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  1. Part 3. One year in (from Part 2 which is here) Did I make the right choice and am I still pleased with it? I still find the look of the car exquisite from just about every angle, it really is a beautiful car. Over the years I always thought the Exige looked sensational whenever l saw pictures and even better in flesh on the rare occasion I got to glimpse one. In my view it’s a timeless design classic. The sloping rear half, the F355 evoking tail lights, the intake scoop, flared arches, the rear wing that looks so right on the car; purposeful without being Halfords parts bin boy racer, a mini supercar with real presence. Looks wise I think it can hold its own amongst some real classics. Granted it wouldn’t win the champions league, but it‘s definitely a contender in the premiership. The handling is something else, the way it grips and more importantly the way it communicates grip. But you already knew that. Its the adjustability of the car and the way it just stays planted. You can play with the angle and balance all the way through the bend and feel the attitude change. So immediate but progressive at the same time. There is an extra layer of delicacy, feeing and adjustability. My current set up is good, it has a bit of natural understeer dialled in which I can play with early/mid bend by easing off a tiny amount of throttle to bring the front in and the rear out a bit. I normally prefer set ups that are a bit more pointy, although I know that’s not necessarily the fastest way around a corner. I’m really starting to appreciate this neutral set up as it’s allows me to explore the subtleties of the car. On a dry, smooth road it’s practically impossible to get the rear breaking away as the grip is so good, even if you are being clumsy and provoking it. There isn’t enough sudden torque to upset it. And that, I feel, is the point of the S2 model Exige. It’s so well balanced, it’s not designed to brutalise, it’s designed to glide scalpel like, its way down the tarmac, with a fluid precision that is instant. I really like that. The S2 doesn’t need fancy traction control, ESP or torque vectoring. I will come onto TC in a bit. I did a track day at Brands in December last year. Mostly wetish and drying out in the afternoon. It was sublime. You know I said this car doesn’t need fancy Traction Control, well the Sprint came with TC as standard, it wasn’t an option. So I had it whether I liked it or not, and it was the variable one with a dial to adjust the amount of slip angle before intervention. The key here is that I don’t consider this version of TC as fancy. It’s clever but not fancy. What I mean by that is it’s a rudimentary system but done in a clever way via short engine cuts at the cylinder. Effectively a managed misfire but enough to surprisingly make a difference. It does nothing to control the wheels, just the amount of power going to the rear. Now here’s the controversial part. For an amateur like me, on that track day, I loved the variable traction control (such purest blasphemy 😆). I think it’s brilliant, totally non invasive, similar to the racelogic one. Allows playfulness but gives a safety net to make up for my talent limits. Especially on wet track days. You can still enjoy the car and press on, the little ptt, ptts telling you when it’s gently coming in. It meant I could really enjoy the whole track day and give it the beans without worrying so much. It is also instructional because you can hear the little misfire-like engine cuts when they kick in at the exact moment where you have been a little too eager with the loud pedal (like I was on occasions ☺️) so you know next time round when you don’t hear it that you’re doing it right. I had it on full TC in the morning and as the track started to dry out I began to dial it out to allow more slip angle %. Until later in the day I could do full off. I know without TC the instructional element is the car sliding and you catching it, or not! But with this beaut of a Sprint, I’d rather not take the risk. During the day the TC didn’t kick in that often, I found it helped by giving me more gentle confidence. On a dry track day I would always turn it off. On the road, I quite like the fact it’s there even if I don’t find I trigger it. Without doubt the TC saved me crashing into the pit wall early on the Brabham straight. I was starting to get a bit more confident in the wet and I was a tiny bit too keen on the throttle as I straightened out. I suddenly felt the back start to break unexpectedly to my left, pointing me towards the wall (lack of talent on my part). The TC kicked in and saved me by stopping the back swinging further. It all happened very quickly. So, perhaps controversially, I‘m a big fan of it and especially the variable part. I’ve seen very little written about this version on the late S2s and the 211, perhaps because there are not many cars with it on (most likely reason) or people feel ashamed to admit they like it 😳 or the general consensus is it’s rubbish 😁. It wasn’t high on my list of must have when shopping for the Exige but now that I have it, I’m very glad I do. The Abs is very good, non intrusive but I would prefer an off switch for track, not sure if that‘s possible to fit alongside the TC. If anyone knows if it is, please let me know. On the track I found the ABS did kick in a little bit which gets the fluid hot. That might be my braking style that needs tuning to prevent it triggering, rather than the abs. I feel another Walshy day coming on. I’m my view the car is meant for the track more than the road. Handling aside, you can’t really exploit its capabilities on the road particularly because the power is at the top end of the rev range, which means you have to be going full tilt to make use of it. Strangely my modded VX with its whallop of torque low down the rev range meant you could power out of a bend or do an overtake easily without being in banzai mode, which almost makes it better suited for the road than the Exige. I imagine the S3 Exige has that same type of shove (but never been in one). On track however I don’t miss the lack of torque because it doesn’t need it, on the road I do miss it a little bit. I can’t wait to get out on track again, it’s glorious and I don’t feel the need to modify it. I have though made a couple of comedically small mods; Boot light protector (got that from a previous sprint owner by chance), Harnesses Blue soft top - it came with the softtop mod already done, just needed a top. I would have missed not having a convertible even though I prefer the look with the hardtop. Planned modifications: none. I have had my fill of modifying cars. I will, though, change out the exhaust because the 2bular it came with is too loud for my taste. 10 years old and the packing has probably thinned, it sounds amazing but I’m getting too soft. So I’ll replace that with a 2bular HJS full system for quietness. I’ll have the original 2bular backbox for sale in the coming months. Anyone who has the HJS, I’d love to hear from you to know what it’s like and real world decibels, especially for track. If the shocks wear out then I might add 1 way Nitrons but don’t have a big urge as I found that Nitrons seem to need a rebuild more moften than OEM. Although when the time comes I might crumble and go for the Nitrons because they are so lovely. So how do you sum up something so wonderful? A year in and it still ticks so many boxes for me. I absolutely love this Exige, and all Lotus type cars for that matter, it’s such an incredible marque. It’s the lightness that makes them so special. Even though I have always harboured a desire for a 911 since a kid I think I‘m permanently hooked on Lotus type now and would struggle to go for a 911. It’s the sensation of drive with the delicacy of steering and handling that is my drug I doubt I can shake. The best way I can sum up the car is in one word; magical. This ones a keeper.
  2. To give you more context Part 1 is here (In 2019 I traded in a heavily modded VX220 Turbo with 350lbs toque, for the Exige). Part 2 is the story of my initial experience and impressions of the Exige... Picking up your Lotus, or any dream car for that matter, is just like being a kid at Christmas. If it isn't then you’ve either had a charisma bypass or you shouldn't be buying that Lotus. I had a couple of weeks to wait in between paying the deposit and collecting the car. Not a day went by without thinking about the car or having a look at the sale pictures. The other joy of these special cars and this community is that many have a known history. During that gap I reached out to several previous owners to check the providence and condition and it all checked out well. As if I needed any more reasons to be excited, those conversations only added more fuel. It turned out it had a 2bular exhaust, baffled sump added, had been well cared for regardless of cost, the 260 ecu upgrade had the right accompanying additions of twin oil coolers, TRD airbox etc, but was spared the Cup extremities. I’d ruled out getting a true cup car as it was too extreme for my needs. So for me this car ticked every single box. The day came and it was one of mixed emotions as I climbed into the VX for the last time, bottled up excitment combined with parting from a car I never thought I'd sell. Having owned, cared and kept 10 years longer that I had any other car. It had amazing memories and I loved it, but all those incredible modifications hardening the car was now inversly proportional to the softening of me and ultimately the reason why I was moving on. How ironic to be saying I was getting an Exige because I wanted something softer! But that was the truth. The long drive from the London area to Jon Seal, south of Leeds was a chance to bask in what was a fantastic car. I took it gently with the occasional engine leg stretch along the dull motorway. At a fuel stop at the service station, walking back to the car I had to take a picture of it gleaming on the forecourt. Goodbye old friend. The drive was uneventful until I arrived at Jon’s for the main event. There it was, resplendent. It was in great condition, beautifully prepared looking like a new car both inside and out. I find the look of all Exiges in the flesh is something to behold, it’s the shape of the rear half of the S2 that gets me every time, the roof scoop (both short and full) and the way that blends down the back of the car in a wonderful curve to be met by the wing. That wing, how I love the look of the wing. On some cars a wing looks like it's tacked on, on this it looks like it’s a natural part. I find them absolutely beautiful as a design with the right level of stirking presence and GT3 racer stance. I'd never driven any Exige, never even sat in an S2 or experienced it's handling. I’d committed to the car based on photos, no test drive and trust. I had no worries. I knew the car was good, Jon Seal came highly recommended and I intimately knew what it felt like to drive a Lotus type car with an alluminium chassis stuck together with glue. I wasn’t expecting a wildly different driving experience from the steed I was leaving. We chatted from some time about the cars, did the paperwork and the car was mine. There was no test drive, there was no need. My first drive would be my drive home. I dropped into the seat and the first thing that struck me was the seating position seemed a fraction lower in relation to looking out the windscreen. That could be an illusion due to the shape of the panels compared to the VX and the hardtop giving a more enclosed feeling. It felt good. I hit the start button to let the car burst into life, reversed out and began my drive home grinning like a Cheshire cat. It’s moments like these you don’t forget. The car immediately felt natural but a bit different. More luxuirous than the VX, helped by the updated cabin with touring pack. I did immediately notice the difference returning to the standard rack on the Exige as my VX had the short ratio rack which gives an even more immediate and pointy feel. Apart from that the steering was just the same pin sharp, tactile wonder jostling around in your relaxed grip telling you every contour of the tarmac. With the car fully warmed up it was time to test it out. As the revs wind up, 4,500 there is a lift in tone, 5,600ish a second lift and then at 6,600ish a further final lift with the pitch getting higher. All the while the holler of the supercharger turning into a banzai scream. It’s a cacophony of sound with a building crachendo as the change-up lights flash at 8,500rpm. Mental. Every fibre and sinew is telling you to change gears 3,000rpm ago and you have to resist the urge. It takes a few attempts to get used to that. Previous ownership of an S2000 meant my learning curve was quicker. The whole thing happens a flurry with the combination of noise, the supercharger whine, the revs racing, the car really coming alive and propelling you forwards like the movie especially effects of a spaceship shifting to light speed. Everything is a bit of a blur. Between 6 and 8,5 the car has got you hooked into it, just where it wants you. Utterly absorbed. The speed seems to build exponentially in the higher rev band, urging you on into the manic zone. At that point the car feels really quick. This is the exact opposite of the way the VX was. It was mental to start with as it punched its way forwards initially and then settled on the wave of torque. The Lotus on the other hand is all calm and then starts to build like David Banner gradually turning into Hulk and once the shirt rips, then that’s it, stuff starts to fly and it gets a bit scary and you continue to hurtle forwards. It’s a multi dimensional assault on your senses. The aerodynamics and downforce is definitely noticeable, the car is more stable at higher speed bends and feels more planted. Early on in the journey, the left-right-left of going straight ahead on a mini roundabout, at 25 mph was revealing as well. It just seemed to mould and morph around it, as if it was water flowing around a rock. It startled me to the point of spontaneously letting out a joyous laugh in just how fluid it was. It was a memorable drive home and to be greeted by my wife and son (who was literally bursting with excitement) as I pulled in, is a moment I will treasure and never forget, which luckily my wife videoed. I was now the proud owner of a stunning Exige.
  3. Thanks Dean, here you go 😄. will post more in part 2.
  4. Personally I like forums, prefer them to Facebook because I’m a dinosaur :D as they have more substance and depth, so I make no apologies for my very long post :D Part 1 - The journey to buying an Exige I’m no stranger to Lotus type cars, having owned a VX220 Turbo for 13 years. Steering clear of the brand debate, there are so many similarities that switching to a Lotus was comfortable as all the usual buying considerations e.g. plastic radiator end caps, are the same. So I was prepared to buy sight unseen and not be a newbie. There’s nuances for sure but fundamentally they share a lot of dna, so it wasn’t a leap into the unknown unlike someone who is a Lotus first time buyer with all the uncertainties of getting in and out, daily driving, long term ownership, what to look out for type questions. My VX was highly modified gradually over the years; stage 4 tune meaning charge cooler, uprated turbo and airflow etc giving 300bhp and 350 torque. It was quite a car. It also had AP 4 pot, adjustable arb, nitrons 1 way, racing clutch, so it was a well balanced optimisation. My mods had made it a very raw car. The reason this is important is that my history influenced my next choice. It was a great car and I loved it, I also considered a Caterham, which I find simply incredible, even better to drive than a Lotus, but I wanted some more practicality. Only Lotus could offer this balance. Also, I had an Exige itch to scratch. I always thought they were stunning looking and amazing cars. I can still remember the passenger ride in a silver Exige at a Knockhill track day in 2002. The only question really was ‘which Exige’ 😄 The challenge was I‘d got used to the power and shove of the VX. Although it was a turbo it was surprisingly smooth in delivery because of the mapping and the special airbox I used, which meant it gave a rapid and continuous shove. A noticeably strong surging push rather that a wallop. I mention this because having years of torque like that is addictive. My fear was, could I get over my addiction. An S3 Exige could have done that with similar levels of torque and whilst an early one was in my budget I still had a hankering for an S2. I loved the look of them, their compactness and light weight. Amazing as S3s are, I sensed for me it would have been a different proposition, more grown up, supercar like experience. Longer, wider, beefier. Not quite as lithe as the S2. I love lightness and in an ideal world I would have gone for a well sorted Honda S1 exige but they we’re just a bit too raw and a bit too old and rudimentary for me with a slight increased risk of ongoing maintenance as a result of the mods and age. This is why I settled on the S2 as the right choice for my taste and particular requirement. I don’t feel that any one Lotus type is better than the other, or have any snobbism or inferiority complex when comparing across the range. I mean this from an entry level base Elise up to the 430 Exige. They are each just different but still Lotus. In my book, each type is worthy and has full merit. It’s horses for courses and down to personal preference on what the driver is looking for. I wanted a bit more relative luxury so that I could also tempt my wife back into these cars. She used to drive the VX before my heavy mods, she’d even driven around the Nurburgring. But as I added more rawness it didn’t become fun for her. An S1 would put it in the same category as the VX for my wife. I want her to enjoy my car and to drive it. My desire turned to decision... I was going to get an S2 Exige! That moment when you decide your future car is an amazing feeling, isn’t it. The next thing was to fine tune my requirements and then get shopping 😃. The spec on my shopping list was very important. I wanted to go high spec and it needed to be; Newer than my 05 VX, likely a late S2, with the new dash (noticeably better than the VX), leather (for some reason never been a fan of alcantara or carbon fibre), Factory standard car with no mods (I’d had my fill of modding), 260 ecu (I count that as a standard Lotus factory upgrade option rather than a mod). (It needed to be the highest power output option otherwise for me the contrast would be too much coming from the VX and risk feeling a lack of performance. I still wanted the new car to feel fast. A big ask coming from the my previous level of power.) Seats with harness holes, Baffled sump (nice to have, otherwise I would fit), Ally radiator update, Ally chargecooler update, Air con was essential as I know just how hot they can get (and preferably with the updated pipes done), Soft top conversion would be nice, but not essential. With shopping list in mind, I got my iPad into action. I got slightly tempted by a two year old Elise 250 Cup that was only a couple of grand more and 9 years younger. They do look very good, (open gearbox) real presence and by all accounts perform brilliantly, probably faster around a track than the S2 Exige. However there was something about the sloped, solid rear of the Exige that spoke to me, it’s presence and was a very different a look compared to my VX and the Elise rear section. The other factor was that I knew the Elise in the next 5 years would need an alloy rad, the air con pipes would likely need changing, they add up in cost, hassle and time. The Exige I was looking for would have all those little things already sorted which in my head closed the age gap. Incredibly within 10 minutes I found the car for me! I could hardly believe it as I knew it might take time to find the right one. An S2 Sprint sold by Jon Seal (came from a MLOC owner). It had every tick in the box I wanted, coming with all three packs, softtop conversion kit, 260 Lotus ecu with twin oil coolers, TRD airbox, sorted air con, ally inter cooler and rad, harness holes, baffled sump. I had to pinch myself. I called Jon and after some questions we pretty much agreed the sale there and then over the phone. My search was over. I’d found my perfect Exige! Just over a year ago, May 2019, I took the plunge and bought the car. Part 2 will follow with my initial reaction to it and views 1 year in.
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