The Lotus Exige Cup 380 Is Too Much Fun To Be Street Legal

The Lotus Exige Cup 380

It’s as simple as this: Lotus fought the law, and the law won. Over a decade ago, the company requested, and received, a series of exemptions to American auto-safety regulations.

The Lotus Exige Cup 380

These exemptions, which covered areas as diverse as the front bumper and the airbag system, were granted in recognition of the fact that Lotus is a very small company that sells very small quantities of enthusiast automobiles to people who are perfectly aware of what they are getting for their money. This was an eminently sensible policy, and it permitted the men from Hethel to bring us certain versions of the Elise, Exige, and Evora sports cars.

To overcome the problem posed by this moronic and stubborn legislative recalcitrance, Lotus re-engineered its Evora from the chassis on up for US-market compliance. The Evora 400 and Evora Sport 410 that resulted were very much worth the wait and are, in this author’s opinion, the purest and most involving road-legal automobiles sold in this country. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Lotus could not muster the resources to apply a similar transformation to its Elise and Exige. Not yet, anyway.

The Exige absolutely bristles with carbon fiber both inside and out. One of the more interesting pieces is the ultra-thin trim piece that covers the aluminum doorsills. “Makes it easier to get in and out,” Gales notes, although for your oft-injured author the process is still more than a bit awkward and I managed to scar the doorsill with the nails in the heel of my shoe. During the press presentation, Gales refers frequently to hundred-gram weight savings in various parts.

Even the shifter linkage came in for review; it is now made of aluminum forgings and is left exposed to the eye by empty spaces in the console that, of course, also save weight. The brake discs are two-piece, steel friction surfaces bolted to an aluminum “top hat.” My experience with the consciously oversized AP Racing system as fitted to the Exige and Evora is that fade is nonexistent and feel is outstanding.

It combines the right-now stopping power of the carbon-disc systems used elsewhere with service costs that won’t cause spontaneous heart attacks. It’s only possible, of course, because the cars are light compared to their competition.