I remember long road trips with my family when I was a kid. To deal with the boredom, I used to play “Spot the Sports Car” with my dad. I was familiar with Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches, but one day I saw a white futuristic and sleek–looking beast of a car and my jaw dropped to the centre console. “That’s a Lotus Esprit darling,” said my dad, “the car in the Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me, the one with the submarine, remember?” My dad was a big fan of both, cars and Bond films.
Up until now I hadn’t had the opportunity to drive a Lotus and wondered at the tall claim in their slogan: “For the drivers.” Well, after trying the Exige Cup 430 I can only say that I wholeheartedly agree. This is a car to separate true drivers from Sunday drivers and children “ferryers”.
Following on Colin Chapman’s motto: “Simplify, then add lightness”, the Lotus Exige Cup 430 has been stripped to the bare minimum and then made lighter (even lighter than his other iterations, which is quite a tall order considering the “heaviest” weighs 1,225kg). The chassis is made of lightweight aluminium extruded and bonded with a body built with lightweight composite glued together (fear not, Airbuses are also glued). A new ultra-lightweight front clam with unique carbon fibre ducts has wider radiator apertures to improve cooling, while a new front splitter and air curtain design help reduce drag and generate 76kg of downforce. This is balanced by a large, high-mounted, straight profile, motorsport wing and aluminium diffuser, combining to generate a further 95kg of downforce at the rear.
As a result, the Exige Cup 430 weighs just over 1,110kg (with a full tank). With 430bhp, this little beast makes 0-100km/h in spine tingling 3.3 seconds boasting 440Nm of torque and generating 171kg of downforce.
The cabin is as Spartan as it could be. Seriously, I’ve seen nuns’ cells with more stuff in them. Now, am I bothered? The answer is, categorically, “no”. It has a throttle, a brake, a clutch, a beautifully naked gearbox and even (an optional) radio. What else do you need? There is no air conditioning, no traction control, no power assisted steering; you just drive!
Driving it is absolutely thrilling! This race-ready, jaw-dropping Lotus will make the hairs of the back of your neck stand from the word “go”. The Supercharged V6, 24 valve, dual VVT-i engine roars as if it was sucking in small animals off the road whilst its titanium tail pipe emits a feral howl that can wake the dead. There is no power-steering, such niceties are for lightweights, but the revised steering arm geometry increases bump steer and Eibach adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars come as standard.
The faster the car, the better the brakes need to be. With forged, four-piston AP Racing brake calipers and higher thermal capacity two-piece, J-hook brake discs front and rear, the system is designed to give improved bite and reduced vibration, delivering consistent pedal feel and fade-free stopping power time after time.
Despite the general assumption that this is a “man’s car”, I’d dare say that the Exige Cup 430 (and for that matter, any Lotus) is perfectly suited for a woman. The seats are narrow and the seating position allows you to stretch your legs without needing extension arms to reach the steering-wheel, which by the way is much smaller than in a normal road car, to remind you that this pocket rocket’s natural habitat is the racing track.
This year Lotus celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Exige with a special edition of the Exige Sports 410. To pay tribute to the original, the anniversary model comes in three bespoke exterior colours all taken from the Exige Series 1: Chrome Orange, Laser Blue and Calypso Red plus three new shades.
The anniversary car features enhanced exterior and interior specification. On the outside, we see a body-coloured roof, side air intake pods and rear wing, plus the black ‘shark fin’ stone chip protector ahead of the rear wheel. The nostalgia is carried over to the interior, where there’s a choice of different coloured Alcantara trims, and each seat is decorated with panelled stitching which echoes that of the original car.
A number of features which are optional extras on the Exige are fitted as standard on the 20th anniversary car. These include DAB digital radio with Bluetooth, cruise control, ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels and an Alcantara steering wheel
The price of the Lotus Exige Sport 410 20th Anniversary is £79,900, which represents £5,412 worth of extras over the standard Sport 410.