RE: Lotus Exige Cup: Review

RE: Lotus Exige Cup: Review

Tuesday 28th January 2014

Lotus Exige Cup: Review

What would the Lotus Exige S be like pared back and prepped for the track? Rather good, it turns out



Ah the Porsche 991 GT3. The gift that keeps giving for the click hungry editor of a discussion-led motoring website! Have we tired yet of debating PDK versus manual? Seemingly not. And into this fray marches Lotus, just a couple of weeks after some bloke called Walter told us his favourite GT3 ever was the pared back first-gen 996.

Little of the old delicacy but much more potent
Little of the old delicacy but much more potent
The new GT3 is operating at a totally different level to that original car. It's got a revvy normally aspirated engine to differentiate it from the Turbo but, really, they're now just two slightly different answers to the same question. The eventual RS may reclaim the purist vote but by then we'll be knocking on the door of 458 Speciale money and the willingness to treat it as a hard-working track hound may be found lacking.

So let's look again at Rohrl's favourite GT3. 360hp. Minimal driver aids and the just enough creature comforts for daily road use. A direct bloodline to racing cars. A slim kerb weight. A price tag of £76K, not £176K. Where would you turn now if you wanted such a car?

For speed add, oh, power
Well, you could do worse than talk to Lotus. The standard Exige S would make for a more than capable road and track car. So if that car is the 996 GT3 for the modern age the 350hp Cup we have here is the RS equivalent. You can look at it in two ways - either as the very peak of the road legal Lotus range or the first rung on the ladder of a V6-based motorsport line-up that could take you into GT4 and beyond.

All are road legal but track ambitions clear
All are road legal but track ambitions clear
There are significant hurdles in going from Exige S to Cup, a circa £10K price leap the first. Because it's built by Lotus Racing track rules apply so it only comes with a limited one year/6,000-mile warranty too. But if you're serious about using your Exige on track it begins to make sense, the price including a baffled wet sump, A-frame rollover assembly with harness bar, FIA standard integral fire extinguisher system, isolator switches, towing eyes, FIA approved fixed back racing seats with harnesses to accompany the inertia reel belts for road use and two-way adjustable Nitron dampers. It also runs Lotus Racing spring rates and because it's based on the same chassis as the Cup R there's additional adjustment in the suspension hardpoints for a wider range of camber, caster, toe and ride height set up.

Next thing you know...
Further options include Cup R Ohlins TTX dampers, air-con, HANS ready driver's seat and six-point harness and a full roll cage bolted into the prepared mounting points on the tub. By that point you'll be ready to go racing, the Cup certified for entry into various Lotus Cup championships around the world.

V6 zings, supercharger sings, Exige flies
V6 zings, supercharger sings, Exige flies
Taking a step back, can the basic Cup really cut it as a car you'd drive on the road as well as the track?

Before taking to the Hethel test track we go for a quick round the block on the road, incorporating a delightful little wiggle of B-road before a slightly less delightful blast up the A11 towards Norwich. Two things strike you immediately; first that the short throw and positive gate are a big step up from Elise family shifters of old. And second that the non-assisted steering is ruddy heavy at parking speeds. Heavy enough to have you lifting out of your seat as you haul on the little wheel.

That ceases to be an issue once double digits appear on the speedo but it's a shock in this day and age and first indication the Exige isn't as dainty as those previously to wear the badge. Twists and turns on the B-roads are dismissed with a roll of the wrists but the concrete surface of the A11 shows how raw the Cup is on less accommodating roads. It's loud enough you won't be missing the stereo and proves a weight saving of around 75kg over the standard Exige doesn't come without sacrifice.

Clever DPM 'learning' traction control
Clever DPM 'learning' traction control
Every cloud
Back at Hethel and out onto the test track the conditions are miserable under an oppressively grey Norfolk sky. Large puddles lurk in bits where you'd really want to be braking and/or turning and it's a relief to hear from Lotus Racing's Louis Kerr that the car has been set up with the default 'easy track' damping and geometry. He advises that the Race setting on the Exige's trademark - and very clever - Dynamic Performance Management is reserved for dry conditions but experience shows its ability to 'learn' the grip levels means it may yet get an outing.

By heck it's fiercely quick too. Sub nine seconds 0-100mph is rapid in anyone's book and even in these conditions the standard fit Pirelli Corsas find decent traction. Exiges have always had plenty of top-end excitement but the increased displacement and cylinder count gives you the kind of low-end grunt four-cylinder versions could only dream of. It opens up the option to short-shift and maximise traction with little noticeable drop-off in pace, the gruff V6 opening up to a more feral top-end overlayed with just a little supercharger shriek. It's not quite as banzai as the previous supercharged Exiges like the Cup 260 but it feels much, much faster across the board.

Even in the wet grip and traction is immense
Even in the wet grip and traction is immense
That character trait extends to the handling too. The delicacy and balance of the four-cylinder cars has been replaced by a more blunt, muscular handling model that in this set-up defaults to a safety inspired nose-led cornering stance. Even with sideways star Gavan Kershaw on the steering circle the Exige pushes on rather than holding balanced slides but you could of course dial this out by playing with the geo.

I feel it in my fingers
It's confidence inspiring in these conditions though, the sudden loss of grip as you pass through mid-corner puddles felt as muscles and tendons in your forearms suddenly relaxing in the true definition of steering feel. As the loss of grip moves from front to rear you're already dialling in the correction as a pure instinctive reaction and with the DPM in Race mode you can then lean hard on the throttle safe in the knowledge it'll give you as much as the chassis will handle without dumbing down the need for driver input. Or you can lift to neutralise the understeer and suddenly a much more playful character emerges, even if the open diff ultimately spins the power away. Overall though it's a very neat balance, both satisfyingly involving and extremely rapid; accommodating of those with less experience while rewarding for those who know what they're doing.

Just what those of us disillusioned with the growing automation of supposed drivers' cars have been crying out for, right?


LOTUS EXIGE V6 CUP
Engine:
3,456cc V6, supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@4,500rpm
0-62mph: c. 3.8sec
Top speed: c. 171mph
Weight: 1,110kg (depending on final spec)
MPG: N/A
CO2: N/A
Price: £62,994 (basic price inc. VAT, fully road legal and with limited warranty)


Some slightly tentative onboard here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Author
Discussion

ItsJustARide

Original Poster:

104 posts

93 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
I'd take that every time over the latest GT3.

BBS-LM

3,913 posts

160 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
There is just something wrong with the new look of that LOTUS EXIGE, it just looks bulky and fat. I would have a GT3 over this, any day of the week.

Dafuq

354 posts

106 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
Supplied with large box of 'brave' pills?, me likey.

kambites

55,405 posts

157 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
You couldn't call it a pretty car could you?

Still, the GT3 has gone in a direction that holds absolutely no interest for me so there is little competition for the Exige in the mainstream market. The closest competitor I can think of would be the Ginetta G60.

I think it would have to be the basic roadster version for me, though.

RTH

1,056 posts

148 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
Nice oven switch.
Advertisement

RobM77

31,649 posts

170 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
Fantastic driving

The standard car is the best proper road car I've ever driven (so I'm excluding the various track toys I've owned and driven over the years - 2-11, Caterham etc), so this must be awesome. If you want a roof over your head and want to do track days I can't think of anything better.

SidewaysSi

4,812 posts

170 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
Sounds utterly brilliant and very much a modern 996GT3. Perhaps the best all round sports car there is?

herebebeasties

369 posts

155 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
Sounds utterly brilliant and very much a modern 996GT3. Perhaps the best all round sports car there is?
I wouldn't really call it an "all round" sports car - this seems to be pushed squarely up against the expensive no-frills track-toy end of the market.

Not sure what to make of this really. It's awfully quick for sure, but £63k before options looks awfully steep for a 111-chassis-based car. You might think that the 75kg worth of various kit they strip out (leather, carpets, etc.) would mean this would end up at a more competitive price, despite the track upgrades (are the Nitrons really that expensive?).

Much as I like the Exige roadster, I sort-of can't see the point of this one at the price. The power-to-weight really isn't *that* much better than an Exige 260 Cup (315bhp/tonne plays 288bhp/tonne, around 9% - the 996 GT3 was 271bhp/tonne).

I'd personally prefer an Atom and a trailer, but horses for courses and all that. I certainly wish them luck - price aside it sounds like a cracking car.

C1RVY

2,282 posts

199 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
Wonderful.

Easily the most exciting "affordable" new sports car on sale.

Well done Lotus, keep 'em coming biggrin

SidewaysSi

4,812 posts

170 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
herebebeasties said:
SidewaysSi said:
Sounds utterly brilliant and very much a modern 996GT3. Perhaps the best all round sports car there is?
I wouldn't really call it an "all round" sports car - this seems to be pushed squarely up against the expensive no-frills track-toy end of the market.

Not sure what to make of this really. It's awfully quick for sure, but £63k before options looks awfully steep for a 111-chassis-based car. You might think that the 75kg worth of various kit they strip out (leather, carpets, etc.) would mean this would end up at a more competitive price, despite the track upgrades (are the Nitrons really that expensive?).

Much as I like the Exige roadster, I sort-of can't see the point of this one at the price. The power-to-weight really isn't *that* much better than an Exige 260 Cup (315bhp/tonne plays 288bhp/tonne, around 9% - the 996 GT3 was 271bhp/tonne).

I'd personally prefer an Atom and a trailer, but horses for courses and all that. I certainly wish them luck - price aside it sounds like a cracking car.
I see your point but yes, Nitrons and Ohlins are expensive! As for my comment re. all rounder, it can be used everyday (i.e. in the winter/rain/salt), be parked up as it has proper door locks etc. Yet still on a track, it should be able to thrill almost as much as a proper lightweight. It could easily be used as a sole car with little in the way of compromise, yet it is still a pure racing car and for that I think it should be applauded.

kambites

55,405 posts

157 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
herebebeasties said:
(are the Nitrons really that expensive?).
Assuming they're fairly standard 46mm 2-ways, they're about three grand including springs. The Ohlins are a fair chunk more. It might have other uprated suspension components to cope with the extra loads generated, I suppose.

£76k does seem a lot for "an Elise", but on the other hand what is comparable for the same money? How much were the last of the line 997 GT3 RSs? These sorts of cars always seem awfully expensive for what you get compared to less focussed cars in the same range. Do the underlying components really matter if the result is good enough?

Personally, I'd buy a standard Roadster if I was after a daily driver or something like a Radical if I was after a track car, but I can sort of see the market for a cross-over.


Edited by kambites on Monday 27th January 20:17

mgbond

6,701 posts

168 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
herebebeasties said:
.......Much as I like the Exige roadster, I sort-of can't see the point of this one at the price. The power-to-weight really isn't *that* much better than an Exige 260 Cup (315bhp/tonne plays 288bhp/tonne, around 9%...
I was at Silverstone and they had a Exige V6 Cup R with a single seat etc my mate had his Exige S cup running about 270bhp and two up and the car didn't leave us. It showed its power better on the straights but wasn't impressed.

I was always thinking to wait for these to drop in price a bit and then selling the Noble for one. But after that experience I decided to keep the Noble and improve its track ability.

RobM77

31,649 posts

170 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
It's worth factoring in the weight of a passenger when looking at the power to weight compared to the lighter 4cyl Cup 260. I've driven both the standard V6 Exige coupé and the 260 and the difference in straight line performance feels quite considerable. Regarding the on track comparison above, you don't know what the Exige was doing or who was driving - the variation in driving standards on track days is enormous. The Noble comparison's a closer one, but I much preferred the Exige V6 to the M400 I tried - a matter of taste though I'm sure.

lotus99t

186 posts

120 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
There's something about the way a Lotus drives that no other manufacturer seen to be able to match. For me it's never really been about outright power more about the way it feels. But then I do have a soft spot for Lotus. If I had £70,000 now for a car I would be writing this from sitting inside that Lotus. Haha.

hondansx

3,258 posts

161 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
mgbond said:
herebebeasties said:
.......Much as I like the Exige roadster, I sort-of can't see the point of this one at the price. The power-to-weight really isn't *that* much better than an Exige 260 Cup (315bhp/tonne plays 288bhp/tonne, around 9%...
I was at Silverstone and they had a Exige V6 Cup R with a single seat etc my mate had his Exige S cup running about 270bhp and two up and the car didn't leave us. It showed its power better on the straights but wasn't impressed.

I was always thinking to wait for these to drop in price a bit and then selling the Noble for one. But after that experience I decided to keep the Noble and improve its track ability.
A Cup R is appreciably quicker than a modified Exige S. In the Lotus Cup UK series the very well developed GWS Exige S is about on par with a Cup R and that's with a handy drive!

A Cup R is a sizeable step up from the regular Cup in price though, the gearbox being a big slice of that.

JM5

366 posts

92 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
I like the idea of the cup but I think Im going to go for a standard coupe in black.



mgbond

6,701 posts

168 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
RobM77 said:
It's worth factoring in the weight of a passenger when looking at the power to weight compared to the lighter 4cyl Cup 260. I've driven both the standard V6 Exige coupé and the 260 and the difference in straight line performance feels quite considerable. Regarding the on track comparison above, you don't know what the Exige was doing or who was driving - the variation in driving standards on track days is enormous. The Noble comparison's a closer one, but I much preferred the Exige V6 to the M400 I tried - a matter of taste though I'm sure.
The passenger was me in the Exige S. The Exige V6 car was a track hire car which is why I didn't comment on the cornering as it is down to skill.

On the straights it pulled away but not convincingly enough considering it was near on 400bhp as it had been played with.

Comparing it to a std Noble i would prefer the Exige as I believe its a modern day Noble. I would want the exige to be 400+ bhp but decide to spend more on the Noble as that's currently 400bhp and it owes me nothing.

If the interior was different I may of changed my mind.

Shnozz

20,030 posts

207 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
kambites said:
herebebeasties said:
(are the Nitrons really that expensive?).
Assuming they're fairly standard 46mm 2-ways, they're about three grand including springs. The Ohlins are a fair chunk more. It might have other uprated suspension components to cope with the extra loads generated, I suppose.
The Ohlins are worth every penny mind. Even contrast to the Nitrons I am amazed by mine.

RobM77

31,649 posts

170 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
mgbond said:
RobM77 said:
It's worth factoring in the weight of a passenger when looking at the power to weight compared to the lighter 4cyl Cup 260. I've driven both the standard V6 Exige coupé and the 260 and the difference in straight line performance feels quite considerable. Regarding the on track comparison above, you don't know what the Exige was doing or who was driving - the variation in driving standards on track days is enormous. The Noble comparison's a closer one, but I much preferred the Exige V6 to the M400 I tried - a matter of taste though I'm sure.
The passenger was me in the Exige S. The Exige V6 car was a track hire car which is why I didn't comment on the cornering as it is down to skill.

On the straights it pulled away but not convincingly enough considering it was near on 400bhp as it had been played with.

Comparing it to a std Noble i would prefer the Exige as I believe its a modern day Noble. I would want the exige to be 400+ bhp but decide to spend more on the Noble as that's currently 400bhp and it owes me nothing.

If the interior was different I may of changed my mind.
Sorry, my mistake, I should have said 'driver'. Having driven both the V6 just seemed in a different league of performance, but maybe I need more drives in both, certainly the peakier 4cyl won't feel as fast - the S2000 for instance doesn't feel very fast due to the engine.. The Noble's a matter of taste - the turbo characteristics ruined the M400 for me; good chassis though.

JayHeal

262 posts

87 months

Monday 27th January 2014
quotequote all
lotus99t said:
There's something about the way a Lotus drives that no other manufacturer seen to be able to match. For me it's never really been about outright power more about the way it feels. But then I do have a soft spot for Lotus.
Yes a Lotus does handle very well.
But i guess you've never driven a Noble as their handling is amazing.
But then I do have a soft spot for Noble. wink