LOTUS’ fetish for rolling out low-production special editions of its diminutive sports cars is legendary, but while jaded types may roll their eyes at yet another press release from the Hethel-based manufacturer, this latest limited edition Lotus absolutely warrants your attention.
The Lotus Exige Cup 380 uses the mechanical gubbins of the Exige Sport 380 as its foundations, but boasts one crucial advantage: you can put number plates on it.
Pitched as the ultimate weekend warrior, the Cup 380 is designed to not only dominate at track days, but also be civil (and legal) enough to drive to and from the track. There’s no specialised racecar rubber around its 18-inch lightweight alloys, just Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 semi-slicks. There are even airbags to keep you safe on the street, though Lotus will delete them if you ask nicely enough.
Carbon fibre features heavily in the Cup 380’s construction, both in structural components and as part of its extensive aeroydynamics package. It’s not just for the sake of flaunting glossy carbon weave either - all of those carbon aero bits add some 200kg of downforce at its 280km/h top speed.
It tips the scales at a scant 1057kg dry – 17kg less than the track-only Sport 380 – and if that’s not enough, an optional full titanium exhaust slashes 10kg from the rear of the Exige. Serious track junkies can also spec an FIA-compliant roll cage, race harnesses and integrated fire extinguisher.
The engine is the same Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre supercharged V6 as the Sport 380, driving the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transaxle that’s actuated by a beautifully intricate exposed shifter mechanism. Given enough beans the Exige Cup 380 will rip to 100km/h in a brisk 3.6 seconds, while a beefy AP Racing brake package with four-piston front calipers and two-piece rotors helps reel in all of that speed.
Handling is also enhanced by a six-state variable stability control system, which allows the driver to choose between five varying levels of intrusiveness, plus an ‘all off’ setting for the truly brave.
Downsides? Only 60 Exige Cup 380s will be built, and it’s unclear how many – if any – will be coming to Australia. Price? In the UK, one of these will set you back £83,000 (AU$141,000).