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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
8:16 AM 23rd July 2020

Thrill’s Aplenty With The Lotus Exige

The email came in from Lotus. Would I like to join them at the motoring mecca known as Caffeine and Machine for a little sportscar fun? Having been locked away for the last few months, my hasty acceptance duly followed.

All too soon I was heading south to Stratford Upon Avon, ready for action.

What is it?

My main drive was to be in the Exige Cup 430, the pinnacle of the range and the ultimate Exige experience. A track car for the road would seem to sum it up quite well and with rain forecast I must confess to being a tad nervous. I need not have worried.

Weighing just over 1,110kg, the Cup 430 has a power-to-weight ratio of 387 bhp per ton and boasts performance figures to thrill and delight the enthusiast.

Vital statistics

Lotus Exige Cup 430
Price £100,600
3,456cc 6-cylinder engine
430hp at 7,000 rpm
440Nm torque
0 to 60mph in 3.2 seconds
Top speed 174mph
Unladen weight 1,110kg
Combined economy 27.7mpg
Emissions 230g/km CO2

How does it drive?

If a picture tells a story, one glance at the Exige is enough to set the pulse racing. This is a car you can drive to a track day, enjoy one of the best handling cars on the market today and then head for home.

With no track available and driving on mostly unfamiliar roads, discretion was the better part of valour. Oh, and the promised rain began to fall shortly after I set off…

However, even at sensible road speeds the Cup 430 is capable of exciting. The acceleration is quite staggering and seems to get more ferocious the faster you go. The gearbox is a mechanical delight and with a surprisingly light clutch, it is easy to get into a lovely rhythm.

In a time when cars are getting quieter, the Exige eschews that path and instead enthrals with a soundtrack loud enough to wake the dead. Doubtless I woke up the residents of a few sleepy villages I passed through.

The steering is unassisted and offers a purity much missed from the modern driving experience. Through the tips of your fingers you can feel exactly what the front wheels are doing, and you can place the car with millimetre precision. Yes, it is a little heavy at low speeds, but this is a car for high days and holidays.

Adjustable dampers are fitted, the aim being for an aggressive set up on track and a softer set up for road. The ride is remarkably compliant, thanks in part to the car’s light weight.

The Exige Cup 430 runs Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres which are fitted to ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels. They kept me safe despite the inclement weather, with just a couple of moments exiting a roundabout.

It is possible to turn the ESP off and then set the traction level to allow up to 12% slip. Only the very brave need apply.

The brakes are powerful and fade free and will doubtless perform without drama at race speeds.

After a couple of hours of thrills and no spills, I was ready to clamber out. Not because I wasn’t having fun, but more because the race seats were starting to give me backache… And getting out is not the most dignified experience when you are tall and getting older!

Should I buy one?

I am sure, dear reader, you have looked at the six-figure price tag and thought that’s a tad expensive. And in isolation I suppose it is. You are paying for an engineering marvel, a track-focused weapon that you can also safely deploy on the highway.

It is impractical, noisy, brash and every boy-racer will doubtless want to race you away from the lights. But to a confirmed petrolhead like me, on the right day, on the right roads it will doubtless thrill like no other and that will suffice.

Finance is available through a newly announced partnership with FCA Bank.

Rivals

If it is raw excitement you want, then rivals are few and far between. Some might say a Caterham could compete, but from my experience the Exige 430 Cup is on another plane.

A BAC Mono will set you back over £160,000, so we can dismiss that from the equation.

A KTM X-Bow may well come close, but I have yet to have the pleasure. £60-70,000 if you want to know.

Verdict

Exciting, enthralling, engaging… there are many superlatives that I could use to describe Lotus’s range-topper. The high price is justified by the engineering excellence and its race-ready attributes. It will appeal to the lucky few who have money to indulge in an expensive hobby and a part of me envies them.

Exige or Elise - you choose!
Exige or Elise - you choose!
For us lesser mortals, an Elise can be on your driveway for less than half the price of an Exige 430 Cup and that would do for me. I got to drive one too, but that’s a story for another day.