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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Extracting maximum standing-start straight-line performance from the Sport 390 is a matter of dialling up around 4000rpm, then side-stepping the clutch pedal, marvelling at how well the rear tyres hook up and then ensuring you don’t trip over yourself while minimising shift times using the short-throw gearlever.

On a warm, dry day at MIRA, our test car managed 0-60mph in 4.0sec against Lotus’s claim of 3.7sec, although the factory figure is achieved with scant fuel on board whereas Autocar records performance figures with a full tank.

Such is the aural violence when the exhaust valve opens that some of the staff at MIRA, watching us lap the Dunlop circuit from a distance, asked whether this was a new hybrid, only switching its V6 on sporadically

The Exige then took 9.4sec to reach triple figures – 0.6sec shy of the time set by the more powerful BMW M2 CS in similar conditions, but if you want something to trouble not just specialised sports cars but also bona fide supercars, the Cup 430 beckons.

As for the Sport 390, there are quicker cars in this price bracket, but none by much, and few if any possess the same flexibility. The gearing in this Lotus is reasonably long – third will take you beyond 90mph and fourth stretches from barely above single-digit speeds to the far side of 120mph – but the supercharged displacement of the V6 and the lightness of chassis mean you’ll rarely be caught short for acceleration.

On our favoured metric for tractability (30-70mph in fourth), the Exige matches the M2 CS to the tenth. It manages to do so because although torque is no greater than that of the old Sport 350, the rev band in which this fettled V6 reaches its 311lb ft peak is now much larger, ranging from 3000rpm to 6700rpm.

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Stopwatch aside, this deep well of torque, along with sharp throttle response, also helps make the Exige feel so enjoyable and weightless. You spend less time ensuring you’re in the right gear and more time leaning on the superb chassis. You might even deliberately gear up, to allow the engine speed to drop, and then rip past 4500rpm – the point at which the valves in the exhaust open and the car’s tail unleashes a wall of noise.

Special mention must also go to the way this final Exige stops. Its AP Racing brake set-up has feel and precision – and power. From 70mph, it brings the car to a stop in just 42.2m, versus 43.7m for the M2 CS. Mind you, neither gets close to the Dallara Stradale, which managed a jowl-yanking 39.4m, albeit on very serious Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres.