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Lotus Exige S in the super test on the Nordschleife and Hockenheimring

Rossen Gargolov
Lotus Exige S in the sport auto-Supertest
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M it is the other side of the coin the one thing: as long as you can close your eyes to it, everything is fine. But if the fade-out mechanism does not work as desired, the glossy aspects inevitably take a back seat. Celebrities know a thing or two about it: beauty, money and power can also become a burden - and always when the pendulum swings to the other side following fate. At the point where normality changes into unrestrained extroversion and subsequently superlatives become the norm, either knowledge or imagination is required - preferably both. Only then is it ensured that the peak is not immediately followed by the next low point. Why such a philosophical introduction when it's all about a car?

Well, the Lotus Exige S is, so to speak, an automotive special case: small, light, agile and original on the one hand, completely impractical, not very representative and, in the closed version, punished with a severely limited recreational value on the other . In contrast to the essentially identical Elise models, the Exige S does not have a major factor: The closed version prevents the enjoyment of the open ride - in the intimate, low-lying cockpit of the Lotus Elise, the number 1 justification - because of the fixed roof consequent. Here it is an equally deep and therefore difficult to remove cockpit, which in its extreme spatial limitation has something original again. Which is not to say that the interior space once climbed is too cramped.

Getting into the Lotus Exige S requires skill

For a 1.83 meter man, the so-called 'ProBax' seats included in the sports package offer no reason to complain. The cushions are tight but adequately dimensioned, the lateral support is developed in accordance with the sporting mandate in the area of ​​the thighs as well as up to the shoulders so that the upright posture can be maintained without cramping even with lateral forces of up to 1.2 g . The physique of the crew should, however, be in appropriate relation to that of the two-seater, if the relationship between man and machine is not to end in a play thatalready in the first act - namely at the beginning - could lead to grotesque scenes. What the trunk opening is elsewhere is the entry hatch here. In view of the tight dimensions, the fun should stop from size 56.

Despite its minimalist appearance, the Exige S has strayed a bit from the ascetic character of the Lotus philosophy - at least the squeaky orange test version, which weighs 940 kilograms because of its extensive range of equipment by Lotus standards brings the scales.

While music lovers react to the entertainment they love by deliberately avoiding the sound system in view of the extremely loud driving noises, even the more ascetically inclined sports enthusiasts will be reluctant to forego the beneficial effects of the air conditioning, even though they are an additional investment 1,950 euros required. It gets hot in the cockpit - not only because of the Toyota-based supercharged engine behind the crew, but also because the driver - and the co-pilot who comes into close contact with him - gets excited in the heat of the moment. Because contrary to expectations, it is not the case that the Exige S can simply conjure up its maximum cornering talents from the steering. Without the power assistance that is common in the heavyweight classes, the rudder requires a firm two-handed grip in order to bring the hip flask exactly where you want it to go.

The handling of the steering wheel, which fits in relation to the vehicle size and has a correspondingly small diameter, is difficult, at least in the getting used to it, as the steering reacts very sensitively around the central position, but quite high steering and steering wheel angles Requires holding forces. The thought of unpredictable driving dynamics, for example in the form of unexpected rear breakouts, is obviously a bit uncomfortable against this solid background. Fears, which in practice turn out to be completely unfounded.

Rear outbreaks - an unfounded fear

Earlier Exige tests sometimes showed bitchy peculiarities in the border area This is how this Exige S, which is lavishly equipped with a performance and sports package, is an extremely lovable part of the action. Neither severe understeer nor oversteer indicate malfunction in the limit area. This ensures largely foolproof driving behavior in the vicinity of the racetrack. Especially on the Nordschleife, the leap of faith ensures great confidence in the face of such impressive bends as the Schwedenkreuz, the one in the Lotus Exige S with a speed of just under220 km /h is approached.

Objectively speaking, the driver is not quite as fast as one feels in the petite Lotus. There is a delta of around 15 seconds between the actually measured and the perceived lap time. This is due, on the one hand, to the high, but not exactly thrilling, background noise of the small, supercharged four-cylinder engine and, on the other hand, to the emotionally quite impressive cornering speeds.

But unfortunately the feeling is deceptive, as the sideways glance at apparently more compromised sports concepts proves: For example, the cornering speed of the Exige S, which has been equipped with all the sporty ingredients, in the Aremberg curve (Nordschleife kilometer 3.8) is around 6 km /h lower than that of the current Porsche Boxster S - despite the advantage in the form of the Yokohama A048 sports tires, which are strongly optimized for dry grip, in sizes 195/50 - 16 on the front and 225/45 - 17 on the rear axle. In itself, the achieved lap time of 8.25 minutes is worth all honors. Viewed in the overall context, however, the enthusiasm is limited. In view of the performance of the previous model, which had a comparatively weak engine with 192 hp (8.32 minutes), one would have hoped for more from the powerful 243 hp version at this point.

With a nominal increase in performance of 51 PS, the current Exige version should be able to set itself apart significantly from its predecessor, especially on the long, rising Döttinger Höhe. At the speed recorded by the data recording system (216 km /h), however, it is only 3 km /h faster than the previous model tested four years ago. The wind tunnel measurements show that the wind slippage is still not that far away, partly because of the rugged front. The bottom line is that the downforce on both axles - 5 kilograms at the front, 24 kilograms at the rear - cannot compensate for the poor drag coefficient (0.44), so that a very ambivalent result is evident in terms of the driving dynamics offered.

Weaknesses in the wind tunnel

With the extremely good Hockenheim lap time (1.15.3 minutes), the new Exige S can still do its extensive conditioning in fully justify it, but not in terms of longitudinal dynamics. The additional weight of almost 30 kilograms compared to the first recently tested, 220 hp Elise SC alone is not enough to justify the consistently poorer acceleration values ​​compared to the open version. Up to 100 km /h the difference is only marginal - 0.2 seconds - but up to a speed of 200 the difference adds up to a full second, in favor of the Elise SC, which competes with only 220 hp.

In addition to the obvious assumption that the additional power of nominally 22 hp generated by the special compressor (Magnuson /Eaton M62) and the faster injecting injectors is not fully brought onto the road, it is also included in the performance package , with a variable traction control coupled launch control, which sometimes leads a destructive life of its own.

Despite the usual, deliberately initiated deactivation of all available electronic aids when measuring, the system intervenes independently in the acceleration process again and again - and thus possibly thwarted the performance show promised by the manufacturer. Lotus put the sprinting ability from 0 to 100 km /h at 4.2 seconds - a whole second faster than the current measurement results show. The fact that the bits and bytes of the on-board electronics, which are now very complex for Lotus conditions, are sometimes not quite in the prescribed path, could also be observed elsewhere. Fortunately, the crew pleading for admission only had to endure the sudden refusal of the only 1,163 millimeter high coupé to release its newly electrically locked gates - the open sesame function was activated automatically after half an hour of waiting.

What was noted as a 'key experience' in the test vita is the current achievement that is now given to every Lotus model - the new central locking system including an integrated alarm system, operated via two separate buttons in the Ignition key housing. Just as annoying, because it is also system-related, is the peculiarity of the shift cables, which act as connecting elements between the gear stick and the gearbox, which expand sustainably when used in a sporty manner. This is initially expressed by making it more difficult to shift gears and finally ends in the refusal to change gears. This also casts a shadow over the functionality and workmanship of the exhibits made in the British Hethel, which have since become quite sophisticated.

The gearshift strikes during sporty gear changes

The brake system included in the performance package, consisting of internally ventilated and perforated 308-millimeter discs and four-piston brake calipers, on the other hand, have an effect of impressive intensity: deceleration rates of up to 12.0 m /s2 are just as remarkable as the way the ABS works. The braking distance from 200 km /h is an excellent 129.1 meters. The traction control, which can be adjusted in no less than 30 levels using a rotary knob on the steering wheel column, has proven to be a rather useless gimmick in practice, becauseThe cute mid-engine athlete has never actually suffered from traction weaknesses. The torque of the only 1.8 liter four-cylinder supercharged engine (230 Newton meters at 5,500 /min) is not of such a boisterous kind that you have to expect permanent loss of liability on the drive axle.

Apart from the beneficial effect of ABS, especially on wet roads, Lotus should rather refrain from intensive electronic applications. For this reason alone, so as not to drive the inherently sparse lightweight into a conflict that conjures up the danger of diluting the unique character of this British sports car alternative. In addition, it is questionable whether the additional performance and sports packages, for which a total of more than 5,500 euros have to be flipped, are not perhaps understood by customers as a transparent rip-off. Because even with a base price of a hefty 53,450 euros, it shouldn't be necessary to use ingredients that are subject to a surcharge to make the Exige S what its substance already is: a performance and sports package that has become an automobile from a single source.


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