It's mental! What a brilliant machine - you have to try one!
It's hard to talk about this without echoing EVO's review and
who sums it up better than I probably can and that seem dead on (Official spec). My first sports car was a Elise and I currently quite fancy an Exige S atm so I'm naturally inclined to love this next step up the ladder but hopefully I can try and communicate some original impressions. The car is that good that I don't have much criticism frankly but nothing will replace actually driving it. Just for reference I've been lucky enough to try, test or tour europe in elises, exiges, a series of ferraris and astons, classic and contemporary so hopefully I can offer some objective & helpful view points.
Silverstone Lotus kindly fitted me into the last test session of the day and the guy co-piloting the test was Lotus Cars' EMEA, NZ & Aus. Sales Director and ex-engineer, James Haskey. Tested in dry conditions, in 'Sport' Mode on bumpy b-roads, dual carriageway, roundabouts and local, slow country roads and didn't get or need the chance to try different driving settings: frankly it's soo mentally quick with such inertia free, slip free, monumental shove I personally needed the time to recalibrate my brain. I didn't even begin to tap it's potential - without doubt: can't imagine you would need the top 2/3 gears in the UK on public roads.
I'll try and summarise so firstly:the pace is absolutely bonkers - feels like the fastest car I've ever driven. It's like someone's bestowed on you a super-ability to 'fold space' or time travel from one end of a straight to another - but like recent lotuses the shove is very accessible for anyone with a little experience or skill - obviously not suggesting Paris Hilton will replace her Maclaren SLR for one...
- what a beast! it feels fiercely quick
- i didn't feel it slip once - although I wasn't (overtly) trying to do anything really silly/provocative
- at a glance it might look like the previous exige, but actually I think it looks really badass from the front, in person: much more serious / beefy / less delicate looking that elise/exiges
- sounds brilliant! not annoyingly noisy but growls, purrs, pops and crackles away behind you. this is such an improvement
- you'd hardly know it was blown, completely different to my Esprit that I'd just stepped out of which sounds like God's Espresso Machine behind your right ear
- higher production values - way way better constructed than previous phases in lotus production - the door went 'thunk'!!
- power doesn't need chasing or 'summoning up', unlike some engines: it's always there almost whatever gear you're in - you just choose the character of the shove you want: from 'mental' in the lowest gear you can use at any given moment through to 'gently warp' in top gear
- the brand manger at Silverstone Lotus claimed the roof comes off targa-style (with a little nut and bolt work) - a favourite configuration of mine
- the Lotus guy said the run-in development cars with several 000 miles on the are good-looser and faster and easily wheelspin in 4th at lower speeds?
- well spec'd brakes - give you the confidence to know you can stop when you get into speeds that the Exige will do.
- like the other recent lotuses it's feels like you become a part of the car - as the saying goes: you don't climb in to lotuses, you put them on: i love this - and this one is no different
- some aspects are so right that in comparison some details feel unfortunately overlooked e.g. switchgear, electric window buttons - but everything else is just right tho I think
- I personally 'blow hot and cold' about some of the rear angles that look a tiny bit odd in impression but this is a minor thing and probably subjective.
- the gear change is still a tiny bit snickety - not hard to use but in the short time I used it was sometimes not as natural action as some in a couple of changes. maybe it's still bedding in.
- maybe a tiny bit more inertia that the elise/exige and maybe a little bit less genuine 'feel' - but only in comparison to other track orientated lotuses and barely noticable
- it's like driving a thoroughbred horse - if i got one I think I would find myself ignoring *everything* else in my life to hunt down roads/tracks to drive this car on
- interior looks identical to the elise/exige 4cyl and whilst seems to make some sense next to a 911 gt3 interior (compared to something more luxurious) but still could be a little more plush. maybe some options will let you improve it to that level.
- still somewhat annoying tricky to get in/out (any my wife's yoga teacher: you'd think i might find it easier!). That might sound trivial: it isn't. I wonder if some people might not even be able to get in it at all.
The car represents a phenomena I think is really important in good industrial/product design that we all strive to reproduce: the ability to completely remove the distance between what the user wants & expects to do with a car/product/service and what the product/car/service actually does when you use it: in the exile v6's case it feels like it makes that distance from thought to effect invisible. You don't notice the car around you: you just want to go from where you are to where you want to travel to and suddenly you're there and in as quick and focussed a way as possible, if that makes sense. I find that stunning - it has plenty of character but some may like more old fashioned 'pomp and circumstance' in their sports car driving experience.
SO! It's so 'good' scary that it reminded me of a traditional Japanese sushi knife I own that's so sharp it cuts the kitchen brush when you clean it and which when I bought it, it shaved a (harmless) molecule thin layer of skin off my finger when I brushed the blade to 'test it' (the classic blokey thing to do). That's not to say that in a negative, jittery or uncontrolled sense but in the sense of a tool that feels close to the 'peak' of it's purpose: completely focussed. Awesome, just awesome.
To finish the afternoon, coincidentally I 'bumped' into James driving the car back to london on the M1 so we loosely convoyed on the way back: cool!
My heart says: where do I sign? First I'd have to compare a Evora S and a sporty 911!
hope this helps/if of interest!