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The six-year journey that ends with this final iteration of the third-generation Exige is somewhat convoluted.
First, we had the V6 S. That was replaced in 2015 by a Sport 350 model, for which Lotus removed a substantial amount of weight and improved the gearshift mechanism. A year later, the Sport 380 arrived. Toyota’s 3.5-litre V6 had been stoked, yet more kilos were consigned to the bin, thanks to a generous helping of carbonfibre bodywork and there was now an aero package.
To drive, it was fabulous. And there were Cup and Race versions for those of a more dedicated or downright diehard attitude to trackdays.
Then, last year, we drove a hardcore Cup 430 version. This variant, with revamped suspension, more downforce still and even less weight, was the quickest street-legal Exige yet. It cost £100,000, was utterly beguiling on track but rightly compromised as a tool for the road.
Which brings us to the car you see here, the Sport 410. Think of it as a detuned, road-ready Cup 430 rather than an exalted Sport 380, the car it replaces in the range. Based on past form, some of you might expect Lotus to do a volte-face and unveil an Exige Sport 440 next year, but this one really is the last of the line, according to CEO Jean-Marc Gales.
With various carbonifbre options fitted on top of the standard carbon shell seats and elements of the silhouette, it weighs a paltry 1054kg dry and yet develops 410bhp. You can even order this car without an airbag (saving 2.5kg); in the hardcore weight weenie stakes, this rather shades Porsche’s penchant for using a sticker for the crest rather than enamel badge.
Talking of Porsche, during a pre-drive brief at Lotus HQ in Hethel, Gales reminds us that for a 911 to match the power-to-weight ratio of an Exige Sport 410, it would need more than 600bhp. That would be the GT2 RS, then.
Interrogate the graphs and you’ll notice power delivery isn’t quite as peaky as it is in the Cup 430, but then the torque curve is now more or less flat from 3000rpm almost to the red line. The driveline has also been tickled to allow the car to hit 60mph in second gear in a time that’s just a shade over three seconds. In the Sport 380, you needed to snag third, stunting the sprint time, but a Sport 410 will level peg with a McLaren F1.
Top speed is 180mph if you go for the coupé and 145mph for the roadster. In the former, you’ll be making 150kg of downforce at that point (90kg at the rear, 60kg at the front). By comparison, a Cup 430 makes more than 200kg. The extended aluminium rear diffuser, flat underbody and carbon front splitter are all shared with the more expensive car, as is the design of the widened front intakes and carbonfibre ‘air curtains’.
The track day theme continues with the unimpeachable AP Racing brakes, whose discs feature a J-hook design used to clear debris; you’ll see the same on some sports car racers.
Optionally available are a titanium exhaust (saving 10kg) and carbonfibre barge-boards, as well as an electrical cutout, fire-extinguisher controls, a four-point harness and an FIA-compliant roll-cage. Flying the flag for this car’s duality are the options of iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, cruise control, sound insulation and air conditioning. You can further dial out the aural underbody impact of road debris by specifying full carpets and floor mats for £450.