Just 500 examples of ‘Project 003’ will be made. And it’ll be a turbo hybrid
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£63,415 when new
The Exige V6 Cup is Lotus’s Porsche 911 GT3 RS moment. A stripped-out and razor-edged version of the already extreme Exige, one of the few cars that’s genuinely as happy on the track as it is on the road. So just what is the superlative of hardcore? Hardcorest? There’s a full roll cage (usefully and easily removable - just undo a few bolts), a cut-out switch, a plumbed-in fire extinguisher and four-point harnesses. The radio and speakers have been removed, as have various airbags and all the sound-deadening, and a lightweight seat has been added. The Cup is 60kg lighter than the Exige - itself hardly the Buckingham Palace of the car world. All this keeps the car road-legal, but also allows owners to pitch up at a circuit, stick a couple of race numbers on the door panels and go racing - the Cup is eligible for all manner of motorsport series around the world. Which is handy. So it shouldn’t come as any sort of a surprise to learn that it’s excellent on the circuit and very pointy on the road. The good stuff first: excellent grip, superb body control and a brilliantly responsive engine - the V6 supercharged motor is exactly the same as the road car’s, by the way, with 345bhp and 295lb ft.
The Cup has four-stage traction control (Tour, Sport, Race and Off) and actively learns grip levels, thanks to clever electronics. This means that the car may be a little wayward around the first damp corner while it figures out how much torque the tyres can cope with, but the next one is pre-judged, and the resulting grip/power balance fires the car down the track without a stutter. On the road, though, all the excellence gets a bit tiring - this is very much a second car. The steering is almost too sensitive; it constantly shouts so much info that it’s not remotely relaxing, and the Cup dives about and follows camber like a hyped-up puppy. And because this particular Exige has lost all the sound-deadening, road noise is all-consuming - far more so than on the standard car. But the ride doesn’t feel hugely different. Sharp bumps are a bit stiffer, but the way it flows over longer undulations is impressively comfy. However, no one buys the standard Exige for its massage seats and soothing nature. So if you can, you might as well go the whole hog, splash out the £10k extra and get the Cup. It’s compromised, but when did you last drive a Lotus that wasn’t?
£39,694 – £64,451
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A terrific car, a genuine exponent of light weight and something pleasingly different to drive
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Practical and liveable, but also blooming good to drive. The 911 is *the* all-round sports car