2006 Lotus Exige

Please Note: I no longer own this car.

General Specs:

– Bonded Aluminium Chasis

– Toyota 2ZZ 1.8l 4 cylinder engine

– Standard 190 hp at flywheel

– 2,050lbs approximate wet weight

– Tires: 205×17 F; 225×17 R Nitto NT01

About the car

The Lotus Exige is the best production sports car I’ve ever driven. It is alive, communciative, infinitely forgiving and tossable. It is very stiffly suspended, so it wants to slide quite a bit, but the chasis is so perfectly tuned that it is absolute joy to drive at high slip angles. I’m no drifter, in fact I’ve never particularly liked driving very ass-end out, but this car is just so much fun you want to throw it through corners at opposite lock. It seems almost impossible to spin the Exige, though I’m sure I’ll disprove that impression in due course (EDIT: Now disproven). The downforce is reassuring in high-speed corners though quite modest; you’re acutely aware that this is not a car you could drive upside down in a tunnel.

There is only one weaknesses to this car on the track, that I’ve found so far: the big cam, or more appropriately, the switchover point. The cam switchover needs to be lower than 6200rpms. 2300 rpms is not enough of a powerband to work with, and despite my best efforts, there are times on track when the motor will fall below the magic 6200rpms point. On paper it would seem that one could always avoid that, but in the real world of race tracks, it happens, and it never should. The car would be far better with the 2nd cam coming in at 5500rpms even, though 5k would be ideal. On the street it doesn’t matter much, but on the track it’s bad news. I also feel on the street the power is more than adequate, but on the track I want more, so a supercharger may be in store.

The Lotus comes from the factory with Yokohama A048, which are fantastic street tires, if a bit noisy, but they’re crap compared to other DOT Rs out there. I’ll be running Nitto NT01s for dual use, even though it means I’ve got to buy new wheels to do it. The car will be much better for it.

In closing, I’d like to say that the only cars I’ve driven which are as much fun as the Exige are Ferraris. Now that’s saying something. And what’s more, if I’m being honest, the Lotus is actually a better car…the Ferrari’s simply sound much, much better.

There are several videos of the car available through the video link at the left, if you’re interested.

Deviations from standard

This car is a 2006 Lotus Exige with virtually all the options, such as Touring pack, Limited Slip (a must), traction control, Track Pack (not a must).

Suspension – The car currently has the standard Lotus Track Pack suspension, which are single-adjustible Bilsteins. It also has a 5-position adjusible sway bar, also part of the Track Pack option.

Brakes – Brakes are standard Track Pack.

Motor – The motor is standard, as are the headers and exhaust (formerly had Race headers and a stage two exhaust, now removed). Fujita intake (previous owner installed, probably does nothing). The motor also has an accusump fitted and a Moroso baffled oil pan.

Safety – External Battery kill switch, fire suppression system, harnesses and tow hooks are about it.

Ergonomics – B&M Shift kit, which is very nice and snickity.

Last Thoughts

I sold this car a while ago. I owned this car for a couple of years, and for the most part loved it. I still think it’s the best sports car for the street I’ve owned. Here are some random thoughts and tips in parting.

Tracking considerations – If you’re going to track an Elise or Exige, you must have an LSD. Lotus says you don’t need one, but as incredible as this may sound, they’re flat-out wrong. I can’t conceive of how they came to the conclusion an LSD doesn’t help, but I can tell you unequivocably that it’s a necessity. How do I know this, you may ask. Well, read on…

There is a brace that goes from a frame member to the transmission on these cars, and it has a tendency to loosen up because Lotus, in their wisdom, doesn’t locktite the bolt going into the trans. I know this because eventually that bolt loosened on my car, and under the battering of the track, managed to crack the trans case. The crack was low enough on the case that it would weep oil, so I bought a new trans from Toyota (it is just a standard Toyota unit, after all).

Well, I bought one without the LSD, and the car is considerably slower on track. It suffers from very bad wheelspin on corner exit and seemed to cost me (going from memory here) about 1.5 seconds per lap at Streets of Willow Springs, comparing events before and after the trans swap on the same-spec tires. Granted, at a less tight track the difference would be smaller, but that’s a considerable disadvantage. It did make me a bit faster at Willow Springs big track, however, but that’s one of the “straightest” road courses on earth.

to be continued…

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