Is it really a ‘supercar killer’?
So is this any more than the Exige Sport 350 with 375bhp? It is. It’s more than that, More than just a lighter, better looking version with 30bhp more. As Lotus matures it seems to make more and more comprehensive overhauls to every new model and the Sport 380 is no exception.
The wondrous, lightweight chassis and body of the 350 remain, but they’ve been added to with lots of carbonfibre all over, from front splitter to massive rear wing. As well as losing weight and improving the looks yet further, all this helps add downforce, to the extent that to really find out what it can do, you’ll need to be on a racetrack.
Lotus Exige Sport 380
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, supercharged, petrol
Gearbox: Six-sped manual
Top speed: 178mph
Economy: 28.0mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 242g/km
At that point you might want to add the Track Pack, with its adjustable dampers and Eibach anti-roll bars. But on the road without them you have a car that is the purest of pure sports car fun. As well as the extra 30bhp there is smidge more torque but it feels noticeably torquier than before. This adds to the linear power delivery, making it stronger for longer, and who wouldn’t want that?
That power is propelling a car that is just so light and so sorted that you feel totally plugged in. You’re playing this game, you’re not a bystander. It’s sort of intimate too, as if the car really is an extension of you. No part of the car feels very far away and every element is telling you what it’s up to.
But while this is a car that is perfect for the racetrack there aren’t many downsides to running it on the road. There is no take-no-prisoner toughness to the handling or ride, they’re both perfectly okay on the road and of course the steering is beyond complaint.
The seats contain carbonfibre and probably weigh as much as an inflatable chair, but they’re also surprisingly comfy for journeys of decent duration. It feels a comfortable and well-appointed cabin, more than you might imagine. You even get Bluetooth for heaven’s sake. What next, vibrating seats?
We’re a long way for that. Look at the exposed gear linkage, leading to the six-speed manual working the 3.5-litre supercharged V6, it’s beautiful and functional. And you’ll enjoy the sound of that meaty engine as it growls or howls, depending on how much you’ve fed it.
There is a lot of road noise to go with that, but you probably wouldn’t expect S Class levels of silence in a Lotus. It all adds to the sense of theatre. And theatre is what you get, it’s like the first night of a new performance every time you go out, whether that is away for the weekend or on a track day.
At one level you might think this is crazy, a stripped-down track machine that costs £68,000 from a company that has a reputation for not indulging your comfort at all, while building in the odd squeak and rattle. But Lotus isn’t like that now.
Sure, you get minimal luxury, but there’s enough here now to keep you comfortable over the miles, and it’s all better made than ever. So if it’s not quite sensible it’s not as crazy an idea as it used to be. And to that practicality you can add one of the most exhilarating experiences you will ever have at the wheel of a car. It’s that good, the handling that sublime, the engine that potent in this lightweight missile. In fact, when you look at it, the Exige Sport 380 has very little competition and looks like excellent value for money.