It’s seven years since the Lotus Evora appeared, and although consensus says 2010’s supercharged S is superior, the original, naturally aspirated version was still good enough to take our Best Driver’s Car crown in 2009. You can’t buy a non-supercharged Evora new these days, but with early examples having lost £20,000 of their £50,000 list price to the winds, the car we branded a ‘handling benchmark’ has never been so tempting.
But much has changed in the interim, including the emergence of the third-generation Audi TT – a car that handles better than ever and which comes packed with technology the Evora would study as a marmot might ponder a weaponised laser. Your £30k scoops a box-fresh 2.0 TFSI Sport manual with 227bhp.
Aside from sharing the same number of wheels, doors, pedals and seats, these two couldn’t be more different. The Lotus has a specialised bonded aluminium chassis and a mid-mounted, unblown, 276bhp 3.5-litre Toyota V6 powering the rear axle, while the Audi is a child of platform sharing and its turbo four-pot drives only the front wheels (quattros cost from £33,600). But our quandary is simple: can the aged Evora’s dynamic skills stave off the new TT’s charms?
The TT you see here wears S line trim at a £2550 premium, so is a little over budget, but the mainstays of its interior opulence are echoed by the £30,650 Sport model, with neatly stitched and supportive leather and Alcantara seats, quality plastics, chic dashboard architecture and exemplary robustness. Then there’s the standard-fit 12.3in Audi Virtual Cockpit, the party-piece, binnacle-filling chameleon of a display that replaces conventional dials and infotainment with a single animated screen. It’s feature-packed and pretty, but a little fiddly, and its graphical shenanigans when toggling the Drive Select modes for engine, engine sound and steering can irritate.
App developer Si Fisher’s 2010 Evora 2+2 is a 59,000-miler that’s on sale for exactly £30,000 (call him on 07525 747813 if you’re interested). It has the Tech pack that features satnav and rear parking sensors – both extras in the Audi – and the Sport pack with raised rev limit, special diffuser, titanium tailpipes, crossdrilled discs and an oil cooler.
Parts-bin column stalks aside, there’s hardly any interior plastic – it’s all leather (good quality and wearing quite well), aluminium (on the smart but haptically inert and oftobscured buttons) and scratchy black fabric where you’d expect scratchy black plastic. Annoyingly reflective and chunky red LCD screens flank the dials, and the 7.0in Alpine touchscreen features Space Invader graphics. It’s all ageing premium economy against the Audi’s moddish business class. But once you’ve learned the weird switchgear layout, it’s tenable, and while the cabin is narrower than the TT’s and the view out less generous, the enveloping leather Recaros are comfortable and the driving position is good.
Both have painfully small rear seats, although you could perhaps let your children grow another year in the Audi’s. The TT easily wins for boot space, too: you can fold the rear seats for 712 litres of storage, while the Evora’s cigar-shaped hold swallows just 160 litres.
The Lotus is a full second quicker to 60mph, but while its superior traction, natural aspiration and greater capacity make it swifter off the line and lustier at really big speeds, a rolling sprint from 30mph in third gear reveals comparable mid-range performance from the Audi. Turbo lag hampers the TT initially, but it pulls strongly from 1500rpm and still feels game towards the 6900rpm limiter, the exhaust-biased soundtrack gaining volume and aggression en route. The engine impresses for its kind, but the Evora’s V6 is in a class above, pulling well from low revs with racy induction notes rising above its more interesting exhaust noise, intensifying in howl and motive force as the valve timing shifts just above 4000rpm. You’ll want to explore the remaining 3000rpm repeatedly, often with the driver’s window down to catch the full fanfare.