The Exige continues down the path towards performance nirvana

Lotus has been pumping out successively quicker iterations of the Exige for several years now, including the Sport 350 unveiled in 2015, and the Sport 380 that dropped early last year. The latest is this – the Exige Cup 380, a car Lotus is calling the “ultimate track-and-back street-legal Lotus.” Essentially an even more focused iteration of the Sport 380, the Cup 380 once again strives for that tried-and-true Lotus performance philosophy, striking a balance between street-legal road car and track-burning race car. It’s a lithe supercar killer sporting revised aero and even less weight, making for a spec sheet absolutely worthy of the green and yellow badge glued to the nose.

The big selling point here is the car’s power-to-weight ratio, with 355 horsepower available to motivate 1 metric ton (2,205 pounds) of curb weight. That means it’ll hit 60 mph in as little as 3.4 seconds, while top speed is rated at 175 mph. But, in addition to lots of straight-line performance, the Lotus also offers lots of stick, generating as much as 200 kg (441 pounds) at speed thanks to an extensive rework of the exterior wings and spoilers. That’s an increase of 43 percent compared to the Exige Sport 380, and combined with more rubber in the rear, the Cup 380 should be an absolute riot on the track. Read on for more info.

Continue reading for the full story.

What About Those Specs?

Get Your Simplified Lightness On With The Lotus Exige Cup 380
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First, the important bit – the Lotus Exige Cup 380 weighs just 1,057 kg (2,330 pounds), which is 53 kg (117 pounds) less than the 1,110-kg (2,447-pound) Sport 380.

Accomplishing the goal of added lightness is the traditional Lotus nitpicking. For example, a new one-piece carbon fiber rear tailgate cuts 6.5 kg (14.3 pounds), new carbon fiber side pods cut 0.5 kg (1.1 pounds), and exclusion of the gas struts save 1 kg (2.2). Do that kind of thing over and over again, and eventually you end up cutting over a hundred pounds, which is huge in a car weighing only a ton.

Do that kind of thing over and over again, and eventually you end up cutting over a hundred pounds, which is huge in a car weighing only a ton.

The tires are Michelin’s ever-appropriate Pilot Sport Cup 2 compound, with the rear rubber getting more width compared to the Sport 380 – up to 285/30R18 compared to the Sport’s 265/35R18’s.

The engine and transmission package are the same as the Sport 380, with a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 mounted behind the cabin to produce 375 horsepower at 6,700 rpm and 410 Nm (302 pound-feet) of torque at 5,000 rpm. Routing the muscle rearwards is a six-speed manual transmission, complete with a handsome open gate shifter.

Get Your Simplified Lightness On With The Lotus Exige Cup 380
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Tunability can be had with four selections for the electronic driver’s aides, including “Drive,” “Sport,” “Race,” and “Off.” These affect the throttle response, the exhaust bypass valve, and tire slip thresholds. Further tweaks can be made via the Nitron two-way adjustable dampers and Eibach sway bars.

Stops are provided by AP Racing with forged four-pot calipers and grooved two-piece rotors. You can also option in a titanium exhaust to save an extra 10 kg (22 pounds) if desired.

All said and done, the Cup 380 manages to lap Lotus’ Hethel test track in 1 minute 26 seconds, making it the fastest road-legal Exige ever made.

It Looks Pretty Good

2017 Lotus Exige Sport 380 High Resolution Exterior
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Get Your Simplified Lightness On With The Lotus Exige Cup 380
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Lotus Exige Sport 380 pictured on the left, Lotus Exige Cup 380 pictured on the right.

We agree, and per Lotus’ tradition, the styling is all quite functional as well. Like its predecessor, Lotus tested the Cup 380 in the wind tunnel, honing the various bits and pieces to make 200 kg (441 pounds) of downforce compared to the bewinged Sport 380’s 140 kg (309 pounds). Meanwhile, top speed drops a little, down to 175 mph compared to the Sport 380’s 178 mph. Not that it really matters in a car like this.

Standout features include louvers over the front wheels to help ease the pressure differential in the wheel arches, plus further integration of the rear aero blades and diffuser. Carbon fiber is once again used for the majority of the pieces, including the new front splitter, side intakes, and straight-cut “motorsport derived” rear wing. Lotus even boasts that “the Exige’s windscreen wiper has been aero tuned – now resting in a vertical position to avoid disrupting air flow.”

Typical Lotus – obsessing over the smallest of details. We love it.

Further features include a selection of finishes for the forged alloy wheels, including red, black, and silver. The rest of the exterior is offered in either Essex Blue, Metallic White, Metallic Silver, Metallic Grey, or Metallic Black. Red highlights and bare carbon weave add flavor.

Sounds Like It’s Quick. But You Mentioned Something About Driving It On The Street As Well?

Get Your Simplified Lightness On With The Lotus Exige Cup 380
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“Developing the Cup 380 has allowed us to indulge our motorsport ambitions on a car that can be used and enjoyed every single day,” says Jean-Marc Gales, Lotus’ CEO. “This is an Exige that’s not just unbeatable point-to-point but also capable of winning highly competitive races. The biggest surprise for many is that it’s fully road legal – a considerable achievement considering the car’s performance capabilities.”

Sounds great, but of course, not all streetable racers are equal. All things considered, the Lotus Cup 380 would be considered a bit spartan to most.

By Lotus’ standards, there are numerous luxuries on hand, including a stereo, HVAC, and even carpeting in the footwells.

Sure, by Lotus’ standards, there are numerous luxuries on hand, including a stereo, HVAC, and even carpeting in the footwells. The carbon fiber race seats are also covered in Alcantara, with leather and tartan offered at no cost.

But that’s about it when it comes to comfort. For example, the carpeting in the cargo cubby was torn out to reduce weight, while a standard T45 steel roll bar keeps it safe. The options list includes stuff like a full FIA rollcage, race harnesses, an airbag delete, and similar track-rat features, leaving not much room for opulence.

So Can I Buy One?

Get Your Simplified Lightness On With The Lotus Exige Cup 380
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Not if you live stateside. If you’re across the pond, then there’s a chance, but you’ll need to act quick, as Lotus is only building 60 units total. Pricing starts at 83,000 pounds in the U.K. and 109,900 euros in Germany, or roughly $110,000 at current exchange rates (04/20/2017).

Press Release

Without equal and without compromise, the ballistic new Exige Cup 380 coupe provides the perfect balance between fully type approved road car and genuine race car to deliver the ultimate track-and-back street-legal Lotus.

Evolved from the hugely successful and capable Exige Sport 380, this latest Lotus supercar is the purest manifestation yet of the company’s Cup concept for sports cars. Genuinely eligible for competition yet undeniably elegant, just 60 editions of this extreme Exige are planned for worldwide markets – assuring its status as one of Lotus’ most collectable road cars.

With a purity of drive unheard of in road cars, and a power-to-weight ratio of 355 hp per tonne, the Exige Cup 380 delivers genuine race pace, with 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds (0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds) and top speed of 175 mph (282 km/h). Key to the Exige Cup 380 reaching its low weight of 1,057 kg is the comprehensive adoption of carbon fibre and extreme engineering. Making their first appearance on a road-going Lotus, heavily revised bodywork elements contribute to the increased downforce of the Exige Cup 380, with the car generating up to 200 kg, 43% more than the Exige Sport 380. Making the most of this aerodynamic downforce and maximising mechanical grip, the Exige Cup 380 features larger rear tyres (285/30 ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2) as standard.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO, Group Lotus plc said, “Developing the Cup 380 has allowed us to indulge our motorsport ambitions on a car that can be used and enjoyed every single day. This is an Exige that’s not just unbeatable point-to-point but also capable of winning highly competitive races. The biggest surprise for many is that it’s fully road legal – a considerable achievement considering the car’s performance capabilities. Unlike some rivals’ cars, this is something that really can drive to a track, set the fastest lap and take the win, before heading home. It’s supremely usable, yet outrageously fast.”

About the Exige Cup 380

At the heart of the new Exige Cup 380 lies a concept from the core of one of Lotus’ founding principles. With an unrivaled lineage, the new thoroughbred Lotus Exige Cup 380 is endowed with race car sensibilities and road car manners.

Honing the Exige Cup 380’s high speed abilities was paramount in its development, and the inclusion of new wind tunnel developed aerodynamic elements allow this road-going Exige to deliver up to 200 kg of aerodynamic downforce at a top speed of 175 mph.

Located over the wheels, the front louvers equalise the pressure differential within the wheel arches, increasing downforce at high speed and under hard braking, whilst the cut-out sections behind the rear wheels work with the aero blades mounted either side of the race diffuser. Even the Exige’s windscreen wiper has been aero tuned – now resting in a vertical position to avoid disrupting air flow.

To harness the huge hike in downforce, and provide increased mechanical grip, wider 285/30 ZR18 rear tyres are required – a step up from the 265/35 ZR18 as fitted to the Sport 380. With the two elements working in combination, this huge boost in grip allows the car to corner harder and faster which, given with the Exige’s existing reputation as a driver’s car, elevates it to a whole new level.

An integral part of the car’s aerodynamic prowess, the high-gloss, hand-made carbon fibre components include new front splitter, front access panel, bargeboards, roof, diffuser surround, new larger aperture air-intake side pods, a new one-piece tailgate and a straight-cut high efficiency motorsport derived rear wing.

The new design one-piece carbon rear tailgate reduces weight by 6.5 kg and the removal of gas struts deletes 1 kg. The new carbon side pods save a further 0.5 kg.

Inside the Exige Cup 380, the carbon continues with visible-weave, handmade sections including beautifully detailed carbon race seats and door sills as standard. Cumulatively these composites contribute to the Exige Cup 380’s low weight, but every part of the car has been considered, even down to the removal of the boot carpet, to reduce mass. Optional carbon fibre components include one-piece inner door panels, HVAC console and face-level vent surrounds, which together offer an additional 1 kg reduction over the standard car.

In addition to the Exige’s strong, stiff and durable aluminium chassis architecture, the Cup 380 comes with a T45 steel roll over bar as standard. Tremendously strong, yet light compared to alternatives, its cost means that it’s only used in the highest of motorsport applications. Other racing additions include a towing eye at the front and a fabric tow strap at the rear.

Extremely quick off the line, the Exige Cup 380 laps the Hethel track in 1 minute 26 seconds – a record for a road-legal Exige. Packing the same 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine as the Exige Race 380, the new Exige Cup 380 boasts 375 hp at 6,700 rpm and 410 Nm (302 lbft) of torque at 5,000 rpm.

Available as standard with a close-ratio, six-speed manual transmission, the Exige range features Lotus’ now famous open-gate manual gearbox design.

There are four user selectable ESP modes (Drive, Sport, Race and Off). Sport, Race and Off increase throttle response, lower traction slip thresholds and remove understeer recognition to provide a finer degree of driver control before intervention and utilises an engine exhaust bypass valve which reduces exhaust back pressure at higher engine speeds. In a new development, the Lotus Exige Cup 380 includes a variable traction control function which is linked directly to the ECU and allows the amount of wheel slip to be set by the driver. The six-position rotary switch is located on the steering column and is only available with ESP switched off, with the percentage of target wheel slip from 1% to 12% in five settings and “off”, displayed via the instrument cluster.

The Exige has long been regarded as delivering benchmark handling, but owners of the Exige Cup 380 can configure the set-up, thanks to the Nitron two-way adjustable dampers and Eibach adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars fitted as standard. The substantial Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (285/30 ZR18 rear and 215/45 ZR17 front) are fitted to ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels, available in red, black or silver as standard. Stopping power is provided by AP Racing forged, four-piston brake calipers and grooved performance two-piece brake discs.

The optional full exhaust system in titanium removes 10 kg from beyond the rear axle, and buyers can specify a number of additions and deletions, including FIA compliant roll cage, full race harness, electrical cut-off and fire extinguisher controls as well as airbag deletion and a non-airbag steering wheel.

Despite its pure performance credentials, the new Lotus Cup 380 retains its dramatic aesthetic thanks to the high-gloss, visible-weave carbon fibre, but complementing this are a range of five hand finished paint options, including Essex Blue, Metallic White, Metallic Silver, Metallic Grey and Metallic Black. Further accentuating its shape, a unique red highlight line defines the Exige’s front access panel, while key details, including the front canard wings, are finished in matt black. Coordinating wheels, spoiler uprights and mirror caps in red, silver or black contrast with the main paint colour, and the whole car is finished with unique Cup 380 badging.

The hand finished nature of the Exige Cup 380 continues inside, with Lotus’ carbon fibre sports seats trimmed in Alcantara®, with leather or tartan as a no cost option, with contrast stitching and an Alcantara® steering wheel. As standard, lightweight carbon fibre sill covers reduce the weight by 0.9 kg and provide easier ingress and egress by up to 10 mm, thanks to their lower profile and contoured finish. The Exige Cup 380’s instrument panel has also received attention, with new graphics making it easier to read.

For owners wanting more, the new Exige Cup 380 can be personalised through the increasingly popular Lotus Exclusive programme. Combining traditional British craftsmanship with modern design, the service inspires customers to spend time tailoring the character of their Lotus with a comprehensive array of options. Since its introduction this has proved increasingly popular, with 25% of all new cars undergoing some form of personalisation.

The Exige Cup 380 is available as a limited production run of only 60 cars and as a coupe only. It can be ordered now, priced £83,000 including VAT (UK) and €109,900 (Germany).

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