Considered the most advanced example of its “performance through lightweight” automotive engineering philosophy, the MY2010 Lotus Exige Cup 260 from Lotus Car Ltd. (Hethel, Norfolk, U.K.) is the fourth iteration of a supercar that has already developed a cult following, particularly among drivers who want to compete in races restricted to street-legal cars and/or desire a racecar they can drive off-track. According to Lotus, extensive use of carbon fiber-reinforced polymers already lightweighted its predecessor, the Lotus Exige S, but for MY2010, Lotus engineers reviewed every facet of the car’s design looking for ways to produce lighter components without pushing costs beyond the reach of the serious track day driver or clubman racer.
Notable is the lightweight, unpainted carbon chord composite rear wing. Compared to the MY2009 Exige Cup 260’s tailgate-mounted wing, it is 181 mm/7.1 inches wider and mounted higher and further back, producing unprecedented downforce of 42 kg/92.6 lb at 160 kmh/100 mph.
Use of carbon composites in driver and passenger seats, a one-piece dash top panel, the rear tailgate, the center tunnel, front access panels, a new front splitter and side air intake ducts resulted in additional weight savings of 12 kg/26.5 lb. A full-length carbon roof scoop incorporated into the roof panel accounts for 4 kg/8.8 lb of that total. The car’s restyled front end includes a larger, more angular carbon composite air intake that directs more air through the radiator. Ahead of the front wheels, enlarged carbon air intakes increase airflow to the twin oil coolers. The front splitter has been extended to wrap around the front end, with raised side lips that deflect air around the tires to reduce drag.
The result is impressive fuel economy for a supercar: It rated an Official European Combined Cycle figure of 8.5L/100 km (down from 9.1 L/100 km (combined) for the 2009 model) — the equivalent of 33.2 mpg. In addition, it reportedly emits only 199 g/km of CO2 (reduced from 216 g/km of CO2 for 2009).
The standard-specification Lotus Exige Cup 260 is road legal within the European Union, and can be registered for road use. It’s available for sale in Europe at an MSRP of £45,000 (+£950 for on-the-road adaptations) in the U.K. or €52,000 to €64,000, depending on location in the European Union.