The Esprit is at Stan’s shop at the moment. Ignition-gate is about to be resolved. It seems the starter has failed. That, is an acceptable outcome, and I kind of suspected it as a possible culprit anyway. While the plenum is off, we decided to replace the spark plugs, and wires as well. The coil packs look good, thank god, but there are a couple of cooling lines that would best be replaced.

Is ALWAYS something…

So, I have decided that while I can still recollect it, I want to talk about driving the sublime 2006 Lotus Exige. You know, I owned one for several years, and I got to know it fairly well.

20130512-200254.jpg

They are small and abusively quick little gits. Not quite as low as an Esprit, but shorter and more narrow, the dimensions are the first thing that shocks you. The interior is elemental. Small steering wheel, an utter lack of carpeting on the floors or padding on the seats, (in fact the passenger seat is fixed in place), you,are given almost nothing you don’t require to drive (stereo being the exception).

You climb over a fairly steep door sill and, for lack of a better term to describe it, you plop, into the drivers seat. The controls are all at your fingertips, and the driver position is surprisingly comfortable.

20130512-200406.jpg

You don’t see much out of the rear window except the wing, the hips of the car are obvious in the side mirrors, and although the view of the road is good out from the windshield, it takes a bit of time to adjust to the lack of periphery.

You make sure the car is in neutral, push a button on the key fob, depress the clutch (very light pedal effort) and put your finger in the start button. Is odd that such a minimalist car has one of those.

The staerer cranks, and it fires, or in the case of my car and its Larini exhaust, it explodes to life with enough volume to set off car alarms.

The engine note is nothing to be cherished. It is a small GE designed, Toyota manufactured four cylinder, but it is enough.

Once the car is at operating temperature, you depress the clutch again, select first (the gear selection is somewhat vague and awkward to me) and off you go.

20130512-200452.jpg

The 2006 is a “drive by wire” car and the lack of a solid connection between your foot and the fuel injectors causes a slight pause between when you ask for power and when you get it. Lotus tried to solve the problem by adding supercharges to every model of Exige after mine (that was extremely annoying, btw) but I cannot comment on those as I have never driven one. Anyway, the gas pedal is the least important part of the car if you are actually driving one of these on a track.

People,compare these to go-karts all the time. I actually think that is an insult to the Exige. Most karts understeer. The Exige threatens to do that, but it makes itself a available to pretty much whatever slip angle you want, pretty much whenever you want it.

The sheer amount of information that comes to you through the steering wheel is almost indescribable to someone that hasn’t driven a 111. There is no power steering and, while at super slow speeds the effort is a little heavy, in motion, it’s simply magic. Every undulation, change in pavement, type of pavement, everything, is communicated to you. Amazingly, even though there is very little body roll, the car is never really unsettled by this. That’s Lotus for you.

Coming from a V-8 Esprit, I was comfortable with the Exiges power (relatively speaking…). I was also ok with the chassis. Same, but stiffer and more focused. The thing that threw me for a huge loop, and considerable anxiety on a track, is how devastatingly effective the brakes are.

Take turn one at the Autobahn Country Club (full circuit) for example. Is a meaningful straight followed by kind of tight left. In an Esprit, I was hitting the hooks at sign board number 4. In an Exige, I was braking at the 2. And my foot would shake, because cars are NOT supposed to be able to do that. You are through that corner faster too, with the steering wheel dancing in your hands.

They have traction control. Mine was never engaged. Those AO-48’s just grip. Even in the wet.

The trouble with an Exige is that unless you live with a race track in our back yard, they are kind of tough to live with. They are complete overkill for public roads and it is kind of hard to enjoy them in a suburban setting without doing something criminally insane. As good as they are on a track they are dreadful to drive in traffic.

20130512-200603.jpg

The very car I owned is my good friend, and fantastic Lotus tech T.J. Waszak’s dream car and, in fact, I probably owned it a few years longer than I otherwise would have so I didn’t disappoint him. I would give him the car to pay with from time to time and it would come back to me in a different but better specification. Such is the way of things in the Lotus community.

T.J. Has moved on from Chicago, and I wish him, and the owner of my car only the very best. I would miss the Exige more if I wasn’t an Esprit guy.

Advertisements