Lotus Exige goes on a diet, with the Sport 350
Lotus has unveiled the Exige Sport 350 model with full specifications and a price starting at £55,900 (US$84,848). The Exige Sport 350 is the latest revival of the "Sport" name for the carmaker and weighs in at 51 kg (112.5 lb) lighter than the Exige S.
The Lotus Exige Sport 350 follows on with the the Elise Sport, which the automaker revealed in November 2015. Along the same vein, the Exige Sport is lighter, faster, and includes heritage interior options.
The Exige Sport 350 uses the same extruded aluminum chassis and composite bodywork of the standard Exige, but takes a more performance-oriented slant with weight reduction measures not seen in the Exige S. A louvered tailgate panel, lighter battery, lightweight engine mounts, less filling to the center console, lighter climate pipework, and less sound insulation were the primary means through which the Sport model went on its beach body diet.
This 51 kilo loss in weight translates to a 0-60 mph time of just 3.7 seconds, a 0-100 km/h speed of 3.9 seconds, and a top speed of 170 mph (274 km/h). This new Lotus Exige Sport 350 beat the best Lotus Exige S model's track time on the Lotus test track by a full 2.5 seconds. The Exige Sport is the first Lotus to beat 1:30 on the Hethel track.
Other changes that affect that speed are revisions to the manual gearbox, which has been upgraded to improve shift throw. The workings of the gearshift mechanism, says Lotus, are so beautifully designed that they were left open for the driver and passenger to see. This open-gate design was part of the car's weight reduction as well. A five-speed automatic is available, which includes forged aluminum paddle shifting. The automatic has a quicker shifting time (upshifts in 240 milliseconds), so its 0-100 km/h time is about a tenth faster at 3.8s.
The Lotus Exige S' 3.5-liter supercharged V6 remains in place on the Sport 350, with an output of 345 horsepower (257 kW) and 295 pound-feet of torque (400 Nm). Revised suspension tuning for the lighter weight was also done.
Bodywork revisions are mainly in the rear tailgate, which has had its large panel of glass removed to be replaced by a composite, louvered tailgate to both improve aerodynamics and reduce weight. This also lowers the Exige Sport's center of gravity compared to the S model and improves airflow over the engine for cooling. The upgrades improved aerodynamic downforce at the rear to 42 kg (92.5 lb) at 100 mph (160 km/h).
As with the Lotus Elise Sport, the Exige Sport also has a heritage theme trim with lightweight sport seats and door panels clad in red or yellow tartan. These harken back to 1976 when the Lotus Espirit S1 debuted the tartan colors. With that model's Turbo offering being the inspiration for many of the changes to create the Exige Sport, the interior fitting seems appropriate.
There are further lightweight options for the Exige Sport 350, including lighter-weight wheels (5 kg reduction) and cross-drilled and vented brake discs (another 5 kg). Other options, which add weight, can be put on the Exige Sport for comfort. These include air conditioning, in-car infotainment, and a full carpet kit with insulation.
The Lotus Exige Sport 350 enters European showrooms in February 2016 and moves to other markets, including North America, in March. The Roadster option also comes in March.
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