This is a story about two cars that have so little-yet so much-in common. It's the latest chapter in a long-running tale that dates to the premiere issue of this magazine in April 1986, when we audaciously compared the then-new Toyota MR2 coupe with the contemporary mid-engine Ferrari, the 308. In April 1990, when we took a good, long look at the second-generation MR2, we did so through the lens of the Ferrari berlinetta of that period, the 348. Unfortunately, the MR2 is long gone, leaving the world's most successful automaker without a single sports car in its stable, but the new Lotus Exige coupe and its roadster sibling, the Elise, carry on the MR2's spirit as nominally affordable mid-engine sports cars. The F430, for its part, follows the 360 Modena as the latest and greatest mid-engine Ferrari, which is never a bad thing for a car to be. It might be affordable only to hedge-fund managers and NBA superstars, but it is immensely desirable and the obvious foil for the new Lotus coupe.
And that is how we found ourselves crisscrossing the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, jumping into and out of an F430 and an Exige.... Read full article