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First drive: Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.

First drive: Lotus Exige Cup 430
You donít strictly need the extra edge of the Exige Cup 430 over the Sport 410, but youíll really, really want it.


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Lotus Exige Cup 430

5 5 5 5 5

Last year, we drove the phenomenal Lotus Exige Sport 410 and wondered why you'd stump up the extra £20,700 required to sit in the oh-so-similar Cup 430. Well, now we know... and boy, do we know.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Lotus Exige Cup 430
Pricing: Exige range from £59,600, Cup 430 as tested from £100,600
Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 230g/km (VED Band 226-255: £1,850 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 27.7mpg
Top speed: 174mph
0-62mph: 3.3 seconds
Power: 436hp at 7,000rpm
Torque: 440Nm at 4,000-6,800rpm
Boot space: 112 litres

What's this?

A six-figure Lotus, and the most accelerative and outright intense car the company offers, as at the time of writing. This is the Cup 430, the apogee of a three-strong Exige range than kicks off with the Sport 350 and runs through the aforementioned Sport 410 to this beast. Spotting one, though, won't be the work of a moment, because externally it looks little different to the Sport 410. Aside from the rather obvious 'Cup 430' graphics and little 'TOW' arrows on the front and rear of the car, what you're looking for are subtle enhancements of the aerodynamic package. Like the flics on the ends of a front splitter that has slightly more 'jut' to it than the Sport 410's item, like the skirts running underneath the sills of the car in between the wheels, and - most obviously of all - like the fixed rear spoiler, which is a flat-plane affair here, rather than the Sport 410's more curvaceous effort. What's more eye-catching about this particular Cup 430 is its beautiful Vivid Green paint, counterbalanced in this instance by black detailing; the whole livery really does highlight the extreme and singularly purposeful shape of the Exige wonderfully well.

Inside, and let us tell you that getting there is not the work of an idle moment, what with all the crazy contortion and pained expressions you'll pull trying to shoehorn your way through the Exige's tiny door apertures, it's the same bare-basics cockpit as on the Sport 410, although carbon-fibre sills (instead of leather-topped affairs) further heighten the GT-racer ambience. Lotsa Alcantara and a seating position to die for in the fantastic bucket seats - they leave you ensconced entirely by the Lotus, as you sit down on the floor and embraced by the doors and centre tunnel - both manage to overcome the dated instrument pack, old Vauxhall column stalks and an interior bereft of pretty much anything. And anyway, we'd forgive a car the most egregious of sins if it had an exposed gear linkage that was as exquisite as the one in the Exige. Given that the Lotus doesn't commit any such sin in the first place, then we're happy to give the cabin a big thumbs up.

How does it drive?

The aero package is more tailored on the Cup 430 than it is on the Sport 410 but this car generates no more downforce than its twenty-grand-cheaper sibling, summoning up a maximum 171kg at its top speed of 174mph; there is the neat fact that the Cup 430 possesses as much downforce at 100mph as the entry-level Sport 350 does at its 170mph V-max, but otherwise this is not demonstrably any more 'glued' to the tarmac than the Sport 410. Similarly, the Cup 430 is no lighter, either, an official quoted kerb weight of 1,110kg again matching the £79,900 Exige's figure.

There are 'hidden' differences between the Sport and Cup Exiges, if you go looking through the technical details to find them, such as revised steering-arm geometry to increase bump-steer, Nitron three-way adjustable (both high- and low-speed compression, plus rebound) dampers, Eibach adjustable front and rear anti-roll bars, and ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels wrapped in 215/45 ZR17 front, 285/30 ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (which is the same rubber as the Sport 410, even if the wheels themselves aren't identical). Further, forged four-piston AP Racing brake callipers are installed up front, gripping the two-piece, J-hook discs, while inside there's a T45 steel rollover bar, a 1.2kg-lighter seatbelt anchorage frame, a lithium-ion battery, a baffled sump and a front towing eye. Lotus says if you add the optional electrical cut-off switch and the plumbed-in fire extinguisher, then only the addition of a rollcage is required to meet the entry rules for officially sanctioned motorsport events. When other companies merely hint at or say 'a race car for the road', Lotus actually means it.

So then the main upgrade to this car is the '430' numeric (representing its brake horsepower, rather than just horsepower) in its model name. The mid-mounted, 3.5-litre, supercharged V6 engine sourced from Toyota is given boosts of 20hp and 30Nm over and above the Sport 410, the Cup 430's peak outputs of 436hp and 440Nm allowing for a 0.3-second quicker 0-62mph time (3.3 seconds). Lotus also fits a 240mm-diameter clutch to the gearbox, increasing the plate's surface area by 11 per cent, and then bolts a 10kg-lighter titanium exhaust system to the Cup 430 as standard.

The results are, predictably, scintillating. Breathtaking, even. Mainly the noise of the Exige Cup 430, which - when various flaps in the pipes open at 4,500rpm - suddenly erupts into a soundtrack of such savage violence that you can't help but laugh out loud the first time you hear it. You get the induction snarl of the big engine, the whine of the supercharger and the metallic rasping of the titanium exhaust, all converging in an automotive symphony that is outrageously appealing. And, with an increased power-to-weight ratio of 393hp-per-tonne, this car is emphatically not 'all mouth and no trousers', because the Exige Cup 430 will haul madly around the tacho in all of its first four gears of that sublime clickety-clack gearbox.

The handling is as per the Sport 410, only a touch sharper still, which means there are few cars on Earth than can corner with as much talent, reward and sheer joy as the Exige Cup 430. Turn-in through the unassisted, perfectly weighted steering is so crisp and immediate that the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of the word 'instantaneous' ought to simply read 'A Lotus Exige Cup 430's resistance to understeer', while you get a constant barrage of feedback from the bucking, writhing Alcantara wheel in your hands - this couples to even more feel through the base of the seat, meaning a driver cannot fail to form a deep and thrilling rapport with the informative Lotus. All of the brakes, the damping and the body control are right up at the highest echelons of modern engineering, and so the overall result is that the Exige Cup 430 is possibly the most edifying car you could be at the wheel of if you're on your favourite stretch of road, the weather is favourable and no one is looking your way. It is sports car genius, this.

Why it's so utterly loveable, though, is that it's surprisingly benign when you want and need it to be. For all its overtly aggressive-looking appearance and uncompromising cabin, the ride quality of the Exige Cup 430 is once again demonstrative of that eerie Lotus damping magic, the coupe managing to smooth out appalling road surfaces into quite palatable comportment. Oh, sure, it's not as urbane and as liveable with as many of the Exige's more 'mainstream' competitors, mainly because there's a lot of tyre and suspension noise as the Cup rolls along, while the V6 engine is almost sitting in the passenger compartment with you. But while it's always quite noisy and the suspension is obviously understandably firm, there's no way a track-focused monster like this should ride with anything like the grace it actually does on the public highway. That is the Exige Cup 430's masterstroke: it is wildly extreme and yet disarmingly liveable, all at the same time.


If you're a keen driver, you'd probably be happy with an Exige Sport 350. We know you'd definitely be ecstatic with a Sport 410, because we'd sell internal organs without compunction, just to own one. But having now experienced its specific blend of hyperactive charms, it's the Cup 430 which rightly deserves top billing in the Lotus Exige line-up. Frankly, at £100,600, this car's a snip - because you will not find anything even remotely road-legal that's any more dynamically talented than this British creation for all the money in the world. The Cup is thoroughly mesmerising from start to finish.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Passenger Space

1 1 1 1 1 Luggage Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 9 Jul 2020    - Lotus road tests
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2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.

2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.2020 Lotus Exige Cup 430. Image by Lotus.


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