Lotus moves upmarket with a 2+2 GT, but is the Lotus Evora an everyday car?

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The Evora is the first Lotus to be based on a ‘new’ (read bigger) platform, even though it still uses the aluminium architecture first seen on the Elise in 1996.

Launched at the London motor show in 2009, the Evora was “the first part of a three-car, five-year grand plan”, according to Lotus’s management at the time. That line-up was due to be completed by a new Esprit in 2011; instead, new management has announced different, rather bolder ambitions.

The Evora can be had in two-seat form or as a +2

Given you’re reading this, you’ll be aware of Lotus’s model roll-out plans – 
the ones that redefine the word ‘ambitious’ in the automotive arena. But until the new cars arrive – and they’ll start with a V8-powered Esprit in the not-too-distant future – there’s the small matter of keeping the current line-up flowing out of the factory.

The Lotus Elise, we’ve no doubt, will always find itself owners. The Europa and Evora seem to have found it more difficult. Lotus’s answer for the Europa was to quietly drop it from the range. The Evora, on the other hand, now gets the power it always deserved and was easily capable of handling from the start in supercharged models. Lotus heavily revised the Evora for 2016, chief among which was the power increase with the entry-level Evora 400 producing, unsurprisingly, 400bhp and 302lb ft of peak twist and reduced weight by 42kg. Propping up the range is the Sport 410 which can be likened to the stripped out and lightened Ferrari Speciale models or the Porsche 911 GT3, which gets a modest 10bhp more than the standard car but astoundingly manages to weigh in 70kg less too. 

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Both versions use a heavily tweaked version of a familiar Toyota all-alloy 3.5-litre V6 engine, through a Toyota-sourced six-speed gearbox. There’s also a two-pedal version, badged IPS (for Intelligent Precision Shift) and again using a Toyota ‘box.

The Evora can be had in two-seat form or as a +2: the rear seats making it the world’s only current mid-engined four-seater still available.



Lotus Evora rear

There are very few visual differences between the 400 and the Sport 410. Whether the shape is beautiful we’ll leave to your eyes, but the fact that Lotus has made room for both the engine and a pair of +2 chairs between the driver and the rear wheels certainly lends it an unusual profile. 

A majority of the differences are down to attempts to shed weight between the two, with the Sport 410 gaining a titanium exhaust and thinner door cards all in the pursuit of increased performance.

A swage line is intended to visually break up the bulk of the rear

The Evora uses Lotus’s versatile extruded and fixed/bonded aluminium architecture, upon which unstressed panels are fitted and Lotus’s recent model history is founded. Consisting of a passenger tub, to which are mounted front and rear subframes, the architecture is resolutely scalable and flexible. It has provided the basis for the Lotus Elise, Vauxhall VX220, Tesla Roadster, the current line-up of Aston Martins and other cars neither Lotus nor its clients will confirm.

In its desire to tweak the Evora from its original guise, Lotus amended its architecture by lowering the sills by 53mm and extending the width by 43mm, all to make entering and exiting the car easier without affecting the torsional rigidity of the Evora.

Other changes made at Hethel include, fitting larger diameter AP Racing brake discs and firmer springs and dampers to give the Evora a sharper edge, while such changes have led to Lotus fitting a Quaife-sourced mechanical limited slip differential to save power being wasted on an inside spinning wheel.

The Sport 410 not only benefits from a diet but also improved aerodynamics, stiffer suspension, a lowered ride height and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which Lotus claim gives it a three-second advantage over the standard Evora 400.


Lotus Evora dashboard

If there is one key area of disappointment with the Evora, it is its cabin. Space is limited by the chunky sections of the aluminium tub, and it never quite shook off the feeling that it was a bigger, more comfortable Elise rather than a true Lotus GT car, despite the recent amendments made by Lotus.

It is true to say that the Evora has undergone a raft of improvements year-on-year in recent times, but there has been no root-and-branch restructure of the cabin; the materials used simply seem better constructed than before. You’re always aware that the cabin is more chassis lining, rather than anything more sumptuous. Still, that does lend it a purposeful air; you sit low, with well-spaced pedals and a nice-sized wheel.

The Evora's cabin has been transformed from the launch version, but it still lacks a Porsche's quality

The Evora’s cockpit seems to work better as a two-seater – with a decent, useful luggage shelf behind the occupants (in addition to the small rear boot) – rather than as a 2+2.

The dials are attractive enough, although the red LCD trip readout is 
of poor resolution by the best modern standards, the aluminium switches are often obscured and, in sunlight, it’s subject to all kinds of reflections.

There are a few other niggles, too. It’s damnably hard to adjust the seat backrest angle with the door closed. The only cupholder is, in effect, the door pocket. The driving position is offset, and although the steering wheel adjusts amply, there are harsh edges around the steering column’s release handle to scratch your fingers.

These issues are a problem not just for the Evora’s occupants but, presumably, for Lotus’s profits. Look at a Porsche or Audi price list and you’ll find dozens of interior options that will each yield a tidy additional profit per unit.

As for standard interior equipment, the Evora 400 gets the 2+2 seating arrangement as standard, with isofix mountings on the rear seats, air conditioning, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and premium carpet. There is also Lotus's infotainment system which comes complete with sat nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio included. Options for the Evora include cruise control, turning the 400 into a two-seater, a subwoofer and amp, a lithium-ion battery pack and electrically adjustable front seats.

The range-topping Sport 410 is only available as a two-seater and gets carbonfibre seats, an Alcantara interior and numerous aluminium touches.


Lotus Evora 3.5-litre V6 engine

The Lotus Evora is available with its supercharged 3.5-litre V6 in both 400bhp and 410bhp forms. Arguments rage between car fans and Evora owners as to which solution is better - which leads us to draw the conclusion that both are impressively good.

The standard car offers 400bhp and 302lb ft of torque, which is plenty enough to propel the car from a standstill to 60mph in 4.1sec. It is a willing engine that combines well with the chassis to deliver a highly entertaining drive.

One of the Evora's key afflictions is the shift of the Toyota-sourced gearbox

However, it is also clear that the chassis can handle the greater power of the Sport 410. Its 410bhp total lifts the Evora to beyond the level Porsche 718 Cayman S can muster and into the ballpark where the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS reign supreme.

Despite the supercharging, however, there’s something to note: instead of peak power arriving at 6400rpm, as it did in the previous Evora, the 400 and Sport 410 come in at a heady 7000rpm. Do so and the Evora Sport 410 can hit 60mph in 3.9sec. This gives the Sport 410 an advantage of 0.3sec over the base Evora and puts some daylight between it and a Porsche 911 Carrera.

It would put even more air between itself and the Porsche were it not still crippled by the affliction that is its Toyota-sourced six-speed manual gearbox. Lotus has fitted a slicker, lower-friction mechanism than it used when it launched the Evora, a move that has markedly improved the shift quality if you’re not pressing on. But it's still not perfect, which is a real shame as an easy, flickable gearshift would help to get the best from what is otherwise a flexible, characterful powertrain, with a broad spread of urge and a generally enjoyable soundtrack.

Power and torque for the ‘IPS’ automatic version are unchanged from the standard car, but the performance figures inevitably take a dive. In steady driving its a decent gearshift system, but it can lack the final edge if you're pushing on, and it removes some of the driver involvement that is otherwise an Evora hallmark.


Lotus Evora rear cornering

Sometimes, with cars other than the Lotus Evora, it’s necessary to split the two characteristics in the headline of this section into their constituent parts, but not so for the Lotus, because here we’re talking about a company that understands the minutiae of vehicle dynamics better than most.

Lotus attributes the quality of its dynamics to attention to detail; it is one of few car manufacturers to specify its own dampers, rather than using off-the-shelf items. It even worries how its engine moves on its mounts while exiting a powerslide. As a result, the Evora rides and handles utterly superbly.

The Evora rides and handles utterly superbly

It’s a different approach from that of, say, the Nissan GT-R, which pummels roads (and its own occupants) into submission with the tightest of body control, or the Ferrari 488 GTB, which relies on magnetically adaptive dampers to retain its fine ride control qualities. The Evora, passively damped but always millimetrically controlled, composed and predictable, flows with a stupendous fluency to both its primary and secondary ride along good or bad roads. There is roll, more so than you’d find in some rivals, but its rate is restrained and the way it turns and settles is never anything less than exceptionally well controlled.

The Evora steers beautifully, too, with most of the involvement and feel of the (unassisted) Lotus Elise’s system. The weighting is lighter than in, say, Porsche’s best-steering models (the GT variants of the Porsche 911s), but no less communicative, ably filtering out harshness but allowing the important messages of road feel through to the rim. It’s an exceptional system.

On the limit? The Evora is as sublime as you’d imagine, allowing its driver to take liberties normally only possible in front-engined, rear-drive cars. Put simply, it is the finest-handling car on sale today.


Lotus Evora

While base prices of the Evora have crept up as quality improvements have been fed through, it remains reasonably priced against its opposition, and also serves up a relatively decent amount of standard kit. 
Bear in mind, however, that the typical residual value of an expensive Lotus is unlikely to match that of what will be a mid-level Porsche.

The base price can also be raised steadily through choosing options. Some of the pain is absorbed by ordering packs rather than individual options, but it's still easy to push the price up. This all leaves the Evora a short distance away from being quite such an affordable GT car as it first appears.

The cabin is someway off the ambience of a Porsche

Even with the extra kit added, the cabin is someway off the ambience of a Porsche. And Lotus would do well to offer a few more options, especially on the technology side – the aftermarket stereo, sat-nav and Bluetooth system does not deliver the sort of user experience available in more mainstream rivals.

The same applies to safety kit – there are front airbags for the driver and passenger, but that’s it. It’s all distinctly old-school, a bit like the Ford-sourced key. Lotus should learn from Porsche on this score, not least to boost profitability of every car that leaves the factory – car buyers like options.

An Evora is not going to be bought for its frugality, but for the record the official combined averages are 29.1mpg for the standard car and the Sport 410. Those figures aren’t too far away from the Porsche 718 Cayman S’s.



4 star Lotus Evora

If only Lotus could bring the same attention to detail to the overall integrity of its cars as it does to their dynamics, the company would be a world-beater. As it is, although the Evora is a brilliant in parts, most of which involve dynamics, it’s still hampered by basic flaws such as lacklustre ergonomics and an inadequate gearshift.

That Toyota-sourced gearbox puts a limit on driving the car fast – quick-wristed flicked gearchanges are out of the question, the gearbox just won’t allow it. Lotus now offers an automatic version, badged IPS for Intelligent Precision Shift. It’s sweet enough, but is a traditional torque converter auto rather than the dual-clutch system we’ve been promised on future Lotuses. The IPS is an interesting choice for anyone who doesn’t want to drive a three-pedal Lotus or someone looking for an alternative to the cumbersome manual shift.

The Evora is a benchmark and an object lesson in how to make a car handle, ride and steer

The interior’s lack of class is another issue, as is the equipment level. Lavish it is not and even in a car of such undoubted ability, we think today’s customers demand more. That said, there’s no car on sale today with superior dynamic ability. The Evora is a benchmark and an object lesson in how to make a car handle, ride and steer. It could even take a lot more power than the 410bhp it’s currently allowed.

Compromises elsewhere, though, mean that ultimately the Evora remains a car for the handling purist. That’s fine for a second car or a set of weekend wheels, but more difficult to justify when you’re talking about a £70,000-plus GT model.


Lotus Evora First drives