Supercharged Lotus Exige

Lotus Exige Cup 240
Lotus Exige Cup 240

When Lotus announced the Exige S2 for the first time in September 2003, the mission of the S2 was to be more comfortable so people could use the car as their daily driver -- you can drive it to the office and on the track. With two optional packages (touring pack or performance pack) you can customise the car, with even air conditioning as an option. There are now quite a few variants on the theme too. New is the supercharged Cup 240, added to the Cup Exige and the Sport Exige 240R, just to add even more choice.

Engine installed
Engine installed
Engine exposed
Engine exposed
Hard to get into
Hard to get into
You can't drive it slowly
You can't drive it slowly

In contrast, the first Exige was a different animal. It was only built in limited numbers -- about 600 cars -- to offer drivers a road-legal version of the Motorsport Elise. It's very fast on the track, but not really suitable for everyday driving.

Racing heritage

The S2 changed that. It was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2004, at same time the Exige S2 Cup car, which was specially developed for the Lotus Cup Europe, and which Lotus describes as "a road registered race car straight out of the box".

The race series has just finished its second season of regularity events and its first season of standard races, and continues next year. It's rumoured that the system of the races based on regularity and the race rating will be confirmed. The timetable's likely to consist of about nine weekends on circuits, most of them current or former F1 tracks, in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and, for the first time, the UK.

Both the Exige and the Exige Cup car are built on the same production line at Lotus' plant at Hethel with only minor modifications. The difference is that the Cup car takes an extra three weeks to be assembled and modified at the Lotus Sport plant. That's reflected in the price, as the Cup car is some £7,000 more expensive than the standard Exige and only available at one of the nine official Lotus Cup dealers.

Exige Cup

The following points differentiate the Cup version from the standard Exige:

  • Six-point FIA safety cage
  • Sport seats
  • Four-point seat belt
  • Electrically operated fire-extinguishing system
  • Battery isolation switches inside and out
  • Oil sump monitoring system
  • Adjustable front stabiliser
  • Two-way adjustable shock absorbers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Strengthened clutch plate and cover
  • Aluminium rims in silver
  • A Lotus Sport Division production plate.

Sport Exige 240R

The Cup Exige isn't a limited edition -- it's only limited by the capacity at Lotus Sport and in the last 18 months, the division has produced some 55 cars. And this year, Lotus unveiled the first supercharged Exige at the Geneva Motor Show: the Sport Exige 240R -- a 50-car limited edition that sold out within three weeks.

Due to the development costs involved, it was rumoured that Lotus will make the supercharger available as an option other Lotus cars, although it's been available from Lotus Motorsport exclusively to the Exige Cup cars since July. Assembled in the Lotus Sport plant Hethel or at one of the European Lotus Cup dealers, the supercharged 240 will develop 243bhp instead of the current 189bhp from its Lotus-modded Toyota engine.

About 30 hours are needed to fit the supercharger. The kit contains 151 parts in total, including the Eaton supercharger itself, intercooler, modified engine management system, new grille for the air intake on the hard top, new catalytic converter and many other small bits and things like gaskets, bolts, tubes and screws.

To fit it, the rear clamshell, hard top, exhaust and many other small parts must be removed. But, unlike a turbo, a supercharger can be built around the engine, so it's not necessary to open the engine. The intercooler will be fitted on the engine, which is why it's not possible to fit this kit without modifications in the Elise 111R, although the design of the Circuit Car, unveiled at Shelsley Walsh this summer, shows that it's possible to fit the cooler in a different place.

The supercharger kit including fitting costs about £8,700.

Driving the cars

We got hold of a new Cup 240 to see what it adds to the range. Entering the Cup 240 car is more difficult than the standard car due to the roll cage: if you're going to wear a helmet in the car you have to be under six feet tall. If you prefer to drive it without a roll cage, the cage can be removed in an hour but both cars fit like race cars: the interior is small, but not too small and you immediately get the impression that you are as one with the car.

Fasten your three-point seatbelts in the Exige and the four-point belts in the Cup 240 and look in the mirrors. The rear view from the standard car was already restricted, but in the supercharged Exige you see nothing but the intercooler.

You can feel the difference between the two cars as soon as you start the engines. Their characteristics are completely different, the sound of the supercharged cup car being much deeper and throaty. And full power in the Cup 240 feels like sitting in a jet at take-off.

In the standard Exige, the cam profile changes at 6,200rpm, the rush is similar to someone pushing a button of a nitrous oxide-boosted engine. With the modified engine management system, the cam profile of the supercharged Exige 240 changes at 4,000rpm, but the effect is less spectacular than in the standard Exige.

The only problem -- if problem it is -- is that you simply can't drive the supercharged car slowly. The sound of the supercharger alone is seriously addictive. So if you want to drive the standard Exige fast, when you're following the supercharged Exige 240 you have to change gear much more often, especially at speeds over 60mph -- and of course  the supercharged car reacts much faster than the standard.

The standard Exige offers a non-adjustable suspension from Bilstein, while the Cup 240 has an adjustable Öhlins suspension. The Cup 240 feels glued to the track due to the Yokohama semi-slick A048s, providing tremendous cornering ability. On the road, on the other hand, the Cup 240's suspension feels more sensitive than the Bilstein dampers of the standard Exige, especially on the German autobahn at high speed, due to lorry-carved ruts.

The steering in both cars is similarly direct and offers a real go-kart feeling. The brakes are easy to handle and offer superb retardation, with no fade after several hard stops. On the car we tested, the Cup car had optional stainless steel brake lines and sport brake pads, which still improve the efficiency of the brakes, but the ABS kicks in more often.


With the Cup 240 we didn't manage to accelerate to 60 mph in under five seconds, whereas Lotus claims 4.5 seconds. The standard Exige should achieve this in 5.2 seconds -- we measured 5.5 seconds. We also compared the speedos on both cars with a highly accurate GPS-derived measurement and found that the speedos on both cars over-read by between 5-8 mph at 150mph, which is not a bad margin of accuracy.

Which to choose?

So which car do I prefer? For the road, the standard Exige is the one for me: the power is more than enough for daily use and it offers more comfort. The Cup 240 is the perfect toy for the track -- on the road I would lose my driving licence within days...

Comments (32) Join the discussion on the forum

  • andyf 03 Dec 2005

    the article said:

    But, unlike a turbo, a supercharger can be built around the engine, so it's not necessary to open the engine.

    wha.. what ?

  • peter450 02 Dec 2005

    Hendry said:
    GTRene said:
    Hendry said:

    Surprised to find this whole thread rating the differences between the various flavours of Lotus based on their 0-60 time. What baring does that give? In any circumstance the 0-60 means virtually nothing, but when have Lotuses ever been about speed off the line over poise, agility and balance? Particularly off to read about a track-day biased car like the Exige, as what is the one thing you never do on a trackday? A standing start...

    Would expected to have been reading here about the differences the engines make to drivability and weight transfer, predictability etc. This has ended up reading like a game of Top Trumps.

    Still, your thread....

    Never do a standing start on the track? when you are "racing" in competition you do a standing start and then its very importand to get to the first corner first! and also the "power" of acceleration out the corner is importand, and when you've got a spin, every second counts then!
    And even not on the track its big fun at the stoplights doing a sprint with someone else, and loosing its no fun, but winning is
    So you can drive in the back of the field (with same driver scils and experience) and the other drives a few seconds faster each round with a more powerful car that can accelerate 0 to 60 and especialy 30 to 100 times, can be very importand on the track and on the road...

    Agreed. That's why I said "track-day focused" rather than a competition car. And one would surely not buy an Exige if one's only interest was beating other cars away from traffic lights - buy a fast saloon and get to move your mates and shopping around too.

    By the way, completely agree 30 - 100 is important, but who has mentioneed that in thsi thread so far?

    personally i dont think any lotus is really about standing starts, they've always been about handling and prescison, but some people seem to be arguing this point on the basis that the elise/exige isnt good at it, while the car may not be about a 0 - 60 traffic light gp the car is very good at the 0 - 60 sprint its light, and has good traction off the line being mid engined. What most people complain about is being caught up once you hit 70/80 which is really were the 190 and now 240 hp cars come in to there own, the 111r and now 240 cup simpley extend the performance envelope at higher speeds giving good acceleration at high speeds as well as off the mark

  • shangani 02 Dec 2005

    By "us" - I was referring to the people who had posted at the point that the initial criticism was levelled. I someone wanted / was able to comment on the handling, precision etc they were free to do so. I simply objected to someone criticising everyone who had posted to that point for a lack of discussion on issues few / none of us were in a position to debate.

    Was the latter car (Kershaw's) a good reflection of what the road-going 240 cup will be like? I only ask because I genuinely don't know the answer.

    For those of us not as connected with the racing scene / lotus, it is presently quite difficult to get a drive in one - I phoned several dealers and the earliest they suggested one could get a drive was late December or early January. The 240r's were snapped up in no time and I certainly never saw one at a dealer that was available to be driven. Barring a long trip to see a used 240r, I still don't see how most of the rest of us would be in a position to comment specifically on a car that is only going to be delivered in the next few days / weeks. I still don't even know if I would fit in it with a helmet on. The other aspect re the handling relates to traction control - present on the cup but not the 240r.

    >> Edited by shangani on Friday 2nd December 17:52

  • scuffham 02 Dec 2005

    shangani said:
    As regards flexibility, handling, predictability etc etc, as there are none in the dealers yet, it is rather difficult to debate this: None of us have driven it yet. We have the collective opinion of one or two journalists re the 240 cup. The only objective comments can be made about the headline figures at this stage. Hence before criticising, you may want to clarify your facts.

    not quite true...

    240R's and Exige cups + SC have been about for some time now, I have driven both, as have many others.

    perfomance wise, there are some times up for one that Lotus entered in Mid-Engined at Snett with Gavan driving it, I would suggest that this would be the fastest that one will actually go (round a track) so it's a good benchmark to use.

  • GTRene 02 Dec 2005

    I only try to say, its handy and great fun to accellerate, and when you are fastest its a plus

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