19 January 2005

Meet the most hardcore Lotus ever – the Sport Exige. Unwrapped at the Autosport International show at the NEC last week, this 400bhp rocket breaks new ground for Hethel and heralds the possibility of a more potent Exige armed with V6 power.

The Sport Exige is a one off, but its familiar curves hint at a commonality with the standard Exige which is born out under its skin. Starting with the same extruded aluminium chassis design, Lotus has widened both front and rear tracks, added adjustable suspension, adjustable dampers, magnesium wheels and panelled the lot in lightweight carbonfibre. More crucially, the standard Exige’s 2300mm wheelbase has been stretched by 200mm to make room for a GM-sourced 3.0-litre V6 racing engine mounted longways behind the driver’s head. This is a high-revving, narrow-angle unit producing 400bhp at 7750rpm and 294lb ft of torque at 6500rpm. In the pared-down 850kg Sport Exige, that translates into 470bhp per tonne – enough to make this Exige capable of 60mph in under four seconds.

According to Lotus Sport general manager Chris Arnold, Lotus Cars has so far shown no formal interest in turning the Sport Exige into a production car. ‘This is a pure race car,’ he told Autocar, ‘it doesn’t even have a handbrake.’ It does, however, set a precedent for a small, track-biased, multi-cylinder Lotus. ‘Everyone at Hethel has been wowed by the car,’ said Arnold.

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