In new Sport 350 form, Lotus’ Exige is leaner and meaner than ever

The Evora 400 is ending Lotus’ brief U.S. sales hiatus, but the British sports car firm is still keeping some of its best machinery off the (American) table. The latest iteration of the light and nimble Exige is one of those bits of forbidden fruit.

The Lotus Exige Sport 350 embodies Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s oft-quoted maxim “simplify, and add lightness.” The new model weighs just 2,480 pounds, which is 112 pounds lighter than the previous Exige S. That’s impressive not just because the Exige was already so light to begin with, but because Lotus’ fanatical dedication to weight reduction is unusual in an age where safety and technology considerations keep cars bulking up.

To shave the pounds, Lotus engineers weighed every component from the Exige S, looking for areas where the Exige Sport 350 could improve. They came up with a new louvered tailgate panel, as well as a lightened battery, engine mounts, a lightened center console with exposed gearshift mechanism, lighter HVAC plumbing, and “optimized” sound insulation.

The mid-mounted 3.5-liter supercharged V6 carries over unchanged. It produces 345 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque, and is coupled to an updated six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is also available, but it adds 12 pounds. The Exige Sport 350 will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 170 mph with the manual transmission, or 162 mph with the automatic.

Lotus’ latest flyweight sports car goes on sale in Europe this February, followed by other markets outside North America in March. A Roadster version will also become available in March. Pricing for the coupe starts at 55,900 pounds in the U.K., equivalent to about $84,000 at current exchange rates.

Not that it matters to U.S. buyers. The Exige hasn’t been sold here since 2011, when Lotus decided to pull the car rather than spend the money to add dual-stage airbags, as required under safety rules that took effect at that time. With Lotus’ renewed interest in the U.S. market, though, there’s always the possibility that the Exige will return.

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