2011 Lotus Evora
2011 Lotus Evora Expert Review: Autoblog
I have a general rule: Don't turn off traction control in anything over 350 horsepower. Adhering to this self-imposed restriction has kept your humble hack out of the weeds more times than I can count. But on my second-to-last lap around Laguna Seca in the 2011 Lotus Evora S, I just couldn't help myself. After all, it's only making 345 horses...
Just as I was cresting the ton down the front straight, I held down the aluminum button on the left side of the dash, saw the orange light illuminate on the instrument cluster and dove into Turn One with a fair amount of trailbraking. As the front end began to ever-so-slightly wash out, I gave it the boot and performed one of those life-affirming powerslides through One and Two, making the slightest of corrections on the wheel, grazing the curbing with the right rear tire and powering into the slight right hander that leads into Turn Three.
Ego briefly stroked, I reengaged the electro-nannies, barreled through Four and Five, and with Sport Mode set, managed a four-wheel-drift through turn six before making the long trek up to The Corkscrew.
Good cars make you feel like a hero. Great cars compliment and connect with every fiber of your being. The Evora S falls into the latter camp. And it's even better on the open road.
When none other than Dan Neil says of the standard, naturally aspirated Evora, "In my career as an automotive journalist, I've never written these words: I am going to buy one," you know it's good. But as of today, The Esteemed Mr. Neil hasn't called up his local Lotus dealer and cut a check for the $64,000(ish) 2+2(ish). Why? Because he knew something better was around the corner.
That something better is the Evora S.
With the same 3.5-liter V6 mounted amidships as the standard Evora, Lotus has done the predictable, slapping a Harrop HTV 1320 supercharger on top of the Toyota-sourced six-cylinder like an aluminum cherry on top of one incredibly delectable four-wheeled sundae. The result is a boost in output from 276 to 345 hp (peaking at 7,000 rpm) and torque rises from 258 to 295 pound-feet (at 4,500 rpm). The addition of the blower nets a 0-60 mph run of 4.3 seconds (down from 4.9 on the standard Evora), 0-100 mph in 10.2 ticks (improved by nearly a second and a half) and a quarter-mile time of 12.8 seconds at 110 mph.
While those increases don't look like much on paper, the additional motivation down low – particularly up hills and across straight stretches of tarmac – is exactly what the doctor ordered. Base torque in the Evora S is the same as peak torque in the standard coupe, providing authoritative shove across the rev range until around 6,200 rpm when twist begins to bleed off. And the combination of the blower whine, intake noise and engine note – enhanced by a small valve that opens up the exhaust – makes it sound like Chewbacca hurling invectives through a paper towel roll.
But as with any Lotus, this story isn't about outright power or physics-warping acceleration. It's about the driver and the drive.
Knowing not to mess with a good thing, Hethel's engineers have kept the S' suspension tweaks to a minimum. Spring rates remain the same as the standard Evora, while front and rear bushings have been stiffened by 10 percent and the rear anti-roll bar diameter has been increased by a nominal 0.5 millimeters. Base rubber – Pirelli P-Zeros, sized 225/40 R18 in front and 255/25 R19 in the rear – weren't available on our testers, so instead, specially-developed P-Zero Corsas were fitted at all four corners, with the fronts coming in at 235/35 R19 and the rears at 275/30 R20. There's only a 12 percent reduction in camber compliance up front and 19% in the rear, while lateral stiffness at the contact patch is increased by 22 percent and 32 percent, respectively.
Combined with the standard Sport Pack kit (cross-drilled and vented discs, engine oil cooler, TC-freeing Sports mode) and six-speed "Sports-Ratio" manual gearbox, the Evora S is further proof that Lotus understands handling and driver communication better than any automaker currently in existence (you could, maybe, possibly call a tie with Porsche).
The amount of feedback through the wheel simply has to be experienced to be understood. Check the Short Cut video below for a quick illustration.
Every single pockmark, rib and surface irregularity is transmitted directly from the chassis and through your palms and pants. That much we expect. But the way it deals with bumps and heaves makes you think the shocks are filled with unicorn farts and pixie tears. Partnered with the 101.4-inch wheelbase, the Evora S is never upset. NEVER. And the Lotus reps know it, so they put us on some of the most torturous stretches of roads that Northern California has to offer. Over the course of four hours, we experienced nearly every surface known to man, hit the bump stops once and never, ever felt out of sorts. All while – need I remind you – running on 30-series tires. The Evora chassis imparts the kind of knowledge people go to Tibet for: Eat. Pray. Drive.
But what about that "inconsistent" line in our title?
We ran six different Evora and Evora S coupes on the road and track and each was different. One was intent on money shifting coming into The Corkscrew. Another had a clutch I was convinced wasn't attached to anything. Some cars understeered, while others were perfectly neutral. And another had a throttle calibration issue that would only allow me to blip the gas if I did it hard. Quickly. Twice.
Partnered with the six-speed manual pulled from a diesel (yes, diesel) Toyota and stuffed full of Lotus-specific gears (1st and 2nd are standard, 3rd through 6th are shorter and specific to the Sport), the gearbox made a truck-like racket when pulling hard in low revs. Or high revs. Or in the mid-range. All depending on which S we were in. The shifter – the lone negative in the driver interface – was somewhat smoother than the standard Evora, if just by a fraction, but still came across as vague and ill-defined, causing more than a few stutters and missed-shifts no matter the environment. Experienced double-clutchers and those with monk-like patience are the only ones rewarded with a linear, uninterrupted flow of power. And the less said about the Alpine head unit, its archaic interface and its inability to give spoken directions while playing music from an iPod, the better.
That all said, I'm almost with Mr. Neil. Almost.
If a temperamental shifter and an embarrassing stereo are all that stands between me and livable daily-driving nirvana, I'm ready to sign my life away. But at $76,000 for the 2+0 and $77,500 for the 2+2 (the extra $1,500 is sure to save you on insurance) it's simply a bridge too far and 10 Gs too much. For those willing to shell out the extra coin, you can be confident in the fact you're behind the wheel of the purest driving GT available from any automaker in the world. But to be anything less than perfect with the Porsche Cayman R breathing down the Evora's neck – while commanding less and offering more – means you'll always be wondering whether you cut the right check at the right dealer. My advice: Switch off the traction control and hammer through your favorite bend. The answer should be clear.
New Car Test Drive
New mid-engine sports car is agile and seductive.
A compelling British sports car, the Lotus Evora combines excellent performance with good fuel economy. With its 2+2 seating, mid-engine configuration and exotic styling, the Evora is a pure sports car yet it's surprisingly practical. This is the first new Lotus nameplate in 15 years, the product of an exclusive brand with a 62-year heritage.
The Evora is not the first 2+2 car Lotus ever offered, but it is the first since 1992. While the back seat is not roomy, it can accommodate a smaller person (5-feet and under) sitting behind a 6-foot, 1-inch driver.
For the Evora, like other Lotus cars, the primary focus is on pure driving dynamics. A lightweight forged-aluminum suspension provides impressive handling and side-to-side balance. Precise steering and powerful brakes that come on strong with just a light touch are also part of the formula. Because of the car's relatively light weight, a 276-horsepower V6 provides brisk acceleration. The agile Evora is capable of over 1g lateral acceleration, can hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, and brake from 60 mph in 100 feet. Top speed is 162 mph.
Its exotic appearance combines fluid surfaces, functional cooling ducts, and crisp lines. Most body panels are lightweight composite, and the chassis makes extensive use of aluminum. Lotus cars are built to be among the lightest on the road, and the Evora is no exception.
A greater degree of practicality distinguishes the Evora from other similarly compelling Lotus cars. Along with the back seat for small passengers, the Evora offers tolerable ride quality, more amenities, an easier-to-drive V6, and bigger storage areas. It is easier to get in and out of than the Lotus Elise, and the 2+2 configuration will likely lead to lower insurance premiums. That makes the Evora a more comfortable Lotus that can be driven daily, not just a track/weekend car.
That said, practical is a relative term. The console houses a shifter, not cup holders, and the seats are designed to hold the occupants firmly in place. There is a navigation system and Alpine audio system, but engine sound levels rise sharply after 3500 rpm. The Evora is, first and foremost, about the driving experience.
Visually, the Evora is evocative from every angle. Close inspection yields a race-born obsession to save weight. Even hidden pieces, like hinges on the rear hatch and armrest, are made from extruded aluminum.
Driving the Evora on public roads can be an exercise in self-control. The car rewards a confident driver with incredible levels of grip, and a nearly imperceptible amount of body roll from side to side. Less experienced drivers will find the Evora forgiving of early-apex cornering and mis-judged entries. The car loves tight, diminishing-radius turns followed by sudden twists in the opposite direction. It tolerates choppy surfaces with no apparent loss of control, and keeps tires on the pavement when a rising section of road might get another car airborne. Serious braking power is immediately available by lightly feathering the pedal. Steering is direct and linear, requiring minimal hand movement on the D-shaped, magnesium steering wheel.
Electronic stability control and ABS are standard on the Evora. The systems seem to have a very high threshold, especially with the Sport package, which tweaks the thresholds higher. They are hard to trigger, designed to function as driver aids without interfering with sportive driving. However, even these unobtrusive systems can be switched off should the driver choose.
The Evora is currently the world's only mid-engine 2+2 production car. Approximately 2000 will be built in the coming year, with about 700 earmarked for sale in North America. While there are no exact competitors, size and price range suggest the Evora might be shopped against the mid-engine two-seat Porsche Cayman S. Currently, there are 48 Lotus dealers in the United States, and three in Canada. While regular oil changes and the like could be handled practically anywhere, a buyer would need access to a Lotus dealer for proper electronic diagnosis and tuning.
The 2010 Lotus Evora ($73,500) comes standard with the 2+2 configuration, or buyers can delete the back seat for storage space ($72,990).
Standard features include leather upholstery, Recaro black leather sport seats with recline, tilt and slide adjustments, air conditioning, flat-bottomed leather and magnesium steering wheel, manual steering column adjustments for length and height, illuminated aluminum control knobs and switches, power windows, leather shift knob and handbrake cover, remote release glove box, door storage bins and pockets, trip computer, Alpine CD/MP3 stereo with iPod dock connector and auxiliary input.
The Tech Package ($2,995) includes an upgraded stereo system, 7-inch touch-screen display, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, USB connection, cruise control, rear park sensors; rearview camera ($495). The Premium Package ($1,990) includes full leather trim for doors, center console. Also optional is a StarShield ($995) to protect paint on the leading edges.
The Sport Package ($1,275) features enhanced throttle response and rpm limit, sports traction control mode with increased yaw and slip thresholds, sports diffuser, titanium sports exhaust tailpipe, cross-drilled brake discs, black painted brake calipers, engine oil cooler. A Sports Ratio six-speed gearbox ($1,500) is optional.
The exterior of the Lotus Evora balances style with race-bred aerodynamic considerations such as drag, downforce and cooling. A short rear overhang and long front overhang, combined with larger wheels at the rear, create a seductive, crouching stance.
The engine, located behind the rear seat, is cooled via a top-exit radiator vent; the other vents are also functional. A floating rear wing actually produces downforce at speeds over 100 mph.
The car's remarkable presence is best appreciated in person. It's a cliche, but photographs really do not convey the elegance of the design. The Evora is more than pretty; the exposed vents, huge brakes and attention to airflow management suggest a high-strung, temperamental racecar dressed in formal evening wear.
The lines are so smoothly unified, front to rear, that the back seat is hidden. The car looks like a mid-engine sports car, but not a four-seater.
The roofline is just 48 inches off the ground, so bystanders look down on a curvaceous body with wide, muscular shoulders. Mirrors are small but functional. Two different wheel sizes are used: 18x8 inches at the front, and larger, wider 19x9.5 inches at the rear. Standard wheels are cast alloy; three other wheel designs are available, including forged alloy wheels. Ardent Red and British Racing Green are standard, with 18 metallic and premium colors available. Since cars can be ordered from the factory, a customer could theoretically have practically any color they desire.
Trunk space is limited, big enough for one golf bag or a few bags of groceries. To carry more stuff, there is the back seat.
The interior of the Evora is at the same time sparse and sophisticated, appearing not manufactured, but crafted. Our test unit had the Premium Package, which includes leather covering the lower dash, door panel, door pockets, side panels, center console, and center armrest. Practically every interior surface is trimmed in fragrant, soft leather.
Controls and switches are illuminated. Unlike some Lotus cars, there are floor mats, accent lighting, and electric mirrors. Air conditioning and power windows are standard. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes. The rear window is made from insulated, double-glazed glass, filled with Argon gas, and it has a defroster.
Entry and exit are made easier compared with the Elise by a lower sill and a wider door opening, although the seat is definitely low to the ground. Seats are firm but not hard, with appropriately wide side bolsters. The seats are adjustable, unlike those in the Elise. Brief door storage bins have small recesses that might serve as cup holders.
There is a surprising amount of front legroom and headroom. As a 50th percentile male, I had to adjust the seat well forward to reach the clutch bottom.
Our test unit had the Technology Package, which includes an upgraded Alpine audio system with additional amplification. Two 6.25-inch two-way speakers, dash-mounted tweeters, and a separately amplified 150-watt subwoofer deliver sound. We have to admit, we never thought about turning it on, although we did drive with the map illuminated on the Navigation System screen. Full connectivity for iPod touch, Nano and other models is standard with a dock connector, and there is also a standard Aux input. Bluetooth wireless and USB jacks are part of the optional Technology Package.
Even though the above equipment transforms the interior into a more refined, everyday driving space, it does add weight. The Evora is about 1000 pounds heavier than the smaller, spartan Elise two-seater. But the Evora interior doesn't look unfinished, or like a car that someone tore everything out of to make a faster autocrosser. Nor does it look like a kit car. It has the look of a premium car, hand built, by people who care about what they are doing.
Our route took us from downtown San Diego, California, along a mix of highways and mountain byways, including County Highway 1, known in that region as the Sunrise Highway. Along the way we saw rough surfaces, smooth surfaces, tight turns and wide-open superhighways.
It takes a little effort to swing down into the driver's seat, but there is no need to be a contortionist. The instrument panel is front and center, dominated by a 9000-rpm tach and 180-mph speedometer with red needles against a charcoal background. Adjusting the mirrors is a bit awkward, but it only takes a second and we're off.
The Evora looks racy enough to be intimidating, but happily, driving it is a playful experience. Once on the move, the car is a sweetheart, easy to shift, easy to steer, and ready to go along with whatever you have in mind. It's not fussy or temperamental at all.
That said, the Evora can be intoxicating, and will reward forays into higher rpm levels. The engine bursts into full song just above 3500 rpm. With the sport transmission in Sport mode, there is a sweet spot at about 4000 rpm, and the engine pulls strongly all the way up to 6700, where it bumps into the rev limiter. Its 3.5-liter engine is a Toyota V6, the optional engine in the Camry, but with Lotus tuning and Lotus engine management, it revs a little higher and makes a little more power. The Evora is so much lighter than a Camry, and some 450 pounds lighter than a Porsche 911, that the car responds to throttle with a pleasing, potentially addictive rush.
There are two choices of gearbox: standard and Sport-ratio. After driving on the Sport gearbox, we think it's the best choice for North American roads. Ratios in the Sport gearbox are a little lower than those in the standard gearbox, starting with third gear. It's probably the gearbox the Evora should have for American roads and American speed limits, lending itself to better acceleration and reducing the need for shifting. The standard gearbox, with its much taller overdrive sixth gear, might be best for high-speed European highways and European drivers who love to shift. According to Lotus testing, the Sport gearbox is actually the better transmission for fuel economy. In short, the Sport gearbox results in a quicker and more fuel-efficient Evora, so it gets our vote.
The 2011 Evora will be offered with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. We hope there won't be many takers. We found the manual six-speed easy to shift, with short throw and light clutch pressure. Most of the roads we traveled allowed us to shift between second and third most of the time, with short straights that could prompt a shift into fourth gear when we really wanted to hustle. But a great deal of shifting and downshifting is really not required. The engine has a broad range of operation, and the Sport gearing is such that operating speeds between 20 and 80 mph can be maintained without much shifting at all.
Even with the Sport gearbox in our test unit, we found it possible to cruise quietly at legal highway speeds in fourth gear, without engine stress or undue vibration. In sixth gear, a 0.861 overdrive, the engine is relaxed and noise levels are unremarkable. Even at 80 mph, there is just 3000 rpm showing on the tachometer, well below the torque peak. In fourth gear, 80 mph arrives at 4000 rpm, at which point the engine begins to wake up and smell the coffee.
Tires, Z-rated Pirelli P-Zero ultra-high performance radials, seem to have more adhesion than the car requires. As hard as we drove, we were never able to hear any noise or howl through corners, but the tires do feel the road well, with slight changes in pitch as the surface changes. Pavement irregularities come through to the seats and wheel, but the suspension is supple enough to take the edge off the bigger inputs, so it's more like a thrill ride and less like a beating. In short, this car has more grip than we were willing to use on public roads.
Steering is delightfully precise. It's hydraulically assisted, tuned by Lotus. We can't recall a car with a smoother turn-in, or more poise on difficult turns. Brakes consist of ventilated discs, 13.8 inches at the front and 13.1 at the rear, with four-piston AP Racing aluminum alloy calipers. These are bigger brakes, and better, than what would normally come with an 8500-pound diesel tow truck.
The car is weighted 39/61 percent front to rear, but 50/50 side to side, so the moment of inertia during hard-right-to-hard-left transitions is practically invisible. The car stays flat, the tires stay quiet, and we stay firmly planted in our Recaro seats. The steering wheel barely moves, hardly any effort is expended, and actual road speed becomes difficult to judge. At one point, we looked down to see 80 mph on a 35 mph mountain road.
On a wide-open highway, pure straight-ahead speed is still impressive but not explosive. The V6 pulls strongly, but in the taller gears, acceleration comes on steadily, not with a bang. In a 50- to 100-mph roll-on contest, a Corvette would pull away. The Evora's performance, and good mileage for that matter, is based on lightness, rather than sheer engine power. It is incredibly quick, agile, and undeniably fast, but not a burnout machine like a muscle car.
We found getting out of the Evora was harder than getting in. By driving, we had become part of the car. Breaking that connection, limb by limb, does take a moment. One does not just hop out. And the world, when you stand up and look around, seems different.
Easy on the eyes, and easy to drive fast without noise, drama or protest. We're sure there are limits to this car's handling, but it might take some time at the track to discover them. If we owned a Lotus Evora, we would drive it every day, and every trip to the grocery store would be an occasion.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Stewart filed this report after his test drive of the Evora near San Diego.
Lotus Evora 2+2 ($73,500); two-seat version ($72,990).
Hethel, Norfolk, England.
Options As Tested
Sport Package ($1,275) includes switchable sport mode programming for enhanced throttle response and rpm limit, a sports traction control mode with increased yaw and slip thresholds, a sports diffuser, titanium exhaust tailpipe, cross-drilled brake discs and black painted brake calipers; Sports ratio 6-speed manual gearbox ($1,500); Premium Package ($1,990) with full leather interior, accent lighting, arm rest; Technology Package ($2,995) with 7-inch touch screen, Satellite Navigation, upgraded Alpine speakers, 8-inch Subwoofer and additional Amplifier, Bluetooth and MP3 cable connections, Cruise Control, rear parking sensors; StarShield paint protection ($995); Electric power-folding mirrors ($450).
Lotus Evora 2+2 ($73,500).
2011 Lotus Evora Information
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