Nobody buys the Lotus Exige. Well, pretty much nobody. Definitely nobody in America, since poor Lotus doesn't sell it here anymore, but close to nobody buys them in Europe, either. Since there is no conceivable reason for that, Lotus is now throwing an automatic in the Exige. Yes, a torque-converter automatic.
In an Exige.
Granted, the automatic's not projected to be terrible, with an identical time around Lotus' test track in Hethel, and a 0-60 time that's actually 0.1 seconds quicker than the current Exige with the manual 'box. And going faster is always wonderful, on tracks.
Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with its push-buttons, or its paddle shifters, either.
The problem that I'm elucidating here isn't "OMG YOU GUYS ARE RUINING A TRACK CAR IT'S FOR THE TRACK AUTOMATICS ARE TERRIBLE ALL AUTOMATICS ARE THE WORST," because I am not 12 years old.
But the Exige's sales problem wasn't rooted in it only having a manual transmission. Its sales problem was in it being, ya know, an Exige.
And an Exige, which is wonderful, is an even more focused, bare bones, track-oriented version of an extremely focused, bare-bones, track oriented car already, the Lotus Elise.
Again, that's great. Joyous. Really, it is.
But there's only so big a market for such a car. And it's not like someone was considering the Exige, but decided on a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe instead because the Exige didn't have an automatic.
And one of the Exige's biggest potential markets was the United States, and it was in fact sold here for a few years. The automatic probably would've done the best at boosting sales over here, where few people even know how to drive a stick anymore.
The only thing is it's way, way, too little, and it's way, way too late. Which is sad, because I'm a ridiculously huge Lotus fan.
The Lotus Exige Automatic will go on sale in January, for a £2000 premium.
Photo credit: Lotus Cars