The new Lotus Exige Sport 410 slots between the existing 350 and 430, but thankfully it’s not just another customer-led special edition: it’s the pick of this bunch, as Euan Johns finds out.
With a stunning combination of raw speed and real-world ability, the Lotus Exige Sport 410 joins a pretty scintillating line-up to complete the marque’s Exige family of peerless sports cars that have evolved over the past six years. For those looking for space, forget it, as there isn’t much, but then those considering this sort of car wouldn’t want that in the first place. It’s also pretty difficult to access the car with any grace. So that’s the downsides out of the way.
Starting with the revised Exige Sport 350, the comprehensive Lotus Exige range now includes the 410 and culminates with the extreme Exige Cup 430: each at a distinct price point, performance level and degree of motorsport focus.
The Exige Sport 410 has been developed directly from the track-focused Exige Cup 430, and as a result delivers a drive unrivalled in its class. Think of it as a detuned, road-ready Cup 430 rather than an improved Sport 380 (the car it replaces in the range). Based on past form, Lotus in all probability would unveil an Exige Sport 440 next year, but according to CEO Jean-Marc Gales this one really is the last of the line.
This latest addition to the Exige range packs the advanced chassis, suspension and powertrain from its more powerful stablemate. Capable of 0–60mph in just 3.3 seconds, this is a car that takes all the 430’s track capabilities and repackages them in a road car. The result is one that sets the benchmark in useability. Steering is unassisted and has a laser-like response. It would appear perfectly understandable to run the 410 as a daily car, but the performance makes ducking and weaving very easy and probably a little too attractive if late for an appointment. It’s the steering that grabs attention, initially because these days an unassisted rack is a very rare thing and the driver is instantly hit by the realisation that some effort is needed when first manoevering at low speeds. Add some speed and it’s delightful.
Where the 430 is an Exige with a clear focus on aerodynamics, the 410 relies more on mechanical grip for its handling balance. To this end, there are no extreme vents on the top of the front wheel arches, not that this stops it from producing 150kg of downforce at 180mph. Driving it, it’s possible to seriously doubt the humble origins of Toyota’s 3.5 litre supercharged V6 engine. At full blast, the acceleration and noise is a total assault on the senses.
Further changes to the car’s aerodynamics include new front intakes to increase airflow speed and create an air curtain over the front wheels to restrict turbulence and drag. There’s also a carbon fibre front splitter, a flat underside and an aluminium diffuser, all taken from the 430.
Both the Exige Sport 410 and Exige Sport 350 are available in coupe and roadster configurations (the roadster has a considerably lower top speed), with the roadster having a lightweight, black, removable soft top which can be easily stowed within the car for open-top driving. The roadster configuration is not available for the Exige Cup 430.
The optional interior colour pack is available in a choice of four shades. The inside of the car is wonderful, beautifully constructed and feels cocoon-like. It’s also very quiet, not a buzz or squeak to be heard, although on poor surfaces road noise is much more noticeable.
With every new Lotus we look to move the bar higher and apply technology and development ideas drawn from top-of-the-range models. Our agility as a company means that the lessons learnt today can quickly be incorporated into the cars of tomorrow and the Exige Sport 410 is a perfect example of this. We have taken the Exige Cup 430, the ultimate track-centric Exige, and developed it into the perfect road orientated sports car.
Jean-Marc Gales, CEO, Group Lotus plc
At £85,600, the car could be considered a little on the expensive side by some, and total madness by others, after all that’s Porsche 911 and Cayman GTS territory. However, when it comes to the driving experience and thrills the 410 brings, few come close; this is a track car for the road – a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. Amongst the many options available, it’s possible to choose to reduce the car’s weight by removing the air bag. See for yourself, but after a drive you’ll not really want to be as brave as that and will vote to keep this security merely for peace of mind.
It’s good to see a traditional sports car in what can be a rather bland, digital world where, let’s face it, most cars appear to be cloned from each other. For those seeking soft-feel plastics and infotainment systems, look elsewhere. Alternatively, for a pure driving experience up there with the best on the market, then look no further.
essence infoWebsite: www.lotuscars.com