In 2008, the Exige S was replaced by the Exige S 240. Power output increased roughly 9% over the outgoing model to 240 bhp . The S 240 also received upgraded AP Racing brakes from the Exige Cup 240 and a larger roof scoop utilized by the Exige Cup 255. 0-60 mph times improved to 4.0 seconds. The S 240 MSRP was a cost-conscious $65,690.
The original Exige was launched in 2000 with a naturally aspirated 1.8 L Rover K Series engine in VHPD (Very High-Performance Derivative) tune. It produces 177 bhp at 7,800 rpm in standard form. There was also an uncatalyzed “track spec” version with 192 bhp available. The car has a five-speed manual gearbox, and a claimed top speed of 219 km/h (136 mph). Zero to sixty mph is achieved in 4.7 seconds, with 0-60 mph in just under 4.9 seconds. The first Exige used the round, less aggressive headlights of the first-generation Elise, although the Elise was updated soon after the introduction of the Exige. The Series 1 was built until 2002, in 604 examples, and was not replaced until the Series 2 of 2004.
In 2004, the Series 2 Exige was introduced. It features a naturally aspirated 1.8 L 16-valve DOHC Toyota/Yamaha engine that produces 190 bhp with the Toyota engine designation of 2ZZ-GE. Compared to the Series 2 Elise, it has a front splitter, fiberglass hardtop roof with roof scoop, rear engine cover, and rear spoiler. The sole purpose of these aerodynamic additions to the base Elise is to create more down-force (almost 100 lb (45 kg) of downforce at 100 miles per hour in the Exige versus 13 lb (5.9 kg) at 100 miles per hour in the Elise).
In February 2005, Lotus announced a limited production run of 50 Exiges, using the Toyota engine with a supercharger, that increases the power output to 243 bhp. These vehicles were only available in yellow or black, representing the colours of Lotus Sport, and are badged 240R. They have a projected 0-60mph time of just 3.9 seconds and 0-100 mph in a brisk 9.9 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph.
The North American Exige was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2006.