The great Colin Chapman, the man behind Lotus Cars, once famously said: “Simplify, then add lightness”. So that’s what the brand did with the 2016 Lotus Evora 400… but it also added power.
The British sports car specialist brand’s new Evora 400 model brings with it a new aluminium chassis that is 42 kilograms lighter than it was previously, and the 3.5-litre V6 (Toyota-sourced) engine now gets a new Edelbrock supercharger for more grunt.
The power is pumped up from 257kW in the existing Evora S to 298kW (or 400 horsepower, hence the suffix), and torque is up from 400Nm to 410Nm. There’s still the choice of a six-speed manual, which now includes a limited-slip differential, or Lotus’ Intelligent Precision Shift (IPS) automatic transmission. The former costs $184,990 plus on-road costs, while the auto is a $10K premium.
Chapman obviously didn’t say anything about subtracting dollars from the asking price – the manual is $4390 more than before, and the auto is up $7390.
That said, Lotus claims that two thirds of the Evora 400 is new.
And while the weight may be down against the sportier S model, the kerb weight is actually a touch higher for the manual version of the base model Evora (not the S): the powered-up Evora 400 manual weighs 1395 kilograms versus the existing model’s 1383kg kerb weight. The old Evora S manual was 1437kg, so it’s still a bit of a win.
The auto is a little less than the non-S auto at 1425kg (was 1436kg; the Evora S IPS weighed a chubby 1442kg). But for a brand that offers a car that is less than 900kg in the form of a little tiny Elise, neither of these big Lotuses are the last word in lightweight.
But there’s another Evora, the Evora Sport 410, arriving soon. In manual guise it lops 70kg off the 400’s kerb weight.
We drove the new Evora 400 in IPS specification on a very cold and very wet Wakefield Park circuit just outside Goulburn, NSW, and found that it was quite light at the rear in those conditions. In fact, it was hard to glean too much out of our stint on the track, given that we were mixed in with a range of Lotus drivers of varied experience, many of whom were spearing off into the muddy surrounds given the horrible conditions.
No, we learned quite a bit more by taking the Evora 400 manual for a quick drive on the coarse-chip roads around the raceway, where we came away quietly impressed by this evolved Evora.
It still possesses the typical character of the Lotus brand – the steering is nibbling at the road constantly, meaning you never ever feel like it’s relaxed on the surface, and you constantly feel as though you are part of the drive experience, not just along for the ride. It corners with prowess, with the steering offering superb feel and response.
The ride is true to sports car form, in that it is firm, but you will find that it is also very well matched to the character of the car.
The suspension is actually pretty compliant; there are not a whole lot of issues with how it deals with bumps, as it’s not crashy over the sharper bumps and copes with little imperfections really nicely. You may get tired of feeling all the bumps, but it is a Lotus, after all.
It would indeed be a lot of fun on a racetrack in the right conditions. Maybe we’ll have to try to tee that up.
What about the engine, though? It is, put simply, epic.
It has a great level of refinement to the way it builds pace, and it does so very rapidly. Lotus claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds for the manual and 4.2 seconds for the auto, and we have no reason to doubt either of those claims, particularly when Race mode is dialled in.
It’s one of three modes, the others are Touring and Sport. Race doesn’t disengage stability control completely, but it has been developed by Bosch to be sensitive to whatever situation the car is apparently being put in. If it detects slip on the first hot lap, it will mitigate for that circumstance more aggressively than it would in Sport mode (as I found out on the track…!).
The way that the engine’s supercharger whines and the volume at which the exhaust growls is just immense – 108 decibels at full noise, to be precise. It’s a howl, a banshee shriek that is something that you could easily become addicted to.
If you don’t want it, you can just hit the exhaust button and it is muted to a much more comfortable level, while as for other noise there’s just a little bit of wind rustle around the windows and some road noise from the mixed wheel/tyre package (Michelin Pilot Sport 235/35/19 front and 285/30/20 rear). But that’s OK for a sports car.
Using the engine’s push is all the more enjoyable due to the manual transmission. The shift action is excellent: so crisp, so clean, and so beautifully matched to the engine. The clutch is good too – not too heavy or light, either.
While a lot has changed with the Evora, the vision from the driver’s seat remains less than excellent. The side mirrors swallow a fair share of rear guard in the glass, while the rear-view mirror is pretty useless: you see more of the engine than the road behind, but you do get to see the throttle lever activating as you put your right foot down. Nice.
Inside, the Evora feels a lot better put together than it did in its previous guise.
There have been adjustments to the placement of the buttons, and the entire cockpit looks more securely fastened than it once did.
It isn’t a luxury car, but has touches of luxury when optioned that way. Our test car had Alcantara with leather trim fitted, while the standard fit is “sport cloth” and leather edging.
It’s got an Alpine media system which, to be honest, is quite hard to use, but it has navigation, CD, Bluetooth, all that stuff. I was listening to the engine, though, and paying attention to the road.
But thankfully the heated seats kept me warm, and the level of seat adjustment is good, too. There’s also reach and rake steering, and the wheel itself is terrific. Very simple, but beautiful in the hand, with an Alcantara top section and leather hand grips. It’s a nice size as well, but the wiper and indicator stalks are a bit far from your hands.
The back seats now have slightly more space – ah, they’re not really usable for adults, but now the backrests of the front seats are scalloped, which is good as smaller occupants can fit in there a bit more comfortably.
But the biggest improvement to the interior is the revised sill structures. It is now considerably easier to get in to and out of the cabin of the Evora 400 than it was in the old Evora, especially if you’re terminally awkward like myself.
Overall, we came away feeling that the 2016 Lotus Evora 400 is a big improvement over the existing Lotus Evora. It’s a more rounded car, one that feels more mature yet still very lively and involving.
Colin Chapman would be proud. We just can't wait to add more time to our next test drive... And we'll reserve our rating until then.
Click the Photos tab for more suppled images and further pictures from the launch by Matt Campbell.
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