What is it?
Here it is at last: the longed-for Lotus which takes all the lessons that Hethel has learned from the rule-changing Elise over 13 years, and combines them with a superb 276bhp 3.5-litre Toyota-sourced V6 in a bigger mid-engined package to make a genuinely refined long-distance high-performance sports car.
The new Lotus Evora is also the world’s one-and-only mid-engined 2+2, and it takes Lotus directly into Porsche Cayman territory, even if, at its proposed 2000 cars-a-year volume, the British car will always be by far the more exclusive of the pair.
It occupies the middle position in Lotus’s proposed three-tier model structure, which aims eventually (when there’s a new Esprit supercar and the Elise has been renewed) to extend total production volumes beyond 5000 units a year.
If the Evora has one secret weapon it is efficiency; it combines 160mph performance and sub-5.0sec 0-60mph acceleration with low C02 numbers (205g/km) and 30mpg real-world fuel consumption. The entry price, both for the pure two-seater and the most basic 2+2 is just below £50,000, but the extra gadgetry and equipment packs of the first 450 launch cars will push that tag into the upper £50k arena.
What's it like?
A few parts are disappointing. Most parts are as good as you’d expect from Lotus. Some parts are utterly brilliant. The Evora is as compact-looking coupe that makes a Porsche Boxster look big and wide, but its clever packaging and long wheelbase allow it to carry small people (realistically, children up to about 10 years old) in the back.
It has an all-new monocoque chassis which uses the bonded aluminium principles hatched in the Elise and refined in Lotus’s VVA (Variable Vehicle Architecture) system. Hethel engineers make a special issue of the Evora's stiffness, more than two-and-a-half times that of an Elise.
That helps cut noise and deliver the ultra-accurate steering and suspension geometry needed for Lotus-level handling precision. The forged alloy suspension is by double wishbones all-round (with sophisticated dual-path top mounts to reduce noise) and the rack and pinion steering has hydraulic power assistance.
The 3.5-litre V6 (it gets bespoke engine electronics by Lotus that include a dash-mounted sport button which offers the driver a zestier throttle response and, when requested, an extra 400rpm on top of the usual 6600rpm allowed) is specially mated by them to a six-speed stick-shift manual gearbox. The motor sits transversely across the car, just behind a 55-litre fuel tank.
On the road the Evora delivers the huge cornering grip, sensitive but uncorrupted steering, powerful brakes and close-to-zero body roll that you’d expect from the Elise/Exige’s grown-up sibling, along with a smooth, quick-reacting engine that delivers subdued race sounds, especially over 4200rpm, where the variable inlet tract tunes itself for top-end performance. Around a track, this car will undoubtedly be brilliant.
However, the major surprise is the Evora's suitability for day-long journeys; the creamy torque of the engine, the way the suspension quietly absorbs bumps and suppresses the coarse surfaces so often found in rural Scotland, the rock-like rigidity of the chassis and the richness of its cabin trim and equipment are all new areas for Lotus. This is a car truly suitable for a week's all-roads European grand touring, the first of the marque to achieve it.
The disappointments? Despite the honesty of the materials (what looks like leather is leather) there are signs in the fit and finish that Lotus is still learning about trimming cars at this level. Some of the minor switchgear is awkwardly sited and doesn’t function positively enough, and there are annoying reflections in the left side of the instrument binnacle that you’d never find in a Porsche. But none of these things overshadows the Evora's core excellence.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely, if your priority is driving fulfilment. You’ll get that, whether you want to swap lap times with your friends at Castle Combe, or drive to Rome with a close friend. The Evora’s great in all modes, and can carry the gear you’ll need for either activity. There’s a completeness in its chassis development that surely matches Porsche, plus a unique brand of Hethel-bred sensitivity and stability.
What is more, the Evora will always be more exclusive than any Porsche, and several types of Ferraris. It will be as special on the road as it feels behind the wheel. The near-£50k price may present a hurdle to early buyers, but a good, long drive in the car should turn this obstacle into a modest bump in the road.