I’ve been a Lotus fan for sometime now and a few years ago when a friend of mine sold his, I regretted not buying it off him myself. The fact that there’s a dealership now makes me even regret it more but I got over it, or at least I thought I had until this weekend. Thursday morning I picked up a brand new Lotus Exige S from the dealership to use over the weekend, and after giving it back yesterday my feelings on it haven’t changed, I still love and want the car.
Let me get this out of the way first, this isn’t the car for you. Well at least 99.9% of you and I’ll explain why.
Notice I use the side pillars in the car like a bookshelf for my phone and wallet.
As a regular car the Exige is horrible and I don’t even know where to begin. The seats? The most uncomfortable seats I’ve ever sat in and you can’t adjust them. The car is super tiny on the inside, I mean my Datsun is tiny but it’s actually huge compared to the Exige. It’s so tiny that the passenger seat is stuck to your seat, I actually kept buckling my seatbelt into the passenger side seatbelt accidently because they’re so close. It can be pretty awkward on a first date but you know whats even more awkward? Getting in or out of the car. There is no way, and I really mean no way to get in and out of the car gracefully no matter how hard you try. This mostly has to do with the fact that there is a huge pillar you need to climb over to get into the seat and the fact the car is so low it makes the whole process very awkward. There are even videos online that show you how to get in and out of the car! Watch [This One] and then [This One]. The fact you need to watch a video to show you how to get in and out of the car should give you an idea that this isn’t a normal car. Also when I say this is a low car I mean this is a LOW car. I drove by a mini cooper on the Gulf Road and all I could see was the mini’s door handle. The Exige is so low it can drive under parking gates.
But wait I’m not done yet! There is so much more that doesn’t make sense in the car. To turn the lights on at night you press one button, to turn it off you need to press two different buttons. Why?? Before getting the car I thought the AC might not be good enough for Kuwait’s weather but my issue with the AC this weekend was that it was too much for the Exige. For a car thats slightly larger than an iPad I don’t understand why it has 8 AC vents, 4 in the front, and then 4 right behind you facing the front. At the lowest fan setting there was still too much AC for the size of the car. I spent most of the time closing vents and opening the window to balance the temperature inside the car. If there is a place I want to be in the summer its the ice skating rink and the inside of this Lotus. What else did I find terrible in the car? The stereo, easily the worst sound system in any car I’ve ever driven, it’s slightly better than my Datsun’s sound system from the 70s and that’s because I could plug my iPhone into it. I really need to go back and talk about the size of the interior again, the car is so small that without moving from my seat, I high-fived a friend who was standing outside the passenger side window. I’m not exaggerating, that incident actually happened. Interior glove compartment? Nope. Trunk space? It’s big enough to fit a backpack… maybe. The steering wheel also isn’t powered so I hope you’ve been working out since parking this car is a workout. Speaking of parking, the visibility out of the rear window is terrible and there are plenty of blindspots all around. Reversing from my parked position back onto a main road involved so much back and forth head movement, to a passerby I must have looked like I was having an epileptic seizure.
Thats how close the seats are!
But, with all that being said, when you buy an Exige you know what you’re getting into. You wouldn’t get into a Formula 1 race car and then complain that it doesn’t have a cup holder. You’re not expected to be able to pick up your visiting relatives from the airport in an Exige or even doing something as simple as dropping your mum off at the hairdresser (she either won’t be able to get in or won’t be able to get out).
The Lotus Exige S weighs only
950KG 1175KG but has a 345HP supercharged engine. It does 0 to 100 in 3.9 seconds and a top speed that is electronically limited to 233km/h. It’s small, it’s very fast and most importantly, it’s a ton of fun. This weekend I had a blast with the car and I wish I could do it again the next weekend and the weekend after that. It’s all the negatives in the earlier paragraph that makes this car so great. Sure I would have loved a better sound system but that I’d rather have a shitty sound system and keep the car small and simple then an amazing sound system that would add weight, need a larger interior and add complications to the car. Every decision in this car was made not to sacrifice performance and performance is what you get here. Just ask Chris Harris. The car is really easy to drive fast which makes it very driver friendly.
The interior is very barebones, all you will get is 3 knobs for the AC, an Alpine stereo, 3 buttons for the lights and then buttons for changing gears. That’s the whole interior. Even the speedometer cluster doesn’t contain any information other than your speed, RPM, a digital read out of your speed and a few warning lights. It’s going back to basics which is something I’ve started appreciating because of my Datsun. You don’t need a large touch screen, you don’t need 12 cupholders, you don’t need automatic folding mirrors or interior mood lights, you don’t need majority of the stuff in your car. With the Exige, it’s just you, the car and the road. No distractions.
Visually the car is a work of art. From all the cars I’ve ever driven, none got me as much attention as this one did. Everywhere I went people were checking the car out. Even hotel valets who’ve come across everything where checking the Exige out. Actually pulling up to valet in an Exige was fun, I was like I want to park here and they just moved a car for me and I parked in it’s place right at the front of the hotel entrance. Park an Exige next to a Ferrari and more people will likely check out the Exige just because it’s such a rare and over the top looking car.
With all the misgivings of this car I actually loved it and I now more than ever regret not getting if off my friend. The only thing I really would want them to improve on is the seat but other than that I didn’t mind all the weird issues the car had. The price? The Exige S starts at KD27,000 which I think is a fair price… if it was a car I could drive everyday. But it isn’t which makes this price difficult to swallow. This isn’t daily driver, it’s barely a car you want to drive even just on weekends. This is a track car first, road car second which is why it would be perfect in countries that have race tracks like Bahrain and UAE. It’s a car you can take to the track on the weekend, be competitive and then drive it to work if you want the day after. But sadly for us, we don’t have a race track here so it’s hard to justify the Exige. But, I’ll be test driving the Lotus Evora soon which is supposed to be everything the Exige is except with the extra amenities that make it a better everyday car. So I’m looking forward to that.
For more information on Lotus cars or if you’d like to test drive one, check out the local dealers instagram account @alghanimlotuskw