2006 Lotus Sport Elise and Lotus Sport Exige Cup

Sam Smith
Randy G

Only fifty Sport Elises will be brought stateside initially, all in the signature saffron yellow/storm gray paint scheme. Even given the garish cosmetics and a $55,920 base price, they're likely to sell out. Don't worry, though; the Sport Elise's best ingredient--its suspension--is already available separately through Lotus dealers. As cool as the whole package is, we'd probably just bolt the important bits onto an ordinary Elise or Exige. Same laughs but a smaller price tag.

LOTUS SPORT EXIGE CUP This is it. This is the big deal: Exige turned up to eleven. It's not street-legal. Those forged-aluminum wheels wear full-bore Yokohama slicks. A roll cage is standard equipment. The twin pipes at the back pump out a sound--oh, that sound--that . . . well, it makes your skin tingle. You half expect nearby squirrels and small dogs to burst into flames when you twist the key. This, kids, is an angry little car.

At a base price of $79,915, the stripped-out Exige Cup isn't for everyone. It has a six-point Schroth harness, a Recaro race seat, a full fire-extinguisher system, and an external kill switch. It's not really set up for any specific race series, but it is, for all intents and purposes, a racing car.

The most significant change on the Exige Cup, however, is in the engine bay. Hanging off the back of its Yamaha-built Toyota four-cylinder is an intercooled Eaton M62 supercharger. Thanks to the blower (the engine remains unmodified internally), power rises to 243 hp and torque climbs to 174 lb-ft. According to factory claims, 60 mph arrives in 4.1 seconds--a full 0.8 second quicker than in the $28,000-cheaper standard Exige--but what you really notice is the extra grunt.

The standard Elise and Exige aren't slow, but they are peaky. In contrast, the Exige Cup simply steamrolls its way toward the redline, regardless of engine speed. Although you don't spend much time in the tach's bottom half on the track, the improved midrange works wonders for corner exit speeds.

Built off a left-hand-drive European Exige platform (the supercharger comes from the British-spec Exige 240R), the Exige Cup is intended to be a turnkey track-day special. As on the Sport Elise, chassis balance is directly connected to setup, but the overall feel is that of a safe, easily rotated giant killer. Like all slick-shod cars, the Exige Cup rewards precision and low slip angles; get things right, and it's diabolically fast.

Fifteen Exige Cups will be produced this year for the U.S. market, and they're all presold. But don't go crying into your Nomex: if there's enough demand, Lotus is prepared to build another batch. Excuse me while I go pawn a kidney.

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