A Lotus Exige Sport 410 and a race track is an extremely hard proposition to turn down. When that race track is Mount Panorama, it’s impossible.
In the second review of Mostly Lotus Week, I can tell you what it was like to drive an Exige 410. Along with 120 Lotus owners and their significant others and friends (sometimes the SOs were cars…) at the 2019 Lotus Only track day.
Bathurst’s Mount Panorama hosts four big race events every year and the track stays closed to traffic for a week after the Bathurst 12 Hour. This means car companies like Porsche, well-heeled supercar owners and, in this case, Lotus customers with $1395 in their back pockets can try Bathurst for themselves.
Being the absolute cad I am, Lotus invited me to find out what a Lotus ONly track day is like. You can read about that here. You can also read about my first ever blast around Bathurst with me in charge of a car, the Elise Cup 250.
What is an Exige Sport 410?
The answer is both simple and complicated.
The simple answer is that it’s an Elise with a Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6 with a supercharger bolted in by the loons at Hethel. Except it isn’t that simple, obviously. That would be mad.
At first glance, the bodywork looks largely similar, but the closer you get, you see the differences. The Exige is longer by 260mm with a wheelbase stretched by 70mm to 2370mm. You need space to fit that V6. It’s also 83mm wider.
So, yes, it’s a V6 Elise, but it’s more than that.
How much is a Lotus Exige Sport 410 and what do I get?
Exige Sport 350: $139,500
Exige Sport 410: $159,900
Given you probably have functioning eyes, the word “Sport” in the car’s name is the most amusing redundancy in motoring history. A car that looks like this is hardly a boulevarde cruiser. The 410 in the name reflects the horsepower but this version plugs a gap between the 350 and hardcore 430.
As with the Elise, the standard inclusions list is limited. You get air-conditioning, an alarm, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, leather steering wheel and handbrake, partial leather trim, electric windows and LED taillights.
What you don’t get is flab – the Exige 410 weighs just 1110kg for a mighty power-to-weight ratio.
Again, it’s a fairly slim offering. Given the age of the platform and a series of company owners who weren’t very helpful, is unsurprising.
The Exige has two airbags, ABS and stability control.
No ANCAP safety rating, EuroNCAP or even IIHS ratings. Not uncommon for this kind of exotica and, as we all know, the aluminium tub is exceptionally strong.
Warranty and Servicing
Lotus Cars Australia has been in the capable hands of importer Simply Sports Cars for the past couple of years. The previous importer was not exactly committed to the brand and offered the minimum enforceable by law, which was a 12-month warranty.
New Lotus buyers get the 333 program – three-year warranty, three years/45,000km of scheduled servicing and three years of roadside assist. You do not get that with BMW, Audi or Mercedes, especially not on their fast stuff.
Yes, it would be nice if the warranty lasted longer, especially at this price, but you’re hardly buying a Lotus with one eye on the warranty.
Well, I hope not, anyway.
Lotus Cars Australia does keep an eye on aftermarket bits, so be careful about that as it might void the agreement.
Look and Feel
You can obviously see the Elise in the front end of the car, but the bodywork is quite different when you get up close. Deeper front air dams, slightly recessed lights and a more pronounced radiator exit. The front grilles are wider, the splitter huge and little air curtains sprout at the sides to guide air around the front wheels.
The big rear wing is adjustable and when you get down the back for a good look, the Exige’s backside is all about aero.
The interior is where you see most of the similarities between the two cars. It’s basically the same, except darker because the rear screen is full of engine.
The Cup 250’s open gate gear shift is the same and you can see all the same bits and pieces, right down to the GM-sourced indicator stalks and the shape of the seats. It’s, er, very clean but a couple of small details aside, pretty much timeless. Everything works, but then again, there isn’t a lot to work.
The bits you touch – gearshift and steering wheel – are lovely. The cool alloy of the shifter looks terrific too. Like an Alfa 4C‘s exposed carbon fibre, the extruded aluminium chassis is on display and it’s glorious.
Chassis and aerodynamics
Front and rear double wishbones keep everything off the deck and are, of course, made of aluminium. Lotus loves Eibach springs while the dampers are from fan favourite, Nitron.
The three-way shocks are adjustable for compression while the Eibach anti-roll bars are also tweakable.
The 410 has 17-inch front wheels and 18-inch rears and Lotus says they’re ultra-lightweight, fully machined forged aluminium wheels. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s are onboard, 215/45 at the front and 285/30 at the rear.
The ultra-quick steering – 2.86 turns lock-to-lock – ensures a pretty pointy kind of experience.
Braking is by AP Racing two-piece J-hook discs and four-piston calipers at the front and they’re painted red.
Between the front splitter, rear diffuser and huge wing and various other aero bits, the Exige produces 115kg of downforce. Admittedly at 280km/h, but that’s still good going for a road car.
The Exige 410 runs the excellent 3.5-litre 2GR-FE V6. Fitted with a supercharger and the usual Lotus ECU magic, it produces an impressive 305kW at 7000rpm and 420Nm from 3500rpm. While these are big numbers, you have to remember that at just 1110kg, all that power means an impressive of 275kW/tonne.
With a six-speed manual transmission bolted into the back of the transverse, mid-mounted V6, the 410 will hit 100km/h in 3.4 seconds.
Top speed is the same as the 430, reaching 280km/h.
The main difference between the 350’s V6 is the addition of chargecooling for the extra power and an ECU map.
The step up to the Exige is startling. Bumbling down pit lane, it all felt very familiar bar the slightly more settled ride that I am possibly inventing in my head.
Like the Cup 250 I drove, the Exige arrived after coming up to Bathurst the long way. The team checked it over and it was ready for the Mountain. You can’t say that about many cars that can do what the Exige is about to do.
Now, obviously, I am not a highly experienced racing driver. I was still buzzing from laps in the Elise when stepped into the Exige. As soon as I was released from pit lane and on to Mountain Straight, the huge power and torque jumps were immediately obvious. The Exige accelerates as though rammed from behind by the truck from Duel.
After a gentle installation lap with the pack, during which I kept testing the acceleration, we were unleashed.
The Exige surged forward and I was off, picking off Elises as I went. It wasn’t me, it’s that engine. If the gears were longer, I’d say the power builds in a linear fashion. But the tacho swings so hard you worry it’s going to come off its fixings. Second-third-fourth are dispatched with a gentle clack-clack-clack, the alloy pedal pinned to the floor.
Finding speed in the Exige is effortless. Where the Elise is almost entirely benign and just plain quick, the Exige adds brutality.
That’s not to say it’s in any way clumsy. Everything is smooth. Super-smooth. The brakes bite assertively but never suddenly. They respond to pressure adjustments faithfully. The unassisted steering’s weight remains predictable and perfect all the way through the lap, gently describing the road to my sweating palms.
I had to think a lot faster in the Exige as the time difference between point A and B was so much smaller, the torque flinging me from corner to corner. But it was never scary.
Obviously, I ran this car in Race mode with the traction control left on. I’m not that kind of idiot, but the Exige was still amusingly adjustable without threatening to rotate you off the road.
Bathurst is a scary place. The Exige is the right weapon to batter it into submission. While I wasn’t there to take risks, I was so much faster on my last flying lap than my first. Like its little sister (doesn’t feel right to call the Elise its brother), the Exige makes you comfortable in its aluminium tub.
The Exige feels so at home on the track, it’s hard to believe that you can pop in a set of earplugs and drive it home in relative comfort. Yes, it’s expensive and yes it’s hard to get in to, but once you’re in, you don’t want to get out.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.