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Blooming hell. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Blooming hell
Lotus has raised the ante of its track-focus Exige once more. This one's called the Cup 260 and it's better than ever.

   



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| First Drive | Hethel, England | Lotus Exige Cup 260 |

Excluding research prototypes like the 265E, race cars and one-offs, we count ten different versions of the series-two Exige since it burst onto the scene in 2003. Some stand out more than others, notably the limited edition 240R and the Exige S. The latest variant, the Exige Cup 260, began life as the 'Lotus Sport Exige Cup 260' of 2008, but there's been so much demand that it's been put into series production. For a cool 46,945.

In the Metal

Incredibly, for such a distinctive looking car, the Exige hasn't really aged. Its shape is tense with aggression and the stance suggests it belongs on the track as much as it does the road. In Cup 260 guise (decals aside) the visual differentiators are all due to weight saving measures. So, the roof panel, tailgate, front access panels, splitter, side air ducts and rear spoiler are all made out of carbon fibre, the use of which saves 12kg in total and adds an even more menacing black theme to the Exige's styling. The ultra lightweight 12-spoke forged alloys save a massive 10kg over the (hardly lardy) regular forged wheels too.

The weight saving regime continues inside, with a one-piece carbon fibre dashboard panel and a composite rear panel where the window usually resides. Useless as that window was, its presence mandated the fitment of a rear view mirror, which has therefore been binned for the Cup 260. It's not all about removal of equipment either, as this car comes as standard with a set of rather special lightweight seats (more on that later).

What you get for your Money

Don't expect a list of standard equipment. There isn't even air conditioning as standard, though we'd advise you to invest in the optional system. Lotus's cheeky slogan for this range-topping car is 'add lightness to increase performance', which is another way of saying you pay more for less. That's missing the point somewhat, as the expense of this car is justified by the bespoke nature of many of its components. Along with the weight saving measures listed above, a tiny motorsport battery saves 5kg over the regular item, the revised engine sub-frame features a lightweight coating, the supercharger U-bends are made from a light alloy and mass is even shaved off the flywheel.

Driving it

On first acquaintance, that lightened flywheel makes moving off from a standstill a little more difficult, though you soon learn to use more revs and it's not exactly difficult to drive, even in traffic. Admittedly the track-focused chassis isn't at its best dropping into urban potholes, but it's bearable. Not that you'll want to spend any precious time behind the wheel of the Cup 260 in town.

The Exige, in all its iterations, has never failed to excite when it comes to tackling a track. The Cup 260 is essentially more of the same. No other car conveys to its driver what's happening at the interface of rubber and tarmac with such clarity as the Exige. At normally quick speeds, that message is usually 'yup, still gripping', but it doesn't take long before you'll feel comfortable to push the Cup beyond its tyres' limits. You'll have plenty of warning too and even if you hadn't the car's chassis responds instantly to the smallest inputs of correction.

Front-end grip is astounding, but even that is put in the shade by the Exige's traction out of tighter corners. In its most simple format, the Exige exhibits this trait thanks to the mid-engined weight distribution, but in Cup 260 form there's a torque-sensing limited slip differential and Lotus Traction Control as standard. The latter's playfulness can be varied in about 30 steps - from fully on to fully off - and though the car has enough torque to maintain a rear-end drift, the truth is that it will only do so if you provoke it. As ever, the Exige's brakes are unflappable and the middle pedal is as firm as it is easy to modulate. This is the consummate trackday toy you can drive to the event and home again without worrying too much about brake pad and tyre wear.

Worth Noting

You may have noticed the orange 'HANS' motif on the headrests of the Cup's seats. Those cushioned panels are removable so your helmeted head isn't pushed forward in the seat and, when mounted solidly, these seats comply with HANS and FIA racing regulations. Lotus Sport is particularly proud of these, as they conform to all the regulations, are cheaper than the Recaro equivalent and are much slimmer. They will accommodate three-, four- or six-point racing harnesses as well. Odds are that Lotus will find plenty of willing buyers for these items.

Summary

A surprising number of changes result in the Exige Cup 260. Its abilities won't be alien to anyone familiar with any one of the ten Exige S2 variants before it, but it raises the car's on-track ability another little bit, ensuring that it remains one of the most exciting trackday cars that can still be used on the road. It doesn't take much to convert the Cup into a fully-fledged race car either. None of that comes cheap though.

Shane O' Donoghue - 9 Jul 2009



  www.grouplotus.com    - Lotus road tests
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2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260 specifications:
Price: 46,945 on-the-road
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Top speed: 152mph
Combined economy: 31.0mpg
Emissions: 216g/km
Kerb weight: 890kg

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Lotus Exige Cup 260. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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