The Lotus Exige S is not a car for all seasons. We spend much of our time exhorting the multifarious qualities of many modern high-end automobiles, admiring the way in which a Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation is now almost de rigueur for even the most outlandish supercars. So it's something of a pleasant surprise to fold oneself into the tarmac scraping-cabin of the new Lotus Exige S and discover that this isn't always the case.
Lotus is happy to leave the hard work up to the driver and not mollycoddle them every step of the way. The 'S' is the latest variant of a car that's been in production for well over a decade, with roots that reach back even further than that. Having engineered and invested in a class-leading aluminium structure, Lotus is content for its models to slowly evolve, tweaking, enhancing and improving as they go along.
The Series 3 version of the Exige debuted early last year. Lotus has had a few ups and downs in the past 18 months, with a much-vaunted plan to vastly expand its range, market position and production numbers first stalling then unravelling in spectacular fashion, nearly taking the company down with it. It's a rather more subdued outfit that exists today, more certain of its strengths but anxious not to overstretch itself. Car production is on the up and the acclaimed consulting arm continues to be in demand around the globe.
It's no exaggeration to say that the company's upheavals have served to galvanise its coterie of engineers and designers, certainly if the Exige S is anything to go by. Built around the 345hp V6 introduced in the current series, the S includes a technological marvel of a traction control system that sticks this car to the road like glue. This is fabulous, on the open road, but the rock hard suspension, unassisted steering and poor all-round visibility turn urban journeys into a workout.
And herein lies the problem. As any proper Lotus fanatic will be quick to point out, using a Lotus anywhere where speed bumps are a fact of life is rather like using a racehorse as a pit pony. Unless you commute from a remote Welsh cottage set at the end of a long, sweeping b-road with far-reaching site lines and practically zero traffic, you're going to need regular access to a race track to exercise this machine. Happily for Lotus, there are those with such a fantasy set up and the desire to indulge it. We, on the other hand, will have to keep dreaming.