Abbie Eaton’s a hell of a shoe. Her talent and comfort as a presenter got her noticed for The Grand Tour and, most recently, the W Series. Prior to her television debut, she’d established herself an ace by racing in Miatas, BMW M3 GTRs, and rallycross rockets. Now she’s a regular contributor to Carfection, for which she was assigned a review of a Lotus Exige 430 Cup at Cadwell Park. When her duties were over and she could take the Lotus for a few fun laps, she grabbed her parents and exercised her devilish side.
It’s a proper platform for getting a loved one to squeal. Plenty of carbon, 430 horsepower, Nitron shocks, AP Racing brakes, and a little aero for the fast stuff make it special. So does the woman in the driver’s seat. She’s quite handy and happy to have her mother just this side of uncomfortable. Watch Abbie smirk when her mom, though cooler than most people in her position, lets out a few restrained whimpers.
That tentative groaning fades into elated laughter after an airborne moment at 2:06. There, at Cadwell’s Turn 12/”The Mountain,” an abrupt crest means most vehicles momentarily lose contact with the tarmac beneath them. As thrilling as that might sound, its rapid direction change and negligible runoff area mean that one clumsy landing can throw the car into the barriers.
As the revs spike and the two momentarily glimpse only sky and treetops through the windscreen, Abbie’s mom’s cortisol production is outdone by the adrenaline pumping through her system and that familiar buzz overwhelms her. It’s a feeling that the inexperienced must push through some discomfort to attain, but once it hits, it’s a drug that can catapult someone into the realm of fandom forever.
A Deeper Dive
When Abbie wasn’t frightening her mother, she was putting this Lotus through its paces for the aforementioned Carfection feature. Without dear mother getting Abbie to perhaps brake a bit earlier than she could, she and her colleague could give this car a fair evaluation in the environment it was created for.
Though the Exige Cup’s somewhat friendly shape may not convey it, it always has the chance of being the quickest car at a track day. Weighing in at just 2,328 pounds, it’s far lighter—and more spartan—than most supercars. Though far from luxurious, that scant weight means it’ll sprint to 60 in 3.2 seconds. That’s with a slow-shifting H-pattern box, by the way. It continues to cover the quarter-mile in about 11.7 seconds, and it hits a top speed of 180 miles per hour, at which speed it generates 485 pounds of downforce.
The engine is a 3.5-liter Toyota DOHC V6 with 24 valves, an Edelbrock supercharger, and a charge cooler producing 430 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Being a fairly large motor with a supercharger that delivers power in a linear fashion, it’s quite tractable and much more conducive to everyday driving than a highly-strung motorsports item.
Even with a smooth power delivery, this raucous V6 can easily overpower the 285/30/18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires in the rear. Fortunately, it’s staggered with 215/30-17 tire in front to keep it from being a little too pointy, and it also has a 12-step traction control unit to keep a heavy right foot in check.
In fact, it appears like the majority of the car’s nervous twitches happen mostly over crests and under hard braking, which, like so much of this car, can be altered to suit the driver. The two are noticeably more comfortable in the vehicle after a minor suspension adjustment and they continue to push hard without much trepidation.
The Exige Cup 430 is a car which goads the experienced driver along and exposes a newcomer to another level of performance. To give mother a heart palpitation and give GT3s a run for their money, there are not many combinations better than the Cup 430 and Cadwell Park.