Well I finally gave the S2 Exige a proper go on Saturday morning.
Sadly it was a bit damp, but that probably meant I kept it to more appropriate speeds. I may have another go in the dry when I pick my car up from its annual check-up. Although the moist roads did mean I got to feel it move about a bit more than I would otherwise have.
Firstly, I’d have to admit to not having really ‘got’ the S2 before driving it. It didn’t seem to make sense dressing up an S2 Elise as a soft Exige. But you really could use this one everyday for more than just a few miles. I’m still not wildly excited about the look, I think that the seven year old that lives down your street what stop looking every time you passed after a month or so. All in all though it is a much better overall package…but is that what an Exige should be?
Heading off it was easy to get use to and moved quicker than it felt, always a sign of good suspension I think. It doesn’t seem to need those 6 gears though and top would just save fuel on a motorway. The shift is quite a long throw and they don’t do a quick shift yet, which is a shame.
Now, that brake pedel - urk! It has a very long travel (which makes heel’n’toe tricky, but not as bad as I thought it was going to be) and is almost completely void of feel, you do learn to trust it after a while but more in a hit’n’hope way, not exactly skillful. Part of that is because the ABS is blooming good! In the damp I could use the full power of the brakes, which is very good (much much better than the std ones on an S1!), and then rely on the ABS not to come in too early and just warn me when it was time to back off. However good, it did strike me as a bit of a turn for Lotus. As with anything they turn their minds to, it’s very well engineered, but it could easily lead to a driver aid style of driving, which isn’t what their cars have ever been about.
Nothing has changed from Lotus on the suspension front though, it’s very good and seems to be all things to all men. A compliant ride, only upset by pot holes, and bend hugging poise. It does feel just a tad softer than the S1s which converts to a much more progressive break away; the sought that causes a smile rather than raised eyebrows.
I also tried the 111R which had a much more loosened up engine. Not having driven an Elise for a while, I think the Exige benefits from the roof, makes it seem more grown up. Without an upgraded exhaust, which the Exige had, the engine sounds dead! Though it does help hide the cam change at just over 6000rpm. Now with this, I was told and agree, that if you keep changes until max revs it never drops out of this power range, but that pretty much throws short shifting out. I think this would lead to driving like a hoon a lot just to keep it in the power band. The run-in engine seemed to have a less noticable step up though, a bit more torque in the mid-range even with that normal exhaust. The 111R’s suspension didn’t feel much softer than the Exige’s but the understeer was much more noticable. I can see why they’re selling more Exiges against it this time around.
So, are they selling out the Exige name and should they have called it something different? Maybe. Does that stop it being a very good indeed? Absolutely not. If I was coming to an Exige for the first time would I pick a new S1 or a new S2? Much as I hate to say it, I think I’d pick an S2! But if I swapped a S1 for a S2 I’d always know I was missing something when I was on track, and in my mind at least, that is what an Exige is about. Even if an S2 lapped quicker, and has the potential to be more fun at times, it’s not as much of a special experience.
There you go, for what’s it’s worth (and because a couple of peope asked me for it), my 2p worth (sorry for whittering on and congrats on getting this far!). Thanks to Bell & Colvill, all of whom down there seem to have a real passion for the cars, and now days seem less rushed off their feet and able to talk to customers.