You’d think that a manual transmission would be key for the focus on driver involvement and purity that defines Lotus, but the company is going against its simplistic mission by adding an optional six-speed automatic to the hardcore, track-oriented Lotus Exige sports car.
Available for the Lotus Exige S, this six-speed automatic is not a dual-clutch automated manual as is the trend these days, but instead uses a torque-converter like traditional automatics. It pairs with the car’s 3.5-liter supercharged V-6 engine that makes 345 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels. Despite the apparent heresy, Lotus says the automatic version’s 0-62 mph run is actually 0.1 seconds faster than the six-speed manual Exige S, and that the automatic Exige even equals its manual equivalent’s lap times around Lotus’ Hethel test track.
The transmission is controlled through pushbuttons on the center console and features different modes including Sport and Race that change the shift points and quicken the shifts. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard.
Surprisingly enough, the Exige won’t be the only Lotus model to offer an automatic, as the Evora sports car has offered a six-speed automatic option for several years. Though the track-ready Exige seems even less suited to a two-pedal setup than the slightly more mainstream Evora, this move is surely part of a Lotus initiative to increase sales amidst corporate shakeups and overall uncertainty for the company’s future.
Though the Lotus Exige was previously sold in the U.S. for track use only, the car was discontinued in 2011 meaning that this automatic version won’t be available here. When it debuts in Europe in January 2015, the automatic will cost €2,185 extra, or £2,000 extra in the U.K., about $3200.