Lotus starts production of the Exige S in the UK image

Despite the tough times Lotus is currently undergoing, the Proton-owned sports car maker has managed to kickstart production of the Exige S model at its Hethel plant in the UK.

The first unit rolled off the assembly line today, amid speculation that Volkswagen plans to take over Proton.

Premiered at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, the all-new Exige S is performance-oriented little beast that weighs a little over a ton and has 345 horsepower developed by a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine sourced from Toyota. Fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, the Exige S sprints from 0 to 60 mph in only 3.8 seconds and reaches a top speed of 170 mph (274 km/h). Basically, the recipe is simple: big engine, light car.

The Exige S is 90 kilograms heavier than its four-cylinder variant, the standard supercharged Exige. However, the weight gain is offset by the power advantage of the V-6 engine over the inline-four’s.

The car will soon be available in the UK and Europe with a price tag of €80,000. In the U.S. however, the Exige S may be sold as a track-only model, due to the lack of advanced smart airbags.