Evolution The original Exige arrived in 2000. Powered by a 177bhp version of the K-series engine, with the option of a 192bhp upgrade, it became an instant hit with the likes of us, but worldwide sales were slow. That Rover motor was largely to blame, because it failed to pass strict American emissions laws. Thankfully, the arrival of the 189bhp Toyota engine for the Series 2 Exige saved the model from extinction, addressing the emissions problem and helping the car become a success.
There were a number of options and packs available for the S2 Exige from the factory, and therefore its worth spending time searching for your ideal spec. Aircon was £1295 new and adds around £750 to the second-hand price now. For track lovers a limited-slip diff cost £1000 then, but is worth an extra £500 or so now. The Touring Pack adds leather, sound deadening and other trinkets such as an iPod connection, while the more common Sport Pack added traction control, sports seats, Bilstein sports dampers and an adjustable front anti-roll bar.
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In March 2006 the £34K Exige S entered the fray. It was Lotus’s fastest accelerating production car, knocking off the 0-60mph dash in 4.1sec thanks to a Roots supercharger pumping up the mid-range torque and winding power up to 218bhp.
Most Exige owners are enthusiasts and are therefore fastidious when it comes to looking after their cars, so there’s no need to take a risk on anything without a complete history.
The factory warranty only covers two years, although some owners will have paid for the extended version, which is always worthwhile if on offer.
If you can live without air-con you can haggle hard, as these cars are notoriously difficult to shift. Colour, however, has little bearing on price, even the wild ones. In fact some of the more extreme hues would have cost the original owner up to £1000 extra.
Cars that have done the odd trackday should not be ignored, but be careful with those that have enjoyed numerous track events. Finally, if you are unsure about examining a car for signs of crash damage, get it inspected by a specialist or reputable main dealer. It is possible for repairs to be bodged and hidden by the front and rear undertrays. A damaged tub cannot be repaired, it must be replaced, which will cost £6000 plus labour…
Engine/gearbox Originally found in the Celica T-Sport, the VVTLi unit is very reliable with no common faults. The supercharger on the Exige S has also proved reliable – there have been no failures reported.
Check the quality and quantity of oil the engine is carrying, and if the car has been used on track regularly check that the oil has been refreshed between the 9000-mile service intervals; we would suggest a 4500-mile oil refresh if you are doing half a dozen trackdays a year.
The heater fan can become a water trap, particularly if the car is regularly left outside, and too much water ingress will eventually cause it to fail. If the engine does require any work the labour charge can soon add up as the tight and fiddly nature of the engine bay means that jobs often take longer than they would on other cars. Incidentally, a service for the Exige S is around £80 more expensive than for the normally aspirated variant as the spark plugs are changed every time.
The gearbox is as tough as the engine and should feel taut and slot between the ratios with ease. The clutch should not give any problems either.
Wheels/tyres/steering The cast alloys can be tricky to balance, while the Yokohama A048 tyres can be awkward to fit to the rims, so it’s worth choosing a tyre fitter with previous experience of these cars.
On higher mileage examples (especially those that have seen many trackdays) the steering rack can wear out and need replacing. Play around dead-ahead is a sure sign it’s past its best. It will cost around £600 to get the job done.
Brakes/suspension The longevity of these parts is really down to the way the car is used. However, there should be no problems beyond general wear and tear. You will also discover there’s a myriad of different set-ups and components out there. The forums are a good place to discuss the merits of the various options.
Bodywork/interior Condition here is easy to assess. The nose can get seriously chipped, especially if the car is used on track, and replacement panels are expensive. A front clamshell is around £1800 plus painting; even the engine cover is £370.
The interior wears well (there’s little in there to wear out!). Replacement door panels come in at a little over £100. There are no reported issues with the electrics.
|Layout||Mid-engine, rear drive|
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1796cc|
|Max power||189bhp @ 7800rpm|
|Max torque||133lb ft @ 6800rpm|
|Price when new||£29,995 (2004)|