After revamping the Evora, launching the new 3-Eleven, and introducing the Sport and Sport 220 versions of the Elise earlier in 2015, Lotus is now giving enthusiasts a new Exige model to enjoy. Meet the Sport 350, the lightest and fastest Exige to ever leave the company’s Hethel plant.
Though it’s not as powerful as the Exige 360 Cup , the Sport 350 is quicker from 0 to 60 due to the numerous weight-reducing and aero-enhancing solutions it employs. As its name suggests, this Exige is also part of Lotus’ recent revival of the "Sport" badge, which was first used on the Esprit in 1993. The name was discontinued six years later with the Esprit Sport 350, which makes this new Exige somewhat of a spriritual successor of the former.
"With the Exige Sport 350 we took an already phenomenally quick car and made it even faster, more dynamic and more pure, perfectly demonstrating our Lotus design philosophy of ‘lighter and faster’," said Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales.
In many ways, the Sport 350 replaces the recent Exige V6 Cup. Although it was launched only four months ago, the V6 Cup was limited to only 50 units. It’s safe to assume that all were sold out in a matter of weeks and Lotus decided a mass-produced version would be a great idea. And, indeed it is, especially if you’re planning to purchase a no-nonsense sports car anytime soon. Keep reading to find out why.
Updated 12/17/2015: Lotus dropped a first promo video for its latest Exige Sport 350. Hit play to watch the car in action and enjoy the sound of its V-6 engine.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Lotus Exige Sport 350.
Not surprisingly, the Sport 350 is almost identical to the 360 Cup on the outside. Lotus is known for keeping the design of its special edition models close to the standard car, and the Sport 350 is no exception from that rule. However, because it is based on the V6 Cup, it comes with all the goodies seen on the brand’s Exige-based track cars, including a comprehensive aerodynamic kit that consists of a front splitter, sporty side skirts, a rear wing, and a rear diffuser.
Identical to the 369 Cup to the untrained eye, the Sport 350 does have a few features that set it apart.
Identical to the 369 Cup to the untrained eye, the Sport 350 does have a few features that set it apart. For instance, the black lid that covers the front compartment gained a grille section toward the nose. On the sides, only the wheels are new, now sporting a multi-spoke design. The 360 Cup came with standard twin-five-spoke rollers.
More changes are noticeable around back. The engine lid has a slightly different center section (but with identical louvers), while the small horizontal slats on the sides have been removed for a cleaner look. Below the rear fascia there’s a revised diffuser with smaller wings and a new twin-exhaust pipe. Another tiny detail is that there’s no "Exige" badge, while the "Sport 350" emblem was placed on the bumper. On the 360 Cup, it was located on the fascia, below the right side taillights.
Just like the 360 Cup, the front splitter, rear wing, front access panel, roof panel, wing mirrors, and rear diffuser are finished in matte black. Optionally, they can be painted in body color at no cost, but I think black makes the Exige look a lot more aggressive, especially if combined with light or bright hues. A bit of customization is possible thanks to the optional forged alloy wheels, which reduce the car’s curb weight by a further 5 kg (11 pounds), and either black or yellow brake calipers.
All told, the Sport 350 isn’t that new as far as styling goes, but it’s still a cool sports car to look at.
Just like the exterior, the interior is similar to the 360 Cup too. The Sport 350, however, benefits from larger switches, a new engine start button, and new trim packages that include a heritage theme with tartan upholstery for the seats and door panel inserts. Revived on the Elise Sport 220 for the first time since it was introduced on the first-generation Esprit in 1976, tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical lines in multiple colors, similar to the layout seen on Scottish kilts. For the Exige, the tartan upholstery is available in either red or yellow.
If you don’t fancy this pattern, Lotus will happily replace it with leather or Alcantara upholstery for an extra fee. Speaking of extras, the options list also includes air conditioning, an in-car entertainment system, full carpet and sound insulation.
Another feature unique to the Sport 350 is the new gearshift mechanism that uses lightweight, machines and cast aluminum components. Making it that much more interesting is that mechanism is no longer hidden within the transmission tunnel, but exposed through an open-gate design. This not only reduces weight, but also enhances the cockpit’s race-inspired appearance.
Not surprisingly, the Sport 350 gets its juice from the same supercharged, 3.5-liter V-6 engine found in all Exige models since 2012. In fact, the unit is identical to the Exige S’, meaning it cranks out the same 345 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the 360 Cup, it’s 10-horsepower less powerful.
As a result of the weight loss, the Sport 360 needs only 3.7 seconds to hit 60 mph and 3.9 seconds to reach 62 mph.
So how come it’s the quickest Exige yet, given it’s not the most powerful? Well, it’s all about the curb weight, which sits at 1,125 kg, a 51-kg reduction compared to the Exige S. By selecting the optional lightweight wheels and cross-drilled brake discs, the weight drops further to 1,115, making it 61 kg lighter than the standard model and 15 gk lighter than the 360 Cup. The main features that contribute to this are the introduction of a louvered tailgate panel, a lighter battery, lightweight engine mounts, a lightweight center console featuring an exposed gearshift mechanism, lighter HVAC pipework, and the optimized use of sound insulation.
As a result of the weight loss, the Sport 360 needs only 3.7 seconds to hit 60 mph and 3.9 seconds to reach 62 mph. That’s a tenth-second improvement over the Exige S. These figures are available for models with the manual gearbox, which has been revised for more precise and quicker shifting. Automatic-equipped models sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds, a tenth-second quicker than the manual version. Top speed remains locked at 170 mph, similar to the Exige S and Exige 360 Cup.
Due to the aerodynamic kit that produces 42 kg of downforce at 100 mph, the firmer dampers, and revised suspension geometry, the Sport 350 is also quick on the race track. According to Lotus , the sports car lapped the Hethel test track in one minute and 29.8 seconds, becoming the first production model to lap the 2.2-mile circuit in less than a minute and a half. The benchmark shaves 2.5 seconds off the Exige S’ record. Quite impressive, but it would be a lot more interesting to see the Sport 350 lap the Nurburgring.
|Type||All alloy, 3.5 litre DOHC V6 VVT-i, 24-valve, equipped with Harrop HTV 1320 Supercharger utilising Eaton TVS™ Technology|
|Max power||345 HP @ 7,000 RPM|
|Max torque||295 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM|
|0-60 mph||3.7 seconds manual (3.7 seconds automatic)|
|Top speed||170 MPH manual (162 MPH automatic)|
Pricing for the Exige Sport 350 starts from £55,900 in the U.K. and from €74,000 in Germany and other European markets. The British sticker makes it £7,095 less expensive than the Exige 360 Cup. Sales of the Sport 350 will commence starting February 2016 in Europe and from March 2016 in other markets, excluding North America.
The GT4 is the latest and most extreme iteration of the Cayman. Its exterior stands out next to its siblings by way of larger air inlets and a massive rear wing, while the interior features sports seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara, and a sports steering wheel. For those looking to spend more time at the track, Porsche can install optional bucket seats made from carbon-fiber, and the Sport Chrono Package.
Under the hood, the Cayman GT4 uses the 3.8-liter, flat-six engine of the 911 Carrera S. The mill cranks out 385 horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission and enables the car to hit 62 mph in 4.2 seconds, which makes it nearly a half-second slower than the Exige Sport 350. On the other hand, the GT4 is capable of significantly higher top speeds, as Porsche claims it can reach 183 mph. The Cayman GT4 starts from £64,451 in the U.K. Unlike the Exige, the GT4 is available Stateside.
Find out more about the Porsche Cayman GT4 here.
Despite being built on a older platform, the Exige remains one of the most exciting sports cars you can buy today, mostly thanks to the numerous improvements Lotus has made to the nameplate over the last two years. And while it might not have the fancy options you can get with the Cayman GT4, it’s significantly lighter and quicker than its German rival, which pretty much makes the Sport 350 the better track toy. If you’re in the market for a no-nonsense sports car that’s also capable as a race car, this Exige is your best option if you live in Mainland Europe or the U.K.
- Lighter than any other Exige
- Quickest Exige in production
- Regular production model
- Significantly quicker than the Cayman GT4
- Exterior nearly identical to other recently launched models
- Not coming to North America
As the ultimate incarnation of the world famous Exige, Lotus has revealed the Sport 350, the latest version of the class-leading and award winning sports car, that’s lighter and faster than ever before.
The new Exige Sport 350 is the next model in the range to mark the reintroduction of the renowned ‘Sport’ naming designation. It joins the recently announced Lotus Elise Sport and Elise Sport 220 – delivering a lighter and even more performance-focused driving experience.
Concentrating on what Lotus does best, and with a focus on pure performance, the two-seater has been developed to deliver an unrivalled experience for the driver, being sharper and more direct than previous models. Drawing on the core elements that have made the Exige a firm favourite with driving enthusiasts, the Exige Sport 350 combines Lotus’ lightweight extruded aluminium chassis structure with muscular and aerodynamically efficient composite bodywork.
A product of Lotus’ ‘Lightweight Laboratory’, the Exige Sport 350 weighs just 1125 kg and has shed 51 kg compared to the previous model Exige S. This reduction in mass is the result of a thorough re-evaluation designed to deliver a pure driving experience.
Lotus engineers weighed every component in the previous Lotus Exige S in order to save weight, the result of which includes, amongst many other changes, the introduction of a louvered tailgate panel, a lighter battery, lightweight engine mounts, a lightweight centre console featuring an exposed gearshift mechanism, lighter HVAC pipework and the optimised use of sound insulation.
Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus plc, commented: “The Lotus Exige is already regarded as one of the world’s best sports cars and a benchmark for performance and handling both on road and on track. With the Exige Sport 350 we took an already phenomenally quick car and made it even faster, more dynamic and more pure, perfectly demonstrating our Lotus design philosophy of ‘lighter and faster’.”
The 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine generates 345 hp and 295lbft of torque at 4500rpm, offering scintillating, progressive power to the road, while revised suspension tuning and wheel geometry contribute to un-matched vehicle dynamics and steering precision. Coupled with the car’s lower mass, this power and torque enables the Lotus Exige Sport 350 to accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds (0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds) before reaching a top speed of 170 mph (274 km/h).
The manual gearbox has been heavily revised, giving more precise and quicker shifting. The gearshift mechanism uses light weight machined and cast aluminium components which are so technically aesthetically appealing they are no longer hidden within the transmission tunnel but exposed through an open-gate design, further reducing weight.
The Lotus Exige Sport 350 is also available with a 6-speed automatic option where drivers can change gears manually via forged aluminium paddles located behind the steering wheel, or rely on the gearbox’s fully automatic mode. The automatic gearbox control panel is integrated neatly into the centre console of the cockpit, with buttons for Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Up-shifts take just 240 milliseconds, with rapid downshifts accompanied by automatic throttle-blip (when in Sport mode).
When fitted with the optional automatic gearbox, the new Exige Sport 350 is slightly quicker for 0-62 mph (0-100km/h), clocking a time of 3.8 seconds against 3.9 seconds for the manual gearbox, due to electronically optimised gearshifts.
Replacing the previous car’s glass tailgate, the newly designed lightweight, strong and stiff, rear louvered tailgate not only helps lower the Exige’s centre of gravity, but also aids engine bay cooling – a feature first introduced on the Lotus Esprit Turbo in 1980.
The Exige Sport 350’s aerodynamic styling produces 42 kg of down force at 100 mph (160 km/h) with the rear wing and flat underside both contributing to its phenomenal aerodynamic performance and finely balanced handling.
The Exige Sport 350’s suspension, with firmer dampers and revised geometry, delivers more responsive handling and, combined with a lowered centre of gravity and four piston brake calipers, help it lap Lotus’ test track 2.5 seconds faster than the previous Exige S model, in a time of 1 minute 29.8 seconds. This makes it the first production Lotus ever to go sub 1 minute 30 seconds around the famed Hethel track.
Lotus Dynamic Performance Management (DPM) provides three discrete modes – ‘Drive’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ – with the latter offering increased levels of traction slip threshold, allowing wider drift angles before intervening. The system also opens the engine exhaust bypass valve at mid-to-high engine speeds. Both ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ settings increase throttle responsiveness.
New larger switches with improved haptics have been introduced for the DPM system (Sport and Race) with the headlights and rear fog lights mounted together with the vehicle’s new engine start button.
New trim packs introduce a heritage theme to the cabin with lightweight sports seats and door panels clad in red or yellow Tartan (leather or Alcantara interior trim options are also available). The Tartan theme was first introduced in 1976 in the Lotus Esprit S1 and was a bold statement originally in keeping with the fashion of the time and now fitting for the new Exige Sport 350.
Optional extras for the Exige Sport 350 include lightweight forged alloy wheels (reducing kerb weight by a further 5 kg), cross drilled and vented two-piece brake discs (shaving yet another 5 kg off the weight), black or yellow painted four-piston callipers, air conditioning, an in-car entertainment system and full carpet and sound insulation pack. Interior packs cover Alcantara, leather and Tartan options, for both seat and door trims. By selecting the lightweight options available the total weight of the Exige Sport 350 becomes a featherweight 1115 kg.
As standard, the front splitter, rear wing, front access panel, roof panel, wing mirrors and rear transom are finished in matt black to complement the car’s aggressive stance; with the option for these components to be painted in body colour at no additional cost.
Jean-Marc Gales continued, “Light weight is the most important aspect of our heritage and future Lotus cars will follow the direction of our most recently launched models, the Evora 400, Elise Sport and of course our latest Exige Sport 350, all of which are both lighter and faster than their predecessors. Over the last 15 years, successive versions of the Lotus Exige have beaten more expensive sports car rivals in media comparison tests and I expect the Exige Sport 350 to continue this. The best has just got better!”
The Lotus Exige Sport 350 goes on sale in Europe in February 2016 and will be available outside Europe, excluding North America from March 2016.