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Lotus Exige S (S2) | Spotted

How to spend new hot hatch money is one of our favourite conundrums. The Exige is an oft-cited answer

By Sam Sheehan / Sunday, January 12, 2020

Lotus is undergoing its biggest transformation yet, and nowhere is the shift more apparent than in the upcoming Evija EV. The 2,000hp electric hypercar represents so many firsts for the British brand that it’s barely recognisable as a Lotus product at all. Its sub-1.7-tonne kerbweight, while admittedly lighter than equivalent rivals, feels somewhat un-Lotus. Even more so than the lack of engine, completely alien design philosophy and, well, plenty more attached to its carbon fibre monocoque – which itself is another Lotus first.

Impressive as it is, the Evija isn't a signal of what’s to come across the board, it’s a signal of intent to show that Lotus is aiming high on the world's biggest stage. Beneath its mission statement we expect to see a lineup which includes more traditional offerings, designed to succeed the purebred line-up of Elises, Exiges and Evoras. These are the cars that have carried Lotus through difficult years and maintained it in the face of financial difficulty. It's still the best in the business when it comes to chassis work.

The Exige in particular has done a stellar job of illustrating that fact. The S3 has inevitably put on a few pounds compared to its predecessors thanks largely to the addition of a 3.5-litre V6 engine at its heart, but it still tips the scales at 1.1 tonnes. It remains a featherweight in 2020. Still, some purists lust most after the S2 because while it has two fewer cylinders, with even the supercharged Exige S weighed just 935kg.

With the addition of a blower, its Toyota-supplied 1.8-litre four-cylinder produces 221hp and 159lb ft of torque, which is plenty in a car liable to blow away if you sneeze too close to it. Naturally, it’s got manual gearbox, but 62mph still comes in just 4.3 seconds and top speed is a very respectable 148mph, so it’s not like short gearing is the explanation for its pace. Of course, with so little mass onboard the S2 Exige is just as athletic through the bends, its short dimensions and the instantaneous responses afforded by a ‘charged motor meaning it's perfectly in line with the philosophies of Colin Chapman – and effervescently rewarding to drive quickly as a result.

The Series 1 is, admittedly, the rawest Exige offering. The earlier platform is lighter and the K-Series engine – while prone to head gasket failure – is arguably the more exciting, even if it lacks the Toyota unit’s peak punch. But the S2 is generally regarded as offering almost all of the S1’s class and capability in a far more rounded, not to mention reliable, package. And, let’s face it, used values for S2s mean they’re now comfortably the best value option for Exige ownership. You’ll need more than £30k to open your search for an S1 on PH’s classifieds, meaning there’s barely anything between these rare early cars and far younger, V6-powered S3s. By comparison there are two S2s presently on PH for under £25k.

Today’s Spotted is neither of those examples, because we’re opting to spend just short of twenty-eight grand on a rather lovely red Exige S. It’s got 46,000 miles on the clock, a fair amount for a 13-year-old car like this, but most importantly its latest custodian is an Exigephile who came back to Lotus ownership after selling a McLaren. This is their third example of Lotus’s mid-engined sports car, and it looks to be in fine shape both inside and out, with a healthy supply of additional carbon parts added by the current owner. It hasretained a full-service history, both keys and is sat on a set of new boots. Oh, and the only reason it’s being sold is the arrival of a manual Audi R8 Spyder. Say no more.


Engine: 1,796cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 221@7,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 159@5,500rpm
MPG: 31
CO2: 216g/km
First registered: 2007
Recorded mileage: 46,000
Price new: c. £35,000
Yours for: £27,950

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