It is something to behold, especially in the Gulf Blue and Olive Green of our test cars. Even in Sport 410 guise, the Exige remains a diminutive device, but an enormous rear wing, peaked front fenders and a carbon splitter mean it casts an impishly brutal shadow. There’s an element of endurance-racing here.
Climbing aboard with any grace is still a challenge, largely because you’ve got to get over the wide sill of the extruded-aluminium tub and then, in the case of the coupé, under the roof and, from there, so very far down into the Alcantara buckets. The aperture is quite small, but the cabin doesn’t feel particularly cramped once you’re in.
It does feel better put together than Exiges past, however. The switchgear is still basic but there’s not a rattle, buzz or squeak to be heard in our car once on the move. You also get Lotus’s six-speed, open-gate manual, with its tall aluminium gearstick. What a joy it is to use, although the manner in which the mechanism is sprung does mean third and fifth gears can sometimes get muddled.
On the open road, the effortless pace a ducking and weaving Sport 410 can generate is nothing short of obscene. It this sense, it’s much like any other Exige, but the big change from the Sport 380 is the switch from two-way to three-way adjustable dampers, which can now be manually set not only for rebound but also for high and low-speed compression. Along with Eibach adjustable anti-roll bars, the chassis is otherwise pure Cup 430.
The Nitron dampers make quite a difference, too. This car’s road manners are such that you can really get on top of the performance even on poorly surfaced roads. More pertinently for road racers, on the sun-drenched routes around the firm’s Hethel factory, the notion of running a Sport 410 as a daily car seems entirely reasonable. It’s not necessarily that you marvel at how refined the thing is, just that you’re not constantly being made aware that you’re driving a massively uncompromising car by normal standards. That is some trick Lotus has pulled off.
The body control is still uniquely close, mind, and as such you still feel everything to a fairly high degree. However, at more steady speeds, it’s as if somebody has slid rubber film between the track day-spec Michelin Pliot Sport Cup 2 tyres and the road surface — despite the wheel control of the lightweight double-wishbone suspension remaining mesmerically crisp.
With just a few clicks of those dampers, you could, of course, set your Sport 410 to ride and handle in precisely the same manner as a Cup 430, and it’s that versatility that perhaps makes the less expensive car the more appealing proposition.
It's with such a set-up that Lotus sends us out onto its factory test track. Direction changes remain vividly sharp, but it’s the grip of the front axle and the unbreakable traction of the rear that stick in the mind. The Sport 410 is a hugely competent, quick and supremely agile car to drive on track, so our only real criticism would be that perhaps its limits are now just a fraction too high for this chassis to be easily exploitable.