2017 Lotus Exige Race 380
It’s an Exige for U.S. consumption, but will only be served on the racetrackby Jonathan Lopez, on
British sports car maker Lotus first introduced the Exige in the year 2000. The formula was simple – add a fixed roof to the hugely popular mid-engine, RWD, two-door roadster known as the Lotus Elise, and let the sales just roll in. Since its debut, the Exige has offered up three successive generations, plus a slew of special variants, including several track day specials. The last time we saw a race-only Exige was with the Cup R, a V-6-powered destroyer of supercars that dropped cover in 2013 at the Autosport International Show in England. Now, Lotus is offering a new one, and it’s called the Exige Race 380. Essentially a stripped down, simplified, and lightened version of the already stripped down, simple, and lightweight Lotus Exige Sport 380, the Race 380 swaps any semblance of road compromise for hardcore performance and competition-spec hardware. Improvements include updates to the gearbox, suspension, aerodynamics, and electrical systems, yielding a laser-sharp weapon that’s perfect for hunting apexes.
The Race 380’s road-legal equivalent, the Sport 380, debuted late in 2016, tempting enthusiasts with Lotus’ traditionally focused approach to performance. Unfortunately, the Exige doesn’t meet U.S. crash standards, which meant stateside speed lovers were left out in the cold.
Happily, federal regulations don’t really matter when license plates aren’t involved. As such, the track-only Race 380 will be sold on these shores, and although it’s ineligible for road duty, U.S. track rats are sure to scoop up their fair share of units.
So exactly how fast is this thing? To give you an idea, the Race 380 posted a time of 1 minute, 23.5 seconds around Lotus’ test track in Hethel, England, besting the Exige Cup R by an impressive 1.5 seconds. That’s the fastest time of any Exige ever at Hethel, so yeah, it’s quick. Read on for the specifics of what makes it so damn fast.
Continue reading to learn more about the Lotus Exige Race 380.
2017 Lotus Exige Race 380
Transmission:Xtrac 6-speed sequential
Horsepower @ RPM:375 @ 6700
Torque @ RPM:302 @ 5000
0-60 time:3.2 sec.
Top Speed:170 mph
One look at this thing, and it’s instantly recognizable as a Lotus Exige. The classic coupe silhouette is still present, with a low and wide nose, highly angled windshield, gently sloping roofline, and pert rear end. The fenders are tall and flared, giving the car a stance that looks taut and poised, like it’s ready to pounce off the starting line. In back, the car ends with a flat and short drop off, neatly finishing in an upturned flick.
Placed alongside the Exige Sport 380, the Race 380 looks nearly identical, as you can see below.
Lotus Exige Race 380 pictured on the left, Lotus Exige Sport 380 pictured on the right.
Of course, there are a few discernible changes if you look close enough. As you might expect, most of these exterior updates were performed with higher levels performance in mind, specifically greater downforce. When traveling at 170 mph, the car’s top speed, the Race 380 produces upwards of 240 kg (529 pounds) of downforce, which is a sizable 100 kg (220 pounds) more than the Sport 380’s aero set-up.
When traveling at 170 mph, the car’s top speed, the Race 380 produces upwards of 240 kg (529 pounds) of downforce, which is a sizable 100 kg (220 pounds) more than the Sport 380’s aero set-up.
All that extra stick comes from a variety of sources, but the biggest contributor has to be the massive straight-cut carbon fiber spoiler attached to the rear bodywork. Below the wing is a new rear diffuser as well, while the nose receives an updated splitter to help ease airflow underneath the car. Extra vents were added to the wheel arches to reduce pressure around the rollers, and a rear-facing grille helps smooth air flowing through the engine bay.
Other carbon fiber doodads include louvers on the tailgate panel, the over-engine cover, and the intake pods mounted in the flanks just ahead of the rear wheels. The Race 380 also gets the same old carbon fiber front inspection cover, hard top cover, and rear diffuser surround. Up front, you’ll once again find twin matte black canards in the bumper corners.
Above the canards, Lotus decided to delete the headlights, replacing them with matte black coverings instead.
Above the canards, Lotus decided to delete the headlights, replacing them with matte black coverings instead. An FIA-approved rain light is offered as an available option, just in case you find yourself racing in inclement weather, or after the sun has set. Real lights were maintained in back, with single units used rather than the double units of the past (Lotus downsized the taillight cluster with the introduction of the Sport 380). The taillights use LEDs for lighting, and also get integrated turn signals.
In the corners are satin black wheels made from a lightweight forged alloy, sized at 17 inches in front and 18 inches in the rear.
In the corners are satin black wheels made from a lightweight forged alloy, sized at 17 inches in front and 18 inches in the rear. Underneath the aggressive 10-spoke wheel design are enormous brake calipers, which come painted yellow as standard. Speaking of paint, the body panels can be optioned with either a signature color, or a metallic finish if desired.
Note: Lotus Exige Sport 380 model pictured here.
We have yet to see any official pictures or renderings of the Race 380’s interior, but given the automaker’s description of it, it’s safe to assume we’ll see pretty much the same approach as the exterior, but applied to the cabin. That means the same basic interior design as the Sport 380, but tweaked here and there for ever-greater performance focus.
Starting things off are classic race car features like a push-button starter and a quick-release steering wheel. There’s also a full roll cage, plus a six-point racing harnesses to keep the driver firmly in place. The seats are made from carbon fiber for lower weight, and come with full FIA compliance and HANS device compatibility. The road car’s airbag system was deleted as well (obviously).
Providing all the necessary information is a color TFT instrument cluster mounted behind the wheel. Lotus says this unit is programmable and customizable, and comes with the option for a “road to track data logger,” and GPS capabilities.
Further safety measures include an electrical cut off, plus a competition-spec fire extinguisher. The windows are made from polycarbonate instead of glass, again for weight, while motorsport-spec tow hooks were added in front and in back.
Providing all the necessary information is a color TFT instrument cluster mounted behind the wheel. Lotus says this unit is programmable and customizable, and comes with the option for a “road to track data logger,” and GPS capabilities. You can also upgrade it with the optional data analysis software to find extra tenths while cooling off in the pits.
Finally, if you know you’ll be racing in hotter climates, Lotus also offers air conditioning as an available extra.
Just like the Sport 380, the Race 380 gets a mid-mounted, transverse, fuel-injected, 24-valve, 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine with VVT-i. The powerplant is sourced from Toyota, and is basically the same lump you get in the Lotus 3-Eleven and Evora Sport 410. Up top is a supercharger from Harrop, while the intake uses a high-performance air filter, and the exhaust is fitted with an FIA-spec catalytic converter.
Engine figures go basically unchanged compared to the Sport 380, with peak output rated at 375 horsepower at 6,700 rpm, and peak twist rated 302 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm.
Engine figures go basically unchanged compared to the Sport 380, with peak output rated at 375 horsepower at 6,700 rpm, and peak torque rated 302 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm.
While the engine performance goes untouched, the way it reaches the rear axle is all new. As a replacement for the Sport 380’s six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, Lotus added a new six-speed sequential cog swapper from Xtrac. This uses a twin-plate clutch to make the connection, while the pneumatic gearshifts come courtesy of carbon fiber paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
And that all makes a lot of sense, given the fastest performance cars in the world have all but ditched the three pedals in favor of two paddles. So yeah, you can’t row your own, but hey – this is a race car, and a twitch of the finger is just flat out faster.
Keeping the sequential six-speed operating at the optimum temps is an upgraded transmission oil cooler. Splitting the output in back is a cassette-type plate limited-slip differential, which is adjustable for a bit of fine-tuning in the traction department.
When it’s all said and done, the Race 380 manages a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds, while top speed is rated at a gearing-dependent 170 mph.
Providing the spark is a lithium-ion battery (lithium-ion equals lower weight), while a 70-liter (18.5-gallon) FT3-spec fuel cell replaces the old 48-liter (12.7-gallon) tank (more fuel equals more laps before a pit stop).
When it’s all said and done, the Race 380 manages a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds, while top speed is rated at a gearing-dependent 170 mph. That’s lightening quick, and definitely deep into supercar territory in terms of acceleration.
Compared to the Sport 380, it’s also three-tenths quicker to 60 mph, but 8 mph slower in the top end.
|Engine||3.5-litre supercharged V-6|
|Horsepower||375 HP @ 6,700 RPM|
|Torque||302 LB-FT @ 5,000 RPM|
|Transmission||Xtrac 6-speed sequential|
|0-60 mph||3.2 seconds|
|Top Speed||170 mph|
Chassis And Handling
Under the carbon fiber exterior bits is an extruded aluminum bonded chassis-tub, offering low weight and high torsional rigidity.
And here’s the really important number – curb weight. Lightness is what makes a Lotus a Lotus, and the 380 doesn’t skimp on the diet. Dry weight comes in at just under 1,000 kg, or 998 kg (2,200 pounds) to be exact. That means it’s got a power-to-weight ratio of 375 horsepower per metric ton. Add in all the necessary fluids, and weight will likely jump to a figure around 2,500 pounds.
Add in all the necessary fluids, and weight will likely jump to a figure around 2,500 pounds.
But like any lightweight sports car, the Race 380 is all about making small gains that add up to a big difference. As such, Lotus is offering an optional titanium exhaust system that cuts another 10 kg (22 pounds) from over the rear axle.
Providing the traction are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires as standard equipment. This compound offers some of the highest possible grip levels, while also retaining a streetable tread pattern. Interestingly, it’s the same tires that are equipped on the Exige Sport 380, not to mention such heavyweights as the Porsche 918 Spyder and Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe Black Series. Tire sizing comes in at 215/45R17 in front, and 265/35R18 in the rear, making for more rubber in back than what you get on the Sport 380.
Making the magic Lotus handling is forged alloy double-wishbone suspension front to back. Updates include two-way adjustable dampers from Ohlins, as well as adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars.
Updates include two-way adjustable dampers from Ohlins, as well as adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars.
Just like the Sport 380, the Race 380 gets forged four-piston calipers and grooved two-piece disc brakes from AP Racing. Lockup is stopped thanks to the Lotus-tuned ABS.
Rounding it out is the Lotus Traction Control System, which offers adjustable wheel slip settings that can be tuned directly from the driver’s seat.
The Lotus Exige Race 380 is available for order right now. U.S. buyers can get one for $145,000 (and that’s before options and shipping, by the way), while U.K. customers will need to shell out 99,500 pounds.
The first units should be hitting garages this coming May.
Porsche introduced the Cayman GT4 in 2015, offering enthusiasts a low weight, manual-only, mid-engine performance machine well suited to the demands of brand purists. The Clubsport model takes the formula even further, cutting more weight, adding a roll cage and racing harness, and throwing on Continental racing slicks. Output from the 3.8-liter flat engine remains the same at 385 horsepower and 310 pound-feet, while a six-speed PDK transmission sends it all to the rear axle. Pricing starts at $165,000.
Read the full review here.
If you want an out-and-out racing machine, but you’re looking to save a few bucks and you enjoy having the wind in your helmet, then the Spec Race Atom might be the way to go. Based on the Ariel Atom 3 chassis, this track-only lightweight gets tons of race-ready features, including a digital information display, emergency electrical cut off and fire extinguisher, R-compound racing slicks, and SRA-spec brake pads. Making it go is a 2.4-liter K24 powerplant from a Honda Civic Si, mated to a six-speed gearbox. And thanks to its incredibly low weight due to the lack of a roof, doors, windshield, and body panels, this stripped-down racer has what it takes to smoke just about anything on the race track. And it’s relatively inexpensive as well – get one for just $53,750.
Read the full review here.
Speaking of low weight paired with minimal body pieces, Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM has applied its speedy two-wheeled philosophy to the world of cars, giving us this – the X-Bow. KTM offers multiple variants, but the one you wanna get to take on the Exige Race 380 is the X-Bow RR. Equipped with advanced aero, including a flat underbody, plus semi-slick tires, this thing will pull more than 2 G’s in the corners. It’s fast in a straight line as well, as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine can be specified to fit whatever you need to dominate at the track. Pricing for the X-Bow starts at $88,500, but quickly rises as you get into more hardcore versions like the RR.
Read the full review here.
There isn’t a whole lot not to like about the Exige Race 380. Chalk it up to the incredible bones underneath. You see, Lotus didn’t need to prod the Sport 380 too much to make one very impressive performance machine. In fact, according to Jean-Marc Gales, CEO at Group Lotus plc, “the majority of the original car’s configuration is retained,” adding, “the Lotus Exige Sport 380 is a real giant slayer on the road, and one of the quickest A to B supercars around. It gave us the ideal platform from which to develop the new Exige Race 380.”
All told, the Exige Race 380 is arguably the ultimate expression of the much-loved Exige coupe, complete with a rip-snorting supercharged V-6 powertrain, race-spec suspension components, oodles of downforce, and a no-nonsense interior. I think Mr. Chapman would approve.
But, of course, there are always a few small issues.
Because it’s a machine for the track only, it might be difficult to enjoy on a regular basis. It was created specifically for the Lotus Cup series, a one-make competition that visits some of the most prestigious racetracks in the world. Here in the U.S., however, most of the races are in California – Sonoma Raceway, Thunderhill Raceway, Buttonwillow Raceway, etc. You can check out the full 2017 schedule here. But the point is if you live anywhere but the west coast, it might be a hard purchase to justify.
All told, the Exige Race 380 is arguably the ultimate expression of the much-loved Exige coupe. But, of course, there are always a few small issues.
Of course, Lotus contends the Race 380 is eligible for the clubman-level division in a variety of international motorsports organizations, but it’s rarely that simple. Track day lapping sessions are another option, but if you have a car like this, what you wanna do is go wheel to wheel.
Take all that, then throw in the hefty price tag against competitors like the Ariel Atom and KTM X-Bow, and it’s a bit of a reach.
Nevertheless, the Exige Race 380 is still mighty tempting indeed. Thank goodness it’s coming to the U.S.