New Exige Sport 350 – Lotus gets its priorities right

Published: 10 December 2015

 51kg weight reduction and 345bhp
 300bhp/tonne, 170mph, 3.7 0-60mph
 Hethel laptime 1min 29.8sec

There, that’s better. Lotus is once again concentrating on doing what it’s always done best: fast, focused and – above all – lightweight sports cars. This is the latest, the Lotus Exige Sport 350.

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So what’s changed for the Lotus Exige Sport 350?

Armed with a tool kit and a set of scales, Lotus has apparently been right through the Exige, to see where components can be made lighter. Updated items include the battery, the engine mounts, the centre console, the HVAC pipework, the sound-deadening and, perhaps most controversially, the tailgate. Gone is the previous pane of glass over the engine, replaced by a slatted plastic panel reminiscent of a Roger Moore-spec Esprit.

We like, but will everybody? The new design does help lower the centre of gravity (it can’t be by much, though, surely?), and aids engine cooling, which is obviously a good thing. And the overall result is a 51kg saving that brings the Exige Sport 350 down to 1125kg.

Option the lightweight forged wheels and the cross-drilled and vented two-piece brake disc upgrade – which represent further savings of 5kg each – and you can drop that to 1115kg. With the supercharged V6 in the back producing 345bhp, performance is going to be brisk.

Read Rowan Atkinson on the Lotus Elan S2 in the CAR+ archive

How fast is the Lotus Exige Sport 350 then? 

0-62mph in 3.7sec fast. The 0-62mph time is slightly complicated by gearbox choice, taking 3.9sec with the standard manual or 3.8sec with the optional automatic – ‘due to electronically optimised gearshifts’. The auto comes with paddles, but we’d take this most minor of performance hits just to enjoy the newly exposed manual gearbox linkage. The naked stick-shifter not only looks better but is supposedly also quicker and more precise.

Top speed for the Exige Sport 350 is 170mph, the weight savings mean it delivers over 300bhp per tonne, and it’s said to produce 42kg of downforce at 100mph (so at least there is an excuse for that wing). Add in the latest version of Lotus’s trick Dynamic Performance Management stability control system, firmer dampers, revised suspension geometry, standard Pirelli P-Zero Corsas and new four-piston AP Racing brake calipers, and you’ve got a car that will lap the Hethel test track in 1min 29.8sec.

No other ‘production’ Lotus has ever done sub 1min 30.

Lovely tartan and exposed gear linkage of Lotus Exige Sport 350

Anything else we should know about the Lotus Exige Sport 350?

Well, you can have the interior finished in red or yellow tartan. Which is quite exciting. (Other more conventional options are available.) And if you don’t like the distinctive matt black sections of the exterior you can have them finished in the same colour as the rest of the bodywork for no additional cost.

Air-conditioning, a CD player and full carpeting will, however, incur an extra charge, not to mention the derision of know-it-alls down the pub.

What’s the price of the Lotus Exige Sport 350 and when does it go on sale?

UK prices for the Exige Sport 350 start at £55,900. The coupe goes on sale in February 2016 – but we’ll have a first drive review live on the CAR website next week. 

A Lotus Exige 350 Sport Roadster is expected in March 2016.

We’ve now driven the Sport 350 – read CAR’s Lotus Exige Sport 350 review here.

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count