Lotus Exige Cup 260
02 Feb, 2011
The people that know me, also know that a Lotus Exige has always been my dream car. Even before ever having sat in one. It came to a point that I was actually saving up for a Lotus Elise. But instead we went to Japan. By sharing this story with my friend Justin Gardiner I was presented with the opportunity to drive a Lotus Exige. Of course there was only one sane awnser to that; “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSS”. So will I still be so enthusiastic about this car after taking it on a Road trip?
This is where it all started, the place where all the Lotus magic in Japan happens. They had a press car ready for me to take on the road trip. Before I arrived I did not know which Exige I was going to get. Once I heard the words “You are taking the…” time froze and in slow motion the rest of the sentence was “…Exige Cup 260”. This blew my mind because this is about as good as it gets.
After I picked up my jaw from the floor and inspected the interior, it was obvious that this car means business. Everything about this car shouts, smells and feels like a race machine. However the dashboard is covered in luxurious Alcantara, but this also functions as an anti glare layer. Instead of a radio there is a big-red-kill-switch-button in case things do go wrong. So don’t mistake this for the radio, cause the music you’ll be hearing might not be that pretty.
Getting into a Lotus Elise or Exige is always an experience you will never forget, because it’s just so damn hard. You need to be quite flexible to squeeze into that tight space. A removable steering wheel would really make sense in this car. For the passenger it’s not easy either with the huge fire extinguisher placed just in front of the passenger seat. Once in the carbonfibre seats you’ll notice that they really did everything to save weight. The seats are a fairly good fit for my boney ass, but for the people with a bigger rear-end this is going to be tight. So you can’t be too long and/or fat, because it basically doesn’t fit and that’s some weight saving right there.
So now that we have climbed into the car in the most unsexy way, it’s time to hit the road jack (and I wish I never had to come back). As this is also the first time driving a non-automatic RHD, I was a bit nervous to drive this car. But after a couple of shifts I did get the hang of it.
One of the things that makes an Exige so special is how it’s constructed, every single detail is there to make this car perform in a league of its own. With an aluminum tub-like chassis making this car super rigid. Some of the already light parts have been replaced with carbon fibre, which makes this car even 38Kg lighter than the already super light Exige.
Besides the carbon fibre, the black 5-spoke Lotus wheels are also a lighter version. All of this results in a staggeringly low weight of only 890Kg.
The 1.8 Toyota engine in the back is being fed extra air with a supercharger and produces an incredible 260bhp! Making the power to weight ratio even more amazing. This little monster sprints to 100km/h in only 4.1 seconds. But this is all on paper, does the car deliver in reality?
The exterior consists of two fiberglass clams. A carbon hardtop with a big air scoop that feeds fresh air to the intercooler in the back. The underside of the car is completely flat, allowing all the air to just pass under the car into the carbon rear diffuser. All to benefit the aerodynamics.
There is a big rear wing to keep all this lightness firmly planted on the road on the sticky advan A048 semi slick tires. This car also has a very small boot which just about holds 2 small backpacks. There is also a pump in there that keeps the oil where it should be during heavy cornering.
Like the car itself, the styling is functional but alien-like extreme, mostly guys love the car but the girls they have a hard time understanding it. I guess it’s the same as we have a hard time grasping the fun of shopping.
All these numbers and specs are nice to know, but the most import thing about a car is the way it drives. When driving in the crowded city center of Tokyo, I noticed how easy it is to drive. With some nice torque in the lower RPM range, fairly comfortable seats but really stiff suspension. But I could not help but feel that it was not all that special. Pui-Yuk (passenger) was even less impressed, the placement of the fire extinguisher made her seating position less comfortable.
But once you hit the nice curvy mountain roads, everything starts to make sense. This car eats corners for breakfast all day long. The sticky tires, stiff suspension, aerodynamics all start working at once. Enabling you to take corners at speeds you never knew were possible. That’s where the carbon Exige seats come to the rescue to keep you from flying through the car while the lateral forces are skyrocketing.
When considering all of this, is this car still my dream car? Is it all that I hoped for? Does it turn its back to me and leave me in the dark or does it put me in the light.
Hell yes! This car is so amazing and unique. When driving this car you can’t help but have a smile from ear to ear. The handling, the grip, the power, the acceleration, the feedback all so great. I never thought I would love someone (or something) whining in my ears, but the sound of the supercharger coming from just a couple of centimeters behind you is addictive.
This car is still on top of my wishlist, one day it will be mine. For now it remains a dream.
If you ever thought that this car is not good for a roadtrip guess again. This car is what makes a roadtrip way more fun, although you can’t take a lot of stuff with you and it only has two seats. Driving this is a party on its own and I can highly recommend this car to anyone.
Special thanks to:
Justin Gardiner and Lotus Cars Japan