2006 Lotus Exige

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Lotus has announced that it will bring its Exige--a rebodied, hardtop version of the Elise--to the United States this fall. Mechanically, the Exige will be identical to the U.S. Elise, which means a 1.8-liter Toyota four making 190 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque. We won't see the supercharged, 243-hp engine from the Europe-only 240-R. The Exige will use the same firmer suspension tuning of the Elise with the optional sport package, but the hardtop Lotus will have a cornering advantage over its open-topped counterpart because the Exige's unique bodywork creates approximately 90 lbs of downforce at 100 mph instead of the Elise's mere 12 lbs. To put that in perspective, most cars generate significant lift at 100 mph. The increased downforce comes chiefly from four factors: the longer, reshaped nose; the front wind splitter; the rear wing; and the covered roof. All the Exige's body panels, save the doors, are unique, and these modifications help the Exige scoot around the 2-mile Lotus test track two seconds faster than the Elise. Other changes for the Exige are limited to reshaped seats (bigger bolsters and cut-outs to fit a racing harness) and black wheels (either cast aluminum or the forged wheels from the Elise sport package). Only 200-300 Exiges will come to the States annually (compared to more than 2000 Elises) at a price Lotus estimates will be in the low- to mid-$50,000 range. The yellow Exige shown in these photos is the only one in the U.S. at the time of this writing, and it is merely pit-stopping at the New York show on its way to crash testing, so keep your checkbooks at home for now.

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