in the UK during February. That’s 3 cars less than bankrupt Saab Automobile and represents just 1.25% of the cars registered by Porsche in the same period.

Whilst the comparison with Porsche may seem a little unfair (although that’s precisely the level of ambition set by Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar), the most telling numbers are growth figures since this time last year. February showed a 96.61% drop in Lotus registrations with an average decline of 67.95% for the year to date.

The Kimster (Kimi Raikkonen) fulfils his corporate duties for the brand, being photographed in the new Exige S Roadster.

Most businesses by now would have realised they were not making the cars people wanted to buy, but Lotus seem unconcerned by such ‘minor’ set-backs and continue to strut their brand on the world stage by launching a brand-new 2.2 litre, twin-turbo V6 engine to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series and now this c.£55k Lotus Exige S Roadster.

Lotus registered just 2 cars in the UK during February..

Powered by the same supercharged 3.5 V6 engine found in the Exige S and producing 345 bhp at 7000rpm and 295 lb-ft at 4500rpm, the Exige S Roadster will accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, 0-100 mph in 8.5 seconds and top out at a maximum speed of 145 mph.

Lotus quote a kerb weight of just under 1,100 kg (compared to 1,176 kg for the fixed-roof Exige S), but their performance, economy and emissions figures are otherwise the same.

A six-speed manual gearbox is offered as standard, but the Exige S Roadster is also available with the Norfolk car maker’s Serial Precision Shift (SPS) paddle-operated automated manual transmission. Fuel economy when fitted with a manual gearbox is claimed to be 28 mpg on the combined cycle, with C02 emissions of 236 g/km.

The car comes with two different suspension settings. There’s the standard setting for an active driving experience suited more towards public roads, whilst an optional setting as part of the Race Pack enables maximum performance on the track. This includes a launch control system, which can be activated when the car is in Race mode. There will also be two cabin options available; one softy and comfy (as in these pictures) and the other more suited to track use.

The Exige S Roadster has been developed for European and Asian markets and will not be available in the U.S. Sadly, judging by the last few month’s sales figures, we’re unlikely (if ever) to see one on the road, and production is being delayed by the due diligence process brought on by the Malaysian government’s sale of its (42.7%) stake in parent-company Proton.

Thereafter, new owners DRB-Hicom, will decide what is to be done with Group Lotus and whether the current development programme is to continue. As always, Bahar remains optimistic (which always worries me in a CEO) that he’ll manage to persuade the new owners to press onwards with his 5-year plan, but in the meantime what you see (from Lotus) is what you’ll get – although deliveries of the Exige S (and presumably the Roadster) are being pushed back, so you’ll have to be patient.