There are currently only two Lotus Evoras in Australia, and I’m about to put 300 kilometres on the clock of what is one of the most talked about cars in years.
Problem is, I’ve drawn the shotgun position for the first 90-kilometre stint, but at least I’ll be able to squarely judge the ride and comfort qualities of the first new Lotus design in over a decade.
It doesn’t matter how many photos you might have seen on the web or in magazines, the Evora is a natural wall poster car, and there are simply no wrong angles from which to view this beautiful design, which just happens to be a 2+2, meaning enough room for the kids.
And get ready for even more eye candy from the maker of the worlds best handling sports cars, as Group Lotus beefs up their senior management with an All-Star team from Ferrari SpA.
Danny Bahar has been appointed CEO of Lotus from Ferrari, where he held the position of Senior Vice President Commercial and Brand, which means he was responsible for worldwide road car sales and after sales business, overall road car and Formula One marketing activities, licensing, and merchandising business. The whole box and dice if you will.
Ferrari design guru Donato Coco has also just started work at Lotus in the newly created position of director of design. While at Ferrari, Donato was director of design and development, which saw him work on the 458 Italia, the F430, the Ferrari Scuderia Spider 16M, the California and the 599XX.
Lotus Cars was founded by British engineering visionary Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman in 1928 on the back of motor racing, which is why Danny Bahar is so eager to return the company to the podium and to former motorsports glory in endurance racing and in Formula One.
After all, it was Lotus who revolutionised Formula One racing with the introduction of ‘ground effect’ and aerodynamic ‘downforce’ on board their unbeatable Type 72 racecar.
That said Claudio Berro is indeed the right choice to head motorsport activities for Lotus as its Director of Motorsport.
He has 14 years with Ferrari, Maserati and Fiat, and has been responsible for the Formula One team as well as director of all sports car activities for Ferrari and Maserati as well as countless other senior motorsport roles in the Fiat Group.
And it all starts with the Lotus Evora, a sports car that is set to go head-to-head with the likes of Porsche and in doing do, position the brand higher up the prestige ladder and to a wider group of buyers.
While Lotus has done well with their Lotus Elise family of near enough to 30 different variants, they are all pretty well regarded as raw-edged sports cars for genuine motoring enthusiasts.
The Evora is different, very different. Ingress and egress no longer requires you to possess the physical attributes of a Yoga master, or the body of an Ethiopian marathon runner. Simply open the door and sit down in what are superbly comfortable leather sports pews from Recaro.
And I can’t get over airspace between my head and the roof lining. The cabin design is such that the Evora is friendly to folks up to 196cm tall. At least that’s what the press kit says and at 176cm, who am I to question such detail.
While the exterior design is an evolution of the Elise family and unmistakably Lotus, the ride quality is something of a revolution. It’s unusually comfortable, so much so, that I find myself repeating the same lines over and over to my colleague at the wheel “you can’t feel the bumps” and “it doesn’t feel like a Lotus”.
He’s nodding in agreement, but he’s having far too much fun to utter a single syllable, as we head towards the Southern Highlands for the kind or roads where anything with a Lotus badge reins king.
Although I’m sitting fairly low in the Evora, its not quite as deep as you would in an Aston Martin Vantage or Porsche 911, but both driver and passenger have a commanding view of the road ahead without compromising that ‘in car’ driving position. Put that down to a clever cockpit layout and the wrap around windscreen design.
In a sudden, but expected departure from the Lotus models of the last 13 years, the Evora is equipped with significantly more grunt than the rest of its immediate family.
Transversely mid-mounted, is a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 engine sourced from Toyota, but it doesn’t sound like any Toyota I’ve ever driven.
Lotus engineers have carefully modified the powerplant with their own ETCS-i Electronic Throttle Control System and Lotus designed and developed engine management system, which produces 206kW and 350Nm of torque, along with that special Lotus driving experience.
But it’s the exhaust note from the bespoke titanium tailpipe that will have you drooling like an infant, and wishing you had never bothered to switch on the high-end Alpine Imprint audio system.
As comfortable as it is riding shotgun in the Evora, and it is both comfortable and surprisingly roomy, the only place to be in a Lotus is behind the wheel.
At 1382 kilograms, it might be significantly heavier than any other Lotus in the stable, but in keeping with the Chapman edict of ‘performance through light weight’ the heart of Evora’s performance is its power to weight ratio.
That’s probably why I’m griping a beautifully forged super-light, flat-bottomed magnesium steering wheel, and why the entire three-piece aluminium chassis weighs just 200 kilos.
Steering response and accuracy is not quite as sharp as the stripped out Elise or Exige, due to the hydraulic power assistance (a first for the current Lotus stable) but the moment you come across a naturally made chicane, you know you're driving a precision instrument capable of dissecting a winding road like no other 2+2 could ever hope to do.
From the outside, you would be hard pressed picking the Evora as a four seater. It has all the design hallmarks of a purpose built supercar. The fact is, you can also buy the car as a 2+0, which removes the rear seats and replaces them with a parcel shelf. I guess it comes down to kids or no kids.
I’m blasting through this snake like section and there’s almost no need to drop down from fifth gear, there’s just so much torque on tap in the higher gear ratios, meaning throttle response is instantaneous.
Point-to-point, the Evora is very quick and very agile. But when you factor in the car’s vice-like grip and stability through corners and at considerable pace, it feels considerably faster than its 0-100km/h published sprint time of 5.1 seconds.
Grip is maintained even when punching hard out of corners, due mostly to the Evora’s Electronic Differential Lock although; the traction control system on board this car, allows some mild rear wheel slip before the electronic nannies take charge.
I’m also astonished at how calmly the car copes with speed on rubbish roads, you can feel the extra stiffness in the chassis (that’s one and half times that of the Elise) but the forged aluminium double wishbones working in concert with the Lotus tuned Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers, offer nothing but a compliant ride, no matter hard you push the car.
The optional six-speed close ratio gearbox is a treat, and well worth the extra coin if you intend mixing it up with other like-minded enthusiasts during the occasional track day.
Once we hit the steep descents in the heart of the Southern Highlands, the Lotus AP Racing four-pot calipers and cross-drilled brake discs started working their magic with race car like stopping power and zero fade.
The other equally beneficial bi-product of effective power to weight management is fuel economy, and here is where the Evora should triumph over other sports car manufacturers.
Combined fuel consumption is said to be as low as 8.7l/100km (32.5 mpg) with highway cruising at 6.5l/100km.
The Evora is shod with Pirelli’s premium performance road going PZero tyres, despite the fact much of the car’s testing was on Yokohama Advans. Wheels are split sizes at 18-inch up front, and 19-inch down the back.
Driving back to Sydney on the freeway was more like riding in a sophisticated Grand Tourer than a highly capable sports car, and is testament to the quality of the engineering and the substantail development and testing schedule of this defining sports car.
The options list for the Evora is extensive although, several options packages including; the Sports Upgrade Pack, Premium Upgrade Pack, and Tech Upgrade Pack, bundle the individual features well enough.
The Evora will be available through the premium Lotus dealer network including, the Trivett Group in Sydney, Barbagallo Sport in Perth, Euromarque in Brisbane, Zagame Automotive Group in Melbourne, and Prestige Walkerville in Adelaide.
Lotus Evora prices:
- 2+0 Configuration: $149,990
- 2+2 Configuration: $156,990
The Lotus Evora is available in 20 superb exterior and four interior colour trim choices.