New for 2008, the Exige S 240 represents the high-performance pinnacle of Lotus' "race cars licensed for the street" Exige lineup. The Elise and the Exige (pronounced ex-seej, "challenging" in French), both first introduced in 2006, share an extruded aluminum frame and "a family resemblance." However, every Exige body panel, except the doors, is different from the Elise's.
The S 240 uses the same engine as the S, but ups power to 240 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque by recalibrating the engine-management system, enlarging the roof scoop and extending it to the edge of the windshield, and using a larger intercooler. Lotus claims the gas mileage remains the same as the Exige S's, at 20 mpg city /26 mpg highway. Acceleration, however, improves slightly, with the 0-60 jump accomplished in 4 seconds flat and 0-100 coming up in 10 seconds. An upgraded clutch plate cover helps transmit the engine's power to the six-speed manual transmission.
Standard equipment on the S 240 includes variable traction and launch controls. The traction control system allows a driver to literally dial with a knob on the steering column eleven different traction settings, from 1 (the least electronic intervention) to 10 (the most) or 11 (traction control off). Launch control allows perfect blast-offs from a standing start, if you follow the proper sequence: Set the rev limiter, floor the accelerator, engage the gear, and slip your foot off the clutch. You'll immediately smell tire smoke and be gone!
Reviewers are enthusiastically unanimous in their raves for the handling, braking, and steering of the Exige line. AutoWeek's comments are typical: "That means the Exige beats everything we've tested in the nimbleness and tossability category, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Evos, STIs and Porsches." What's left?
Standard equipment on all Exiges: a new gauge cluster with trip computer, an ABS system with Lotus/AP Racing and Brembo calipers with ventilated/cross-drilled brakes, forged alloy wheels (16-inch front and 17-inch rear) with Yokohama Advan Neova ultra-performance tires, Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs, power windows and locks, a leather-trimmed Momo steering wheel, an anti-theft system with engine immobilizer, an aluminum handbrake and shift knob, a four-speaker Alpine stereo with CD player, and black cloth ProBax anatomically designed seats, which are said to improve blood flow to the legs and negate the need for an adjustable lumbar.
Weighing in at only 2,077 pounds, reviewers all noted the Exige's rather spartan interior. This is a driver's car; there's even a checkbox on the order form to skip the air-conditioning to save weight. After all, full floor carpeting and a cupholder are part of the Touring Pack option package, which also includes a thermal and sound-insulated soft top, full leather seat and door trim, a leather-trimmed center console, an iPod connector, and "additional sound insulation." Minimal safety equipment - beyond the car's handling and braking capabilities - includes driver and passenger airbags. There is also a Track Pack that adds even more race course refinement in the form of adjustable dampers and spring perches.
Unless you enjoy an ultra-stiff suspension and a spartan driver's cabin, the S 240 is not a daily driver. But for the weekend racer, Road and Track calls it "the best street-legal production track car you can buy."