New Lotus Exige Sport 410 review
The new Lotus Exige Sport 410 sits between the Sport 350 and Cup 430, but what's it like on the road?
The latest series production model to join the Lotus Exige line up mixes the usability of the Sport 350 with the ultimate focus of the Cup 430. It’s not cheap, but it delivers a very special and thrilling driving experience like few others; a traditional sports car in a bland digital world.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this Lotus Exige Sport 410 is yet another special edition from the Norfolk-based brand. After all, the firm has been rather prolific in that department over the last few years.
But scoff as some might at those limited-run models, they have allowed Lotus to return to a situation strong enough for Chinese giant Geely to buy a 51 per cent stake in the company – thus securing the British sports car firm’s future.
With Geely’s commitment, Lotus is now planning further ahead and easing development on the current Elise, Evora and Exige models. Its efforts are now concentrated on all-new cars, the first of which we will see in 2020. In the interim, Lotus has settled on a three-car line-up for the Exige, and the final addition is this: the Exige Sport 410.
The 410 is a series production model that aims to strike a balance between the softer Sport 350 and track-focussed Cup 430. As such, Lotus’s engineering started with the Cup car and looked at what was required to provide a more comfortable, road-biased model. One of the first decisions was to reduce the level of downforce produced by the 430, to develop a car with more mechanical grip – with the aim of being more involving for a wider spread of drivers.
This is why the Sport 410 does without the Cup’s extreme vents in the top of the front wheel arches and more aggressive front splitter. And while there may be a reduction in downforce (it still develops 150kg at 180mph) there is also less drag, which is why the 410’s straight-line performance is a match for the 430.
Underpinning the Sport 410 is a re-tuned Cup 430 chassis, with adjustable Nitron springs and dampers. These are a little stiffer than the Cup due to the reduction in aero pressure on the car, while there are new anti-roll bars, too. You also get a set of AP Racing brakes and those 18-inch (17-inch at the front) Team Dynamics wheels are forged items fitted with Michelin Cup 2 tyres.
The Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre supercharged V6 gets a remap to fatten the torque curve and reduce power to 410bhp. Of the three Exiges now offered, the Sport 410 has the flattest torque curve of them all; it uses the same six-speed manual gearbox and is fitted with the 430’s smaller clutch and single-mass flywheel.
If this all sounds a bit track serious, then that’s because it is. While Lotus wants to offer an Exige with a wider operating window than the Cup 430 on the road, it still want owners to be able to enjoy their car on track. The 410 is physical, demanding and requires plenty of commitment, but it’s very rewarding to drive. This is a Lotus that can entertain and thrill the track day beginner and circuit pro in equal measure.
On the road, that involvement and physicality is still there, but once you reacquaint yourself with the steering and chassis, the sensations become harder to ignore. Your appetite for feedback becomes impossible to satiate, with the car telling you what every wheel is doing at every given moment.
The 410 leaves you in doubt as to how hard the front tyres are working the tarmac, while the engine has you questioning its humble Toyota origins. And as the exhaust valve opens at 4,000rpm, the noise and the acceleration attack your senses like few others.
Downsides? Road noise is an issue on poor surfaces, and if you enjoy soft feel plastics and the latest infotainment systems you might be disappointed. But if you want the purest driving experience money can buy, you most certainly won’t be.