After an absence from the market place for 2 years, Lotus is reintroducing the Lotus Exige – a car that at the time revolutionised the hardcore sports coupй market despite being on sale for just over 18 months.
The first generation Exige was introduced to the world in early 2000 as a racecar for the road. Born out of the successful Lotus Sport Elise racecar, which was campaigned throughout Europe with such success in 2000 and 2001, the Exige was hand built in low numbers for a few markets around the world.
The second generation Exige, unveiled as a world debut at the Geneva Motorshow in 2004, takes the same racecar-for-the-road philosophy and applies it to the driver of today.
With phenomenal performance and handling, powered by an advanced 1.8 litre VVTL-i (Variable Valve Timing with Lift – intelligent) engine producing a maximum power output of 141 kW and 181 Nm of torque, the Exige sprints to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds and 160 km/h in 13.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 237 km/h.
Key to this phenomenal performance and handling is the total aerodynamic package (which gives 41.2 kg of downforce at 160 km/h - 19.3 kg: front and 21.9 kg: rear) and light weight, the latter made possible through innovative engineering and clever design; indeed the Exige weighs in at 875 kg - unladen with no options - giving a power to weight ratio of 161 kW/t and 4.56 kg/PS.
Being a true mid-engine sportscoupй, the high tech engine is located behind the cockpit and in front of the driven rear wheels. Power comes from the state-of-the-art 2ZZ-GE 1.8 litre 4 cylinder 16-valve VVTL-i (Variable Valve Timing and Lift-Intelligent) engine linked to the C64 six-speed gearbox. The engine and gearbox combination, sourced from Toyota, was chosen as the ideal engine for the Exige and perfect for the Lotus brand philosophies.
The lightweight engine, with a compact metal matrix composite alloy cylinder block has been subject to a rigorous testing and development programme which, as part of Lotus' key federal Elise programme, has involved over half a million miles of testing in a wide range of extreme climate conditions from the Arctic Circle to the Arizona and Nevada deserts and at altitude in Colorado. This is in addition to Toyota's world renowned development and testing programme that had already been applied to the engine prior to the installation in the Exige.
To enable this class leading engine to carry the Lotus driving DNA, a brand new, custom-engineered Lotus T4 engine management system (EMS) has been developed. The software for the EMS was designed and developed by Lotus specifically for the Exige. This bespoke management system and the extensive calibration and validation work ensures that the Exige has unique performance characteristics perfectly suited to the fast road and track environments.
The engine management system enables the VVTL-i system to select the optimum camshaft profile, lift and timing across the full range of engine operating conditions. This interaction between the Lotus T4 EMS and the VVTL-i system gives the Exige its optimum linear torque characteristics, peaking at 181 Nm at 6800 rpm with the peak power of 141 kW at 7800 rpm.
The very high revving engine is governed to a maximum engine speed of 8500 rpm on up changes (8000 rpm at steady state). The change from the low speed cam to the high speed cam is controlled by the Lotus engine management system to achieve a smooth transition, which will not upset the balance of the car. This change occurs at around 6200 rpm, but can vary by a few hundred rpm depending on engine operating conditions. The return switching from the high speed to low speed cam occurs at 5800 rpm to extend the operating range of the engine on the high speed cam. This helps the enthusiastic driver stay on the high output cam between gear changes.
In order to protect the engine during the warm up phase, the maximum engine speed is limited to 6000 rpm and is restricted to the lower speed cam when the engine coolant temperature is below 70 °C.
A tell-tale red LED located in the centre of the instrument binnacle illuminates to indicate to the driver the optimum point to change gears.
The lightweight C64 six-speed gearbox (with an aluminium casing) is fitted with an all-new Lotus designed and developed shift operating mechanism. With the closest ratios and gearset afforded by the transmission, the gearbox offers a fast, precise and light gearshift, ensuring drivers have total control and flexibility to apply the power exactly as and when required.
A bespoke exhaust system with a bifurcated downpipe exits at the rear of the car through the centre of the rear diffuser.
The Exige is bestowed with the performance through lightweight expected of a Lotus with a power to weight ratio of 161 kW/t (4.56 kg/PS) and a 0-100 km/h sprint in 5.2 seconds and 0-160km/h in 13.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 237 km/h.
Of course the Exige with its small 1.8 litre engine is Euro IV Emissions compliant and returns 8.8 l/100km on the combined cycle, as well as the very low figure of 208 g/km of CO2 emissions – figures usually unheard of for supercars.
Of course, the Exige isn't all about straight line performance. The Exige is one of the quickest and safest cars from A to B and around a circuit. Key to this incredible performance is the aerodynamic package, which creates 41.2 kg or downforce at 160 km/h (19.3 kg front and 21.9 kg rear). This downforce ratio between front (47%) and rear (53%) is of course balanced and remains constant at the speeds of which the Exige is capable.
This class leading aerodynamic package is provided through the aid of the following:
Completely flat underside of the car – provided by the elegantly simple strong yet light extruded and bonded aluminium tub
Black anodised rear diffuser which helps promote the "Venturi effect" underneath the car
Deep front splitter which sits just 108 mm from the ground (giving just enough ramp angle clearance) whilst still maintaining the aerodynamic properties and of course the aggressive stance
Fixed rear wing that is set at the optimum 11.5 degree angle for the best compromise between downforce and drag.
Lotus specific wheels and tyres
Lotus ride and handling engineers worked with Yokohama to develop a bespoke A048 tyre (rated W) and annotated with "LTS". These soft compound tyres were chosen to maximise grip and achieve the ride and handling targets set by Lotus.
Unique black lightweight eight-spoke wheels (16" front and 17" rear) complete the wheel and tyre package, as if the Exige has just come off the race track; in fact it probably just did - as Lotus envisages many customers of the Exige may take part in track days, which are becoming increasingly popular around the world.
The legendary chassis
Of course, the Exige is a Lotus and as such has a world leading chassis. Based around the revolutionary and award winning extruded and bonded aluminium tub, with lightweight steel rear subframe, used in the Elise 111R, the Exige uses stiffer Lotus Sport springs and dampers to provide minimum body roll and to exploit the exceptional level of aerodynamic performance and downforce, and the high levels of grip provided by the Yokohama A048 tyres.
Cooling and air management
Lotus expects that some Exiges will spend most of their time being driven hard – indeed this is exactly what it was conceived for. Therefore the extra levels of heat from the brakes and engine needed to be managed. At the front of the Exige are extra air ducts (for the optional oil coolers, which are part of the Performance Pack). To keep the brakes cool under the very high loads that are expected with hard driving, brake ducts are located just behind the front wheels. Towards the rear of the Exige, large side air intakes and a roof scoop, provide much needed air to circulate around the engine bay.
All grilles, including the rear engine cover are covered in a lightweight steel mesh.
All Lotus products elegantly fuse form and function by combining the optimum engineered solution with a dynamic and elegant design that gives it a distinctive Lotus signature. The design project, undertaken by the Lotus Design Team lead by Russell Carr, took the core values of Lotus and the first generation Exige and applied them to the 2004 Exige. Signature racecar features such as the roof scoop, rear wing, deep front splitter and fast back roof have been carefully developed whilst new features such as the engine cover vents, side intakes and lightweight mesh grills and a unique graphic further differentiate the Exige from other products in the Lotus stable.
All the Exige body panels are made from strong, and lightweight GRC (Glass Reinforced Composite). Three new paint colours, in addition to the current Lotus range, are introduced solely for the Exige in 2004, these being Chrome Orange, Graphite Grey and Krypton Green.
Lightweight but strong composite sports seats hold the driver under the high g-forces that will be experienced on cornering, acceleration and braking. The small 320 mm offset steering wheel is perfectly suited to coaxing and guiding the Exige along some of the finest roads and around the most challenging of circuits. The lightweight extruded aluminium pedals are perfectly positioned for efficient heel and toeing – a technique that many drivers will wish to perfect to be able to exploit the performance of the car and drive it how it was meant to be driven.
Twin instrumentation dials show road speed and engine speed (up to 10,000 rpm) with the graphics and orange back lighting showing the key information clearly and efficiently.
A four speaker Blaupunkt stereo system with CD player is provided as standard along with a radio receiver wiring loom including a dipole aerial kit located in the front of the Exige.
Air conditioning, weighing in at a minimal 15 kg, is standard in some markets, where high ambient temperatures would otherwise prohibit the driving of such a high performing sports coupй. It is available as a cost option in all other markets.
Brakes - Track tuned ABS system to help out when needed!
The servo-assisted four-channel system individually monitors and distributes braking force to each wheel as required, enhancing braking performance and minimising stopping distance. Of course this track tuned ABS system does not take over from the skill of the driver but instead is initiated under panic conditions or when the driver is too heavy on the brakes and would normally break traction. The specifically tuned initiation point of the ABS system allows a skilled driver to maximise the potential of the braking system through the utilisation of forward weight transfer as with a non-ABS system. In the event of the driver demanding more braking performance than is possible, only then does the system intervene to optimise the force generated at the wheel. Therefore, on normal driving, even hard driving, the driver would not expect to feel the Exige ABS system in operation.
Standard equipment for the Exige includes: Blaupunkt Lausanne radio CD-R/W player and Blaupunkt high performance front and rear speakers, auxiliary front driving lights and central door locking. For the Japanese market specifically, central door looking is only included as part of the optional Touring Pack. The Blaupunkt Lausanne radio CD-R/W player is not available in the Japanese market but a Blaupunkt BPV755 radio CD-RW player is available as an option (not part of the standard specification or the Touring Pack).