From £60,5508

The Lotus Evora S rides and handles in a way that puts nearly everything else in its shade. Shame the interior doesn't match the price tag

The Lotus Evora S is the car the Evora should always have been. A much-improved 2012 version of Britain’s unique mid-engined 3.5 litre V6 two-plus-two bristles with 143 improvements to its quality and equipment. It's clear Lotus has raised its game.

For 2012 the Evora gets new body colours, new wheel colours and a myriad of actions to improve materials quality and panel fit. Inside there is a new steering wheel, a new alloy gearlever knob and surround, new metal-faced pedals and a transformation of the leather-faced front seats into a pair of the most attractive sports buckets in production.

The manual gearbox gets our nod ahead of the IPS auto

All stitching takes a leap forward as a result of modern systems just installed in Lotus’s own all-new leather and trim shop. New, firmer-action doorhandles open and close doors whose “slam” is improved. New door seals reduce road and wind noise. Fascia materials quality is higher, there is a new, better-performing and easier-to-use screen-based infotainment system, and new option packs affordably offer “real world” equipment.

To improve driving, the 2012 editions get improvements to gearchange precision (via more sophisticated, low-friction cables) and 40 percent less flywheel inertia (to make high-revs gearchanges sweeter and slicker). Lotus' IPS automatic 'box is also offered. It shifts smoothly at low-to-medium speeds, but it can become hesitant when pressing on.

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New engine mounts cut gearchange shunt, and improved electronic throttle mapping has “sharpened” engine response. The exhaust system has been re-shaped to produce a far more sporty (but barely louder) engine note, then kitted with a butterfly valve that opens at around 2000 rpm to make the sonic improvements more evident lower down.

Open the door and your eye falls on one of the best-looking pairs of bucket seats going. Slide your backside over the higher-than-most sill into the seat and you’ll remember how snug and Evora feels, yet how much room there is in important areas.

When it starts, the Evora S engine now sounds a bit like an Aston V12 bursting into life. The idle is a seamless growl. The longish, alloy-tipped gearlever slides smoothly into first with a smooth, rifle-bolt action. The clutch engages powerfully and you’re easily away, engine pulling flexibly at low revs but already sounding powerful. Give the supercharged 3.5 V6 its head and its energy is instantly evident; it winds out with a delicious howl to deliver true supercar performance at top speed.

Nobody ever criticised an Evora for bad handling. Chassis development is a Lotus strength, and the Lotus Evora represents its latest and best of its achievements. Even the developments in the first S were not driven by the market. Lotus’s experts simply assessed their own efforts and decided a few changes (better bushes, damper tuning, a half-millimetre increase in the thickness of the rear anti-roll bar) would improve things.

On smooth roads, the Evora corners on rails: huge grip, zero roll. Press it hard over the broken edged, rough-surfaced and weirdly-cambered roads that abound near its birthplace and you’ll soon marvel at the grace and ease with which it negotiates any difficult piece of British road.

This car has a unique combination of long wheelbase, low and centralised masses, compact dimensions, ideally chosen and specially engineered tyres — differently sized front to rear — and spring/damper rates honed by the world experts. No wonder it’s good.

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From outside, there’s nothing that really shouts that this is the much-improved 2012 Evora. But a glance inside, or a short drive puts the matter beyond doubt. When we drove the original S we reckoned we preferred it to a Porsche Cayman. The margin is even more obvious now.

Lotus Evora S 2011-2015 First drives