Lotus Exige 2004 

In the past year, we introduced you to Lotus in an article about the Esprit, a company that proudly carries the ideals of the British automotive industry of the 70s: less weight, more speed. While that car may resemble a relic from the past, its successors – the Elise and Exige – represent a new world of streamlined prosperity. Today, we focus on the Lotus Exige on Maji97!

Introduced in 2000, the Exige was a more sport-oriented version of the Elise. Built on the same platform and following the same principles, they shared similarities: mid-engine layout, small-displacement engines and seating for two. However, if the Elise invited you to enjoy a cup of aromatic coffee in Nice, the Exige demanded to showcase your breakfast to others on a racing track in Silverstone. But today, we’re talking about the second generation of this supercar, which debuted in 2004 and lasted until 2006.

The car was built following the principles set by Colin Chapman: minimal weight, an extremely low body and a driver’s seat close to the ground. Unlike its more comfortable sibling, the Exige boasted advanced aerodynamics, with front splitters (not just for looks) and a rear wing. The roof, hood and windshield formed a cohesive, sloping line, with the roof made from composite material. Overall, the aerodynamic improvements provided an additional 40 kg of downforce at 161 km/h compared to the Elise.

In the first generation, the car was powered by a Rover engine. Without dwelling on the reasons for this unconventional choice, let’s just accept it as a fact: in the second version of the supercar, the British manufacturer utilized a Japanese engine. And if something non-British was to be used, it had to be the best! In the case of the Exige, the Toyota 2ZZ-GE 1.8-liter engine with a 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder setup proved to be the best choice, producing modest 193 horsepower. On paper, it may not seem impressive, but with a weight of 875 kg, this supercar accelerated to 100 km/h in just over 5 seconds and had a top speed of over 230 km/h! The transmission, as expected for a sports car, was a 6-speed manual. If, for some reason, the power wasn’t enough for you, you could opt for one of the special editions or the supercharged S2, which did 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds.

It was the combination of power, aerodynamics, brakes, and weight that made this car so enticing. I didn’t use the term “supercar” lightly, even though technically it falls just short of that title – journalists and customers unanimously recognized the right of the Exige to occupy one of the top spots in the classification of cars. On the track, it was able to overtake much more expensive and illustrious competitors as if they were missing half of their cylinders.

Of course, in exchange for speed, there had to be some compromises, and those compromises were found in the interior. It’s not just spartan, it’s sporty almost to the maximum extent of the word. First, you’ll have to understand that space is limited, so it’s best to skip that late dinner. After that, you won’t find the usual power seat adjustments, as those are unnecessary in a racing car. You won’t find carpets or soundproofing either – on the contrary, you should enjoy the sound of the engine, the track, and the squeak of the tires. The seats are a compromise between a sporty “bucket” seat (without a backrest recline adjustment) and a regular seat (with slightly less lateral support) for easier exiting. Just a glance at the pedals and an informed person will understand that they were designed with expertise. Pay attention to the length of the accelerator pedal – specifically designed for heel-and-toe downshifting during braking. A serious approach indeed.

The instrument panel and additional sensors provide you with the most important information about the car’s vital statistics – nothing more. The main purpose of the climate control unit is to prevent fogging on the inside of the windows. The gearshift lever is intentionally positioned slightly higher so that the driver spends as little time as possible shifting gears, minimizing the movement of the hand from the steering wheel to the gear lever.

There are cars destined to be showroom exhibits. There are cars built to race on the track. But this one belongs to the kind that would look great in both places – suitable for a cocktail party and for the final of the World Cup. It sets a great example of how supercars should be made. And I would like to conclude this piece with the phrase “Your move, TVR,” but all of them are resting in peace, so let their competitors on the continent catch up.

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