Lotus Exige Sport 380 2017 review
Stripped-out Lotus Exige Sport 380 road racer is thrilling to drive, but it comes at a cost
The Lotus Exige Sport 380 is another shining example of how Lotus continues to develop some of the best sports cars around. Its steering, noise and razor-sharp responses make it one of the most visceral and engaging models around. The trouble is, at £11,000 over the already exceptional Sport 350, the newcomer asks a lot. And, in all honesty, as sublime as it is, you’ll be having just as much fun in the cheaper 350.
With every new Lotus, two things are guaranteed: less weight and more power. The new Exige Sport 380, then, is the lightest and most powerful version of the mid-engined V6 sports car we’ve seen yet.
It’s based on the Exige Sport 350 – which was only launched 12 months ago – and will be sold alongside its lesser sibling for an additional £11,000. However, it’s more than just an Exige with a fancy bodykit and an extra 30bhp; a tweaked supercharger, uprated fuel pump and exhaust system provide the extra shove, while a meticulous diet has stripped out unwanted weight.
If you go for all of the lightweight options, just over 30kg is shed. There’s a lot of carbon fibre, and the sports seats, bumpers, roof and tailgate have all been fashioned out of the lightweight material. Racing brakes and forged wheels round off the major changes.
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Lotus has been forced to add some weight as part of the power hike, because as well as an improved fuel pump, there are aerodynamic add-ons and a new oil cooler.
However, the end result is sublime. Nail the throttle and the 3.5-litre supercharged V6 spins freely to nearly 7,000rpm with a deafening wail from the titanium exhaust. It’s a costly £5,000 option, but Lotus expects most buyers will add it. In 3.7 seconds the Sport 380 can crack 0-62mph; that’s supercar baiting territory, and seven tenths of a second faster than a Porsche Cayman GT4.
The Exige has been given a 10mm wider front track and super-sticky Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres to cope with the extra pace, and the car feels precise, with immediate responses. The unassisted steering relays uncorrupted feedback through the wheel, and the compact proportions allow you to place the Exige with pinpoint accuracy. The exposed gear linkage on the six-speed manual box isn’t just beautiful to look at, either, because the shifter is a joy to use