The Lotus Evora is designed to go head-to-head with the Porsche 911
Lotus, at last, is bound for the big time. On the 22 July at the London motor show, it will reveal this revolutionary £45,000, mid-engined, 2+2 coupé, called the Lotus Evora.
This is the car that Lotus believes will take it right to the heart of Porsche territory and transform Lotus Cars into the vibrant, 5000-cars-a-year manufacturing business that successive bosses have wanted for so long.
The 280bhp, 3.5-litre V6-powered coupé is being launched in both 2+2 and 2+0 forms. It takes Lotus back into the 170mph league it vacated when the Esprit ceased production in 2004.
The new coupé’s wheelbase is just 275mm – around 13 inches – longer than that of the Elise, but into that space goes an extra 75mm of driver’s seat travel, a V6 engine instead of an in-line four and enough rear legroom for a 5ft-tall passenger.
Despite the fact that the overall length is 4344mm – 80mm shorter than a Porsche 911 – the safety structure waltzes through today’s toughest crash tests, and the boot can house a full set of golf clubs. “We set out to build a Tardis,” says Kimberley, “and I think we’ve succeeded.”
There’s nothing too radical about the interior, but it’s far classier and more comfortable than anything Lotus has done before. A key part of interior designer Anthony Bushell’s job has been searching out and negotiating with suppliers of prime-quality trim materials; Lotus is determined to convey longevity and class in the Evora interior.
The Evora chassis uses Elise principles; it’s a self-supporting, bonded and riveted structure that combines folded sheet aluminium and extrusions.
This time, however, it is made in three pieces. A rear structure houses the V6 engine and impressively compact double wishbone rear suspension. A bolt-on front structure carries the double wishbone front suspension and provides a crash structure, which has proved a huge success in crash testing.
The Evora suspension is the same ultra-modern assembly of forged aluminium wishbones, coil-over shock absorbers and specially designed uprights shown in Geneva earlier this year.
Some pretty extreme testing of the car at the Nürburgring has established, according to engineering director Roger Becker, that the car is already “a peach” to drive.
Lotus has a close relationship with Toyota (which supplies its Elise engines) so it’s no surprise that the Evora uses a 3.5-litre, Toyota-sourced V6. The electronic engine controls are Lotus’s, however, allowing it to have a sportier-than-Camry character.
Again, there is scope for development (the cleverly packaged engine bay is believed to have room for a supercharger) but for now Lotus believes that 280bhp in a car weighing less than 1400kg car is enough. The engine drives through a Toyota six-speed transmission, but this isn’t a link that Toyota makes in its own cars, so Lotus has engineered the clutch and gearchange.
The car is usefully faster around a track, we hear, than key rivals such as Porsche’s Cayman S. We suggested 165-170mph as a top speed and a 0-60mph time in the five-second bracket, and no one disagreed. The car is also expected to be easier on fuel and produce less CO2 than £50,000 performance cars usually do.
Lotus planners foresee an eight-year life for the Evora, and will launch a drophead version between two and three years into the car’s life. As with the Elise, there will be other versions of the car, which is even more versatile in its structure than its smaller sibling.
The Evora will be made on a new production line alongside the Elise at Hethel, at a volume of around 2000 a year. Assembly of fully fledged production models will start at the very end of this year, with a target for first customer delivery of 1 May 2009.
At that stage, according to Mike Kimberley, Lotus will have changed its centre of gravity completely, while staying entirely true to its principles.