Pros: Go-kart handling outshines even Elise stablemate; Track-focused design invites serious competition; Reliable Toyota engine designed to last for years
Cons: Tight cabin for drivers of nearly any size; No rear window makes street driving a challenge; Lotus brand's future is uncertain; Small size and low weight makes safety a worry
What's new: The 2011 Lotus Exige was largely unchanged in its final year on the market. Unlike the droptop Elise, the Exige wasn't facelifted for its final model year and continued with separated front lights.
The British-built Lotus Exige went on sale as a 2006 model, following a year behind its Elise stablemate. Like the Elise, all Exige models were two-seaters that featured a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive design. While the Elise's roof could be easily removed, the Elise was sold as a fixed-roof coupe, even though its top could technically be removed in a pinch. No Exige models included a rear window, though many drivers added aftermarket reversing cameras.
Like the Elise, the Exige used a Toyota-built 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Early models offered the same 190 horsepower as the Elise. But by 2011, the Exige boasted 240 horsepower in base-level "S 240" trim. An even more powerful "S 260" model was also available, as was a heavily-optioned "S 260 Roger Becker Edition," named for a longtime director of Lotus engineering.
The 2011 Lotus Exige started around $66,000. The more raucous Exige S 260 boosted that figure above $71,000. While that may seem like a lot of money for a two-seat, four-cylinder car, the Exige could hit 60 mph in around 4.5 seconds and put power to the ground through a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission.