Used 2008 Lotus Exige S Club Racer Review

By conventional measures, the 2008 Lotus Exige S is a miserable little car. But Lotus didn't build it to be a grocery getter. As a weekend track-day weapon, the Exige is unsurpassed.




what's new

For 2008, the base model Exige is discontinued; however, the more powerful Exige S 240 debuts. With 20 more horses than the Exige S, the 240 can reach 60 mph in an estimated 4 seconds flat. The 240 also gets bigger brakes and a larger roof-mounted air scoop. All Exiges get a new gauge cluster with trip computer for 2008.

vehicle overview

Ever dream about owning your own racecar? If you don't want to spend the cash and time to transform an existing car (and void the warranty), the 2008 Lotus Exige S is a quick and easy way to make your dreams come true. A fixed-roof version of the company's Elise targa-style roadster, the supercharged Exige is easily the most focused from-the-factory performance car on sale in the United States. Creature comforts are kept to an absolute minimum, while the suspension is set up for the smooth surfaces and high G-forces of a track rather than soaking up the choppy mess of America's roads. The Exige is not just a weekend toy; it's a toy that can only be enjoyed on one playground -- a racetrack.

Despite a mere 220 horsepower generated from its supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder, the Exige S still manages to go from zero to 60 mph in an estimated 4.1 seconds. By comparison, the Chevy Corvette Z06 needs 505 horses to accomplish the same task. Credit a curb weight of 2,077 pounds, which is a minor miracle in this era of perpetually pudgy vehicles. By comparison, a Mazda Miata weighs 2,498 pounds and has only 170 hp aboard. For 2008, the Exige S 240 debuts, featuring a larger roof-mounted air scoop, which forces more air into the supercharger, resulting in 20 additional horses. Lotus estimates only a 0.1-second improvement in 0-60 time, however.

But the Exige isn't a dragster. Instead it features sublime handling and massive grip. In fact, this coupe was built for no other purpose than to carve up corners, whether on a racetrack or a favorite back road. Unencumbered by the safety equipment and luxury amenities of most cars, the featherweight Exige S responds immediately to driver inputs and does so with minimal lean or roll. And with no power steering assist or extraneous seat padding buffering the feedback, the interface between car and driver couldn't be more direct.

Considering the Exige's performance potential, the price of admission for the street version is relatively modest. But don't plan on taking the missus out for a Sunday drive in the thing. On regular old roads, the Exige's ultra-stiff suspension will bounce and crash you about as if you belonged to the modern stone-age family. Storage space is also practically non-existent, while the "cabin" is really only suitable for small-to-average-sized people who are flexible enough to finagle themselves over the wide door sill and under the low roof. Most buyers will therefore be happier with a Porsche Cayman S or BMW M Coupe. But if you're not "most buyers" and you're searching for a toy to play around with on a weekend track day, it's hard to beat the 2008 Lotus Exige S.




trim levels & features

The 2008 Lotus Exige S is a two-seat, high-performance coupe. It is available in Exige S and Exige S 240 styles. Standard equipment on the S includes forged alloy wheels (16-inch front, 17-inch rear), Yokohama Advan performance tires, Lotus/AP Racing & Brembo ventilated/cross-drilled brakes, Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs, air-conditioning, power windows and locks, sport seats with Probax anatomical padding, black cloth upholstery, leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel and a four-speaker Alpine stereo with a CD player. The S 240 adds a more powerful engine, a larger roof-mounted air scoop, larger brake discs, variable traction control and launch control. The Touring Pack available on both styles includes additional sound insulation, a cupholder, interior stowage net, full carpet set, an auxiliary audio jack and black leather for the seats, door panels, handbrake and center console. The Track Pack adds manually adjustable springs and dampers. A limited-slip differential and special-order exterior colors are also optional, although some of the latter are more expensive than all the other options combined.



performance & mpg

The 2008 Lotus Exige S is powered by a supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder producing 220 hp and 165 pound-feet of torque. Lotus estimates that a 0-60-mph sprint will take 4.1 seconds. The Exige S 240 features a more powerful supercharger (fed by a larger roof scoop) that increases output to 240 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available on both cars. Despite its greater output, the estimated 0-60 time is only a tick quicker at 4.0 seconds. Fuel economy is excellent at 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for both Exige styles.

safety

Don't expect much more than federally mandated safety equipment on the 2008 Exige S. An antilock brake system and traction control is included, but neither stability control nor side airbags are available.

driving

Because of its 1-ton curb weight, super-sticky tires and unassisted steering, the 2008 Lotus Exige S is pretty much the most precise-handling car available at any price. No other car feels more eager to go where it's pointed and no other car speaks to its driver as clearly in the process. The Exige's body modifications over the open-top Elise do make a difference, but only at the higher speeds seen at a racetrack. Because of its sport-tuned suspension, the Exige rides like the Flintstone-mobile on normal pavement and makes a horrible commuter car for all but Barney Rubble. The brakes are simply phenomenal, though, providing fade-free performance in nearly every situation and bringing the Exige to a stop with the tenacity of an aircraft carrier catch wire.

interior

The Exige's minimalist design carries into the interior. The controls are simple and there's not much room available for storage. The composite sport seats provide plenty of support, but the car's low fixed roof and wide sills make entry and exit particularly challenging for any human more than 3 feet tall. Plus, those twice that height may find it difficult to drive the Exige, as their right leg can get painfully sandwiched between the steering wheel and gearlever. The trunk is rated at 4 cubic feet of capacity, which is enough for a to-go box and not much else.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.