Piers Ward03 December 2013

First drive: Lotus Exige V6 Cup

It's the yet-harder version of the hardcore Exige. Who needs a double espresso when you have this?

What is it?

The Exige V6 Cup is Lotus's riposte to the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, an even more stripped-out and razor-edged version of the already extreme Exige. Basically, it's a car that's as happy on the track as it is on the road.

Even more hardcore than an Exige?

Yup. This is as extreme as Lotus road cars - and so, by extension, any road cars - get.

So what have they altered?

There's a full roll cage (usefully, and easily, removable), a plumbed-in fire extinguisher, an electrical cut-out switch and four-point harness, plus other weight-saving tweaks. The radio and speakers have been removed, along with all the sound deadening and airbags. And then Lotus adds in a lightweight seat.

Net result? The Cup is a massive 60kg lighter than the standard Exige - which was hardly the John Candy of the car world.

And does it look very different?

A bit. There are a couple of Union Jack flags on the rear wing, plus a few splashes of matt black paint and a V6 Cup sticker on the side sills. Inside, you get ‘V6 Cup' embroidered on the dash.

So can I actually go racing in it?

Yes. Although the Cup is road legal, it's also eligible for loads of motor racing all over the world, from the UK to China. Basically, all an owner needs to do is pitch up at a circuit, stick a couple of race numbers on the door panels, and then hit the track.

Is it good on the track?

Just a bit. The whole thing is so communicative and responsive that it almost gives you a headache because it's sending so much information back to you.

And the supercharged V6 is brilliant. Although it has the same power and torque as the Exige S road car (345bhp and 295lb ft), the weight loss and lack of sound deadening makes the engine feel and sound much more urgent.

The Cup also has four-stage traction control (tour, sport, race and off), and the car actively learns grip levels. This means that the first damp corner might be a little wayward while the car figures out how much torque you need, but the next one is as smooth as treacle. It's all about assistance, not hindrance.

And on-road?

All the excellence gets a bit tiring. The steering spends so much time chattering to you that, when you're pottering on the motorway, you'd like it to hush up for a while, making this is very much a second car. It's not relaxing to drive because the Cup dives and follows the camber a lot, while the road noise is also all-consuming - far more so than on the standard Exige.

That said, it rides very similarly to the standard Exige. Sharp bumps are a bit stiffer, but the way the Cup flows over longer undulations is impressively comfortable.

So should I bother?

Let's face it, you don't buy the standard Exige for its massage seats and soothing nature. In which case, you might as well go the whole hog, splash out the roughly £10k extra, and get the Cup. It's compromised, but when did you last drive a Lotus that wasn't?

8/10

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