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Hennessey Mustang GT350 R vs Lotus Exige 410
What happens when a brawny American heavyweight meets a British lightweight?
A big American muscle car from Texas. An ickle lightweight sports car from Norwich. You probably think any similarities between these two are as far apart as the locations where they’re built, but you’d be wrong.
Both the Hennessey HPE850 Mustang and Lotus Exige Sport 410 follow a very similar recipe: they’re both noisy, they’re both stripped out, they’re both supercharged and they’re both track-orientated road cars with trick dampers and a set of sticky (yet tricky in the wet) Michelin Cup 2 tyres.
They’re also bloody good at what they do. But having schlepped the ‘Stang east, and sent both of them down the same stretch of gnarled Norfolk tarmac, it didn’t take long to see that each had been engineered for its native environment.
The way the Exige flows down a broken road, soaking up and communicating the bumpy braille of British B-roads – while never being deflected so you’re toe-punted into the local scenery – is pretty much magic. Thin tyres, analogue steering and posh Nitron dampers help the 410 scuttle down a road with feedback and grace, allowing you to dig into its performance. Same can’t be said for the Hennessey.
Due to huge 305-width front tyres (315 rears), really aggressive geometry and a harsh counter-spun spring set-up, where the Lotus planes over the tarmac, the ‘Stang’s front wheels would sniff out and follow truck ruts and camber like a traction-deficient bloodhound. You have to hold the wheel with an element of slip, allowing it to do its thing and only intervene when necessary. Say, when it hops across a lane. Which happens.
Driving the Shelby in the UK keeps you on your toes. Being left-hand-drive, a country road isn’t as well-sighted, the tyres are all-but-useless in the wet and you’re very aware you have 850bhp under your right foot and a traction-control system that only wakes up when you’re looking through the rear three-quarter window.
If you’re fearful of the autonomous revolution, the Hennessey’s Mustang might be your perfect remedy. It may have a mind of its own, but it’s not autonomous as you’re constantly wrangling it, keeping it in control and pointing it down the road. Which is tiring, but immensely fun.