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The Lotus Conundrum


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Hello All,

First post in here. This may come across as a bit contentious but I hope you stick with it.

My car history over the last 12 odd years is an odd and varied mix, classic Range Rovers to F types, Mini Cooper S GP's to Caterham's. I've had 3 'modern era' TVR's too so I'm quite well versed on the jumped up kit car debate...

What is going on with Lotus and more to the point the Exige brand at the moment? I'm in the lucky enough position at the moment like most are on here for justifying neigh on £80k on a toy. Now at the moment Lotus is the only place to get to get a 2 seat usable track car with a roof and some storage place. This supply to a niche area of the market which looks pretty sown up (Bar the Cayman GT4 but I'll cover that later) should breed the mother of all progress but there seems to be elements of this which are getting lost by the way side. 

The next part is just my opinion of where Lotus so far have not hit the mark for me. 

Model line up:
Stacking the 350 Sport, 380 Sport and 380 CUP over an 18 month period just doesn't make sense. The changes between the 3 not being significant enough as well as skirting round the main issues with the Exige package. This close stacking seems to have rendered the dealers into a position where they have to hold stock which is quickly (in car terms) outdated or confusing to a new purchaser. The small changes Lotus have made to the Exiges through production (losing of the storage nets etc) can instantly age a car at a dealer. Its as that point when you work some chassis numbers back that some of the un reg'd 350 Sports at dealers are getting on for 14 months old, there are now 380's on the ground which are getting on for 9 months old. I'd expressed an interest in the 380 Cup direct to Lotus to be told they were all sold, over the next 3 weeks I've been offered 4 cars dealers have took on with no planned purchaser. This isn't like an odd cancelled order, dealers seem expected to take stock on hold. I can imagine what this costs dealers on bridge finance.

Fundamental Exige issues:
The engine.... now there isn't anything wrong with the 2GR. In fact its a good unit. In Japan I was lucky enough to have a look at a Hielsa unit. Basically a 2GR with forged lightened rods, individual throttle bodies, solid cam followers and a nice set of manifolds, these units product circa 380-400bhp n/a with a 8100rpm limit. The unit has lots of potential. Hell Toyota will even sell you a 320bhp version n/a!
What I struggle with is the fact Lotus kept the log manifolds with integral cats along with not fitting the charge cooler to the charger. The manifolds are terrible for flow as well as heat management, the work behind changing them for re classification for road use isn't insurmountable, a generic cat could be used down stream with no ill effects (might warm your luggage up a bit more).
Next is the lack of a charge cooler whether air to air or water to air like the Evora. Now I don't buy the weight/COG/packaging argument. When you are the ones making the clams, fitting it in shouldn't be an issue. The COG would actually be lowered with a water/air set up with an underslung pump and rad set up. As for weight, there would be a 9kg 'dry' (why does Lotus always use dry) weight penalty, but for the possibility of A) running more power and B) achieve that power on a circuit it has got to be a no brainer.
Instead Lotus seem to have gone down the route of over spinning a charger already on its volumetric limit and then fudging the rev limit. I've been following what @Jokke Vlo has said with interest. The heat generated by overspinning the charger on the 380 seems to be losing it the torque benefit it should have over a normal V6S/350 in the mid range. To gain no real straight line/corner exit benefit on track is a bit of a sod. A few calculations using volume, charger peak speed and swept displacement of the engine gives you a figure of around enough air being delivered for 470bhp (Not far off what Komotec are showing, good work Komotec) for a 2GR unit on its current charger, if and this is a big IF you can keep on top of charge temps and have an efficient way of evacuating the cylinders. Looking at the current Lotus map there seems to be a lot of fuel used for cylinder cooling on both the 350 and 380. 
Suspension .... long argued that a road set up and a track set up should be no cost options not a track pack, esp when the track set up could do with a slight tweak to the valving.
Gearbox - They fixed the shift! YAY. One of the mean reasons I didn't buy an launch V6S. Why isn't there an LSD option yet? Yes its 11kg more, but its low down in the car and when you are operating with 300lb/ft you could get away with a narrower tyre on the rear with one, which would gain you some of that weight back.
Build quality - lets be honest its come on leaps and bounds but the fundamentals still get missed. As @Mark030358 is experiencing. Also why can't you mount a carbon seat to a solid tub with out it moving?

Lack of competition:
This seems to be a hindrance now, allowing corners to be cut and cars cheapened. Yes the £/€ rate has gone to pot, but I'd be interested to know how much of the Exige has EU origins apart from the chassis and associated metal.
The Cayman GT4 - Its list price with the usual £10k options giving a £75-78K road price kind of shows the 380 up, not the 350 though. Now I've come close to owning one 3 times now (its a VERY good car). But I've been stopped each time by the same reasons that seem to be dogging a lot of track car makers now... Porsche told me not to use it, not to use it on track, not to photograph it on track or even on the bloody road.... Plus paying £88k for a car that was £73k 2 years ago sits badly with me.
Oddly Caterham have also fallen into this trap, when selling mine I was advised to take down any photo's I had online of it on track to help it sell. Its a sodding track car. No one seems to have stepped into the breach of small track car make. As a side I tried a Viper ACR in the US, hell of a thing but its about £150k landed in the Uk without the tax man getting involved.

Dealers:
I've had two good experiences so far, one with Silverstone Lotus and the other with Oakmere (albeit via email as I've been a bit busy) but you get the overriding sense that operating for Lotus is hard work, they seem to have to carry stock on their books while trying to talk down supply and talk up demand.
Other dealers have flatly refused to trying an do a workable deal, standing behind the Lotus says list price or no go line. When they have pre reg cars on their courts with neigh on 20% off whilst still carrying the finance deals as the new ones.

 

Never have I found it so hard to spend my money. On the face of it the Cup 380 is the car for me, but, it being too loud for most UK track is a ball ache, here's your new £85k car, and here's the bill for £1900 so you can use it on circuit. Other than that though it seems to make the best out of what Lotus has to offer. There is the niggle though that a 350 with Nitrons, Komotec 460 and some of the US aero would be a better car..... but it has none of the residual value and I've thrown enough cash away over the years on things where they've sat on the drive with pound coins falling out of them (NEVER buy a V8 Jag F type.....).

I love Lotus as a brand, I'm just afraid of where it has gone recently and where it may go in the future. Its the only manufacturer in a segment I want to buy into. Yes there are issues I've not explored too. I'm sure the NHTSA in the USA removing the exemption for Lotus to sell the Elise and Exige as new cars in the US will have hurt and potentially led to some of the penny pinching we seem today.

Where do I go from today, I don't know. I'll probably see a CUP 380 and have to have it. After all loving cars makes you daft/fickle....

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Hello All, First post in here. This may come across as a bit contentious but I hope you stick with it. My car history over the last 12 odd years is an odd and varied mix, classic Range Rover

Good post and so much of it I agree with. I think if you want pound/punch pick up the cheapest/best 350 you can and mod away. If you want something more to drool over, it has to be the Cup.

Hi Mick, Hielsa was my English version of the sound of the Kanji the garage used. I was working down in Kagoshima for an agricultural company so sadly my translator wasn't much use when it came to eng

Good post and so much of it I agree with.

I think if you want pound/punch pick up the cheapest/best 350 you can and mod away.

If you want something more to drool over, it has to be the Cup. But it will be 30k more and you'll contend with the rpm issues you have highlighted above.

 

 

 

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A name I recognise from my chavmobil.net days... Can't argue with much of that. Don't rule out the V6 or cup version second hand either, it's much easier to justify 40-50k on one, it's a bit of a performance bargain actually at that price. I didn't think the 350 sport was an upgrade on my V6 and I can't see me getting rid of it for anything to be frank. 

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I'm good thanks, how have you been? I've not been there for ages now, sold my last 182 a few years ago on there and that was it. Have been thinking about a Megane RS though, the past couple of weeks have had a boggo diesel as a hire car and rather enjoyed driving it! 

Seriously, don't limit yourself even to just a 360 cup. There isn't that much between any of them really and the older cars look good value to me. If you are set on a cup car then it would be worth speaking to @The Pits (on phone and can't get a notifier to work*) as would think his MSG V6 cup will be up for sale soon as he has a sport 410 Evora on order. But, for me, you don't even need a cup car to have a tremendous road and trackday machine. If you are near Colchester (recall you are northerly though I think) any time and fancy a spin then drop me a line. 

By the way, am currently lusting after a T350 - a mate of mine has bought one and I am rather taken with it. Can't recall if you had one... 

*Fixed - Bibs :)

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Great opening post, a lot I agree with too.

30 minutes ago, Gashead1105 said:

If you are set on a cup car then it would be worth speaking to The Pitts (on phone and can't get a notifier to work) as would think his MSG V6 cup will be up for sale soon as he has a sport 410 Evora on order.

 

Here you go.....

Exige V6 Cup number 30

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I don't think you should just go on Jokke's posts, go and drive a 380 and see for yourself. I haven't heard many complaints from any other 380 owners yet.

This Hielsa unit sounds like a dream engine for a Lotus. Would love to see something like than in an Exige along with a rev counter redlined at 8100! Imagine the noise!

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Hi Mick, Hielsa was my English version of the sound of the Kanji the garage used. I was working down in Kagoshima for an agricultural company so sadly my translator wasn't much use when it came to engines.

The garage were putting these engines into spaceframes for a certain race series on the south island. Some of the specs were pretty interesting, including one using bike carbs so I could be fitted into a classic Corolla!

From what I could glean the spec of the 390bhp unit were:
Forged con rods which were slightly longer
48mm throttle bodies
Solid lifter conversion using the standard bucket with a shim under it
Some cam re grinds

I didn't see a head off a car, but I assume there will be some head work in there.

It'd be an interesting project to get an old 2GR unit and set about it. I thing £7k thrown at one would give you a safe 380bhp N/A motor.

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On 8/10/2017 at 22:01, Gashead1105 said:

I'm good thanks, how have you been? I've not been there for ages now, sold my last 182 a few years ago on there and that was it. Have been thinking about a Megane RS though, the past couple of weeks have had a boggo diesel as a hire car and rather enjoyed driving it! 

Seriously, don't limit yourself even to just a 360 cup. There isn't that much between any of them really and the older cars look good value to me. If you are set on a cup car then it would be worth speaking to @The Pits (on phone and can't get a notifier to work*) as would think his MSG V6 cup will be up for sale soon as he has a sport 410 Evora on order. But, for me, you don't even need a cup car to have a tremendous road and trackday machine. If you are near Colchester (recall you are northerly though I think) any time and fancy a spin then drop me a line. 

By the way, am currently lusting after a T350 - a mate of mine has bought one and I am rather taken with it. Can't recall if you had one... 

*Fixed - Bibs :)

Ha I had a T350T don't you know.....

1936829_123165597578_5859632_n.jpg?oh=3e

I only paid £18200 for it when it had 6000 miles on it. Car market was less mental back then.....

I'll keep looking. I managed to pop into Oakmere yesterday and I really liked the dark blue 380 sport they had, it almost looked dare I say it, classy....

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Just now, Seriouslylotus said:

@Waitey I am on the east side of Hull. If you want a 'good' look around a 360cup you are always welcome...

 

Hi Dave, I dropped you an E mail a few days back I think. I'd be good to come have a look.

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  • 3 months later...

I never got to follow this up. 

 

I got a long way down with a certain dealer to buy a 380 CUP they had managed to source me by selling their babies first smile to the devil. It was getting pushier and pushier until I said 'sod this' if its so in demand sell it to someone else. 

I went home that night from work, sat on eBay, bought myself another toy, this time a race car, and have had some good old times at the back end of the year on track days. 

Fast forward to the 15th and I get a call from somebody at Lotus saying ''we've made a CUP430 want to buy one?''. I turned them down, since going racing next year seems now, more appealing to me. 

Yesterday while on Holiday in Bosnia my favourite dealer called me up, apologised for being a 'total arse' in the summer and said they could source 5 (yes 5!) CUP380's now at a discount I won't state. They did still want me to spend £2k to make it quiet enough for a track day though. 

I guess that is the end of my journey now. I'll race next year then probably lust over the CUP910 or where ever we've gotten too while fielding calls for the cancelled CUP680 orders. 

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I'd love to get into a new Exige next year. But I'm having real doubts about which model to buy. I could get a second hand S, do some mods and maybe paint it the colour I want. But then I'd be close to the price of a new one.

I also have a feeling that the price of three or four year old cars is remaining quite high on the S/H market because there are so few of them. And then it seems with the production numbers they've been achieving in the last couple of years those prices will tumble when all those cars come onto the market in the next year or two.

The one I want is a brand new, very basic, no frills, no carbon car with the 430 engine. Why can't I buy one of those?

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On 11/21/2017 at 06:24, Waitey said:

I guess that is the end of my journey now.

Nice write-up, many times. :thumbup: I've started with similar thoughts a few weeks earlier. Happy now with my Solid Red Sport 350 since early September, approximately 2k miles done, first trackday booked on Sunday 26/11, getting more and more used to 1,100kg mid-engine RWD after and in parallel with 1,500kg front-engine 4WD - happy and entertained. Have 0 issues with performance of Sport 350 so far (other than could be faster, but I've said that in too many of a really nice cars) and/or price paid. To each his/her own. Good luck with racing, hopefully I'll get there one day as well. :blush:

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