Wait, didn’t I write about this one already? Nope. Looks like I haven’t, but there’s the “problem” in a nutshell. Lotus is making so many special editions these days that it’s hard to mentally separate them all. And if everything you make is “special” then, in a certain way, none of it is. And all of this superior engineering gets lost in the clutter. More’s the pity, because, of course, the new Lotus Exige Cup 430: Unlimited Edition is rather special.
Curiously enough, coming from a company renowned for its chassis design skills and outright handling, the Lotus Exige Cup 430: Unlimited Edition (seriously, that’s its full name) is mainly about the engine. Like an old school hot rod approach, Lotus calls the plant “savage,” which I will chalk up to the marketing department needing their leash shortened. Basically, the engine gets a new supercharger and intercooler, but there are some body tweaks here and there, both as a way to differentiate the car but also to carve out more performance.
The engine gets a 15 percent bump in the power department, with an extra 55 horsepower over the limited-production Exige Cup 380. This all adds up to 430 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 325 lb-ft. of torque from 4,000 to 6,800 rpm. Or about what a new Corvette puts out in a car that weighs 50 percent less. Nice! Contrasted with the Exige Sport 350, it has 24 percent more power, and generates the same downforce at 100 mph, 220 kg, as the Exige Sport 350 does at its maximum speed of 170. Impressive.
The Lotus Exige Cup 430: Unlimited Edition (or LEC430UE if you’re cool) puts that 430 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. of torque to good use, with a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.2 seconds (or 0-100 km/h in 3.3 seconds if you’re interested in the metric performance). It tops out at 180, which probably seems like a lot more, because this is a pretty small car, and you are sitting very close to the ground.
The bodywork and aerodynamics are tweaked and trimmed and tuned to exploit all the extra power, but also to make things look cooler. The front clamshell, for instance, is new and ultra-lightweight. It features unique carbon fiber ducts with wider radiator apertures and a new mesh pattern to the grille. Lotus says this delivers a more “combative aspect” which may or may not be true (although it is true, I bet that phrase was turned by the same marketing wonk that came up with “savage”).
The reworked front end allows the new front splitter and “air curtain mechanism” to reduce drag. That air curtain works with the front end to efficiently move air though the front wheel wells to reduce any turbulence and drag generated by the front wheels themselves. Out back, there’s a larger, straight motorsport wing with increased downforce (the overall drag coefficient is not impacted by the wing).
If you total up the new designs of the front and rear clamshells, they are 6.8 kg lighter than those on other Exiges. Exigii? Anyway, the front and rear bodywork is around 15 lbs. lighter than before. Which fits, since Lotus has a full on fetish for making things as light as they can. Overall weight is down by 12 kg to 1,059 kg, or right around 2,400 lbs. in old money. You can trim a further 6 lbs. off that if you get this Exige model in its lightest configuration. I have no idea what they do to drop those final 6 lbs. (probably take everything out of the glove box) but further weight savings is available. So, if you total all this up, the Exige Cup 430’s power to weight ratio is 407 horsepower per tonne, which is up substantially from the Exige Cup 380’s 355 horsepower per tonne.
Just Enough? Too Much?
Lotus says this variant is “focused fairly and squarely on aggressive track performance and point-to-point supremacy,” which is more nauseatingly cute MarComm talk, but they are not kidding. The new Lotus Exige Cup 430 can lap the company’s Hethel circuit 1.2 seconds faster than the 3-Eleven, which is little more than a road-legal go kart in comparison to the Exige.
Do I want this car? Of course I do, just like I wanted the 14,947 Exige specials that came out last month. And that’s the “problem,” such as it is. Lotus needs to stop monkeying around with all these different specials, or at least limit them to one a year or so. Because if I had the money to buy this – around $150,000 – I’d worry that a few minutes after I drove it for the first time, there’d be a newer, better, even higher performing version on the market.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.