Lotus has unveiled what it says is the fastest Exige it has ever made. The top-of-the-range Exige Sport 380 will hit 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standstill in just 3.5 seconds and maxes out at 178 mph (286 km/h). It has been designed to compete with what Lotus terms "six-figure supercars."

The British marque say it used the Exige Sport 350 as the starting point for the newest member of the Exige family, the 350 having already given the Exige a more performance-oriented slant and having already been further refined as the Exige 350 Special Edition. The Exige Sport 380, however, has more power, less weight and improved aerodynamics.

The Exige Sport 380 is powered by the same supercharged V6 engine as the Exige Sport 350, but it produces 375 hp (280 kW) and 410 Nm (302 lb.ft) of torque, compared to 345 hp (257 kW) and 400 Nm (295 lb.ft). This is down to a modified supercharger, fuel pump, engine control unit and exhaust system.

Taking advantage of that additional power, the weight-loss program enacted by Lotus has seen carbon fiber components used wherever possible. These include the front splitter, front access panel, rear wing and rear diffuser surround. Elsewhere, a polycarbonate rear window, forged wheels and grooved two-piece brake discs all help to trim some fat away, resulting in a kerb-weight of 1,110 kg (2,450 lb).

Indeed, it's possible to further reduce that even further to 1,100 kg (2,430 lb), with a variety of optional extras that includes a titanium exhaust system and a one-piece carbon roof panel with a carbon louvered tailgate.

Even more is squeezed out of the engine by way of aerodynamic refinements that give the 380 a remarkable 60 percent more downforce at its top speed than the 350. Front canard wings, a carbon rear wing and blades behind the rear wheels combine to produce 140 kg (309 lb) of downforce flat-out. A carbon front spoiler and rubber lip spoiler have been tweaked to reduce pressure under the vehicle, meanwhile, and the airflow into the front inlets and out of the horizontally-mounted hood outlets has been adjusted, too.

The 380 has a six-speed manual gearbox with oil-cooled gears that allow for smoother changes at an optimal temperature. A semi-automatic with flappy paddles is also available, but it adds a little weight to the car.

Drivers can use Lotus' Dynamic Performance Management system to select "Sport" and "Race" settings, which basically leave more room for driver control (and error) before the car's automated systems kick-in, while mechanical rather than electronic systems are aimed at creating a more driver-oriented experience. The use of carbon fiber for the bodywork, meanwhile, is said to have helped lower the car's center of gravity and improve handling.

The Exige Sport 380 is available in 10 different colors, with an optional accent pack for highlighting details in one of five other colors. The carbon fiber theme is pulled through to the interior sports seats and there's also a integrated entertainment system with Bluetooth connectivity.

The Exige Sport 380 is available as a roadster or optionally as a coupe. Prices start from £67,900 (US$84,200).

Source: Lotus

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