• May 13th 2010 at 11:56AM
  • 93
2010 Lotus Evora - Click above for high-res image gallery

In a move that would have impressed Harry Houdini, Lotus has made one thousand pounds of vehicle mass seemingly disappear – yet we still know it's there. We're high in the mountains above San Diego, challenging corners in the 2010 Lotus Evora, and the larger and more luxurious two-plus-two is emulating the moves of its lightweight race-ready Elise and Exige siblings.

What gives the Evora its supernatural powers? How does the all-new Evora fit into the Lotus lineup? And, most importantly, is this the first Lotus you can park in your garage without having to explain it to the neighbors? Find out after the jump.

Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Lotus has become synonymous with lightweight, no-frills sports cars thanks to its ass-kicking Elise roadster and Exige coupe – arguably two of the world's best driver's cars. Yet, despite their impressiveness on the track, the Elise and Exige are about as practical as a gutted Spec Miata when it comes to daily drivers.

In an effort to put more sophistication on the menu, and capture a larger market share, Lotus has rolled out its first all-new car in 15 years. Like the Elise and Exige, the Evora is a lightweight, aluminum-chassis, mid-engine sports car that puts a premium on driving dynamics. But unlike its smaller, harder siblings, the Evora offers more interior space, a host of luxury amenities, two-plus-two seating and a six-cylinder powerplant.

The chassis of the Evora is manufactured by Lotus Lightweight Structures Limited in Worcester, United Kingdom, as three main components. The main chassis – an extruded and bonded aluminum safety monocoque tub – is where the passengers and fuel tank reside. In front of that is an all-aluminum subframe containing the front suspension, cooling system and steering rack (it's bolted to the main chassis for easy repair). The rear subframe is galvanized steel and contains the rear suspension, engine and gearbox (likewise bolted to the back of main chassis). The whole assembly weighs just over 440 pounds and is more than twice as stiff as the chassis in the Elise, says Lotus. All body panels are composite, either bolted or bonded to the chassis depending on location. The curb weight comes in around 3,000 pounds with 39 percent of the mass over the front wheels and the other 61 percent hovering over the rear, nearly mirroring the weight distribution of the unflappable Elise and Exige. And just like the Elise/Exige twins, the Evora is packing a Japanese-sourced powerplant mounted amidships.

It's a Toyota 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 – the same engine fitted to the pedestrian Lexus RX350, Toyota Camry and Toyota Sienna – is equipped with ToMoCo's Dual VVT-i variable valve timing, putting out 268 horsepower in standard guise. Lotus adds its own engine management software to bump output to 276 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque, while increasing the redline to 7,000 RPM. The engine sits transversely in the middle of the chassis, tilted just slightly rearward for better packaging.

For now the sole gearbox is an Aisin EA60 six-speed manual, also sourced from Toyota. Lotus pulls out the range of overdrive gears (third through sixth) and replaces them with closer, custom ratios to suit the Evora. Customers may choose from either a standard-ratio 'box, or a sport-ratio transmission with shorter gearing, and for those who don't like to row their own, hold out for a six-speed automatic that's set to arrive in the near future.

The suspension is comprised of lightweight forged aluminum wishbones fitted with Eibach springs and Bilstein shocks on all four corners. Mounted to each wheel hub are oversized ventilated disc brakes (13.77-inch in front and 13.07-inch rear rotors in the rear) sporting AP Racing four-piston calipers. If you option up for the "Sport Package," ventilated rotors with cross-drilled units are available. The standard tire package is staggered in both tire width and wheel size, with the Evora kitted out with 18-inch alloys up front (225/40Z R18) and 19-inch alloys in the rear (255/35Z R19).

The base price for the Lotus Evora is $72,990 for the "2+0" (two-seat) version and $73,500 for the "2+2" model. Lotus also offers three optional bundled packages. A "Premium Package" ($1,990) delivers interior accent lighting, upgraded interior trim and more extensive use of premium leathers and colors. The "Technology Package" ($2,995) includes an Alpine multimedia infotainment system designed around a seven-inch WVGA touch-sensitive screen. It also includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, satellite navigation, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), cruise control and rear parking sensors. The "Sport Upgrade Pack" ($1,275) fits the Evora with a more aggressive diffuser, titanium exhaust tailpipe, cross-drilled brake discs, engine oil cooler and a switchable ECU with sports mode that provides a sharper throttle response, increased redline and a traction control setting tuned for aggressive driving. Stand-alone options include just electric power-folding mirrors ($450), reverse camera ($495), forged alloy wheels ($2,125), sport-ratio gearbox ($1,500) and an equalizer system for the Alpine audio package ($495).

Our test car was a "2+2" model loaded up like a shopper during the holidays. Our eyes never saw an actual dealer sticker, but our guess is that the blue metallic tester would set you back about $84,000. In all honesty, we'd choose an Evora "2+2" with only the Sport Pack and sport-ratio gearbox and walk out of the showroom at $76,275 (for comparison, the Porsche Cayman S starts at $61,500 and a bare-bones Porsche 911 begins at $77,800).

Standing next to the world's only mid-engine 2+2 sports car currently in production, the Evora is bigger than it looks in pictures – much larger than the diminutive, hard-top Exige. By the tape, the Evora comes in at 170.9-inches long with a 101.4-inch wheelbase, while the smaller Exige is 149.5-inches in length sporting a 90.6-inch wheelbase. Despite all of its aluminum, the Evora is roughly the same weight and size as a Porsche Cayman S – one of its closest mid-engine competitors.

Unlike the Exige coupe, a sports car that requires acrobatic ability to enter, our six-foot two-inch frame slid easily behind the flat-bottom forged magnesium wheel of the Evora. With the seat moved forward a few clicks (yes, forward), and the steering wheel tilted and telescoped just right, our body was comfortable in the standard two-way adjustable Recaro bucket seats. There is no "dead pedal" per se – blame the left-front wheel's slight intrusion into the cockpit – so our left foot hung out awkwardly over, on or under the clutch pedal. Rearward visibility is dismal, providing a clear view of the engine cover in the rear-view mirror, but a reverse camera is included and the generously sized exterior mirrors offer a clear shot of the flanks and the surrounding traffic on each side.

Yes, there is a back seat, which Lotus says can accommodate a five-foot-tall adult. We weren't about to try. You won't either.

Twist the key (no push-button start here) and the 3.5-liter V6 springs to life and settles to a muted purr. The clutch is light and the lever throws a bit longer than we prefer, but it isn't harder to operate than a Toyota Corolla. After backing gingerly out of our parking space (thank you Mr. Reverse Camera), we drop into first gear and drive about a mile down the road.

Then it hits us hard – a sucker-punch to the face.

We drive countless cars around here. Nearly all of them, from cargo vans to exotics, take time to get acquainted with as mannerisms are absorbed, character traits are learned and faults either annoy or are overlooked. After a few hours, days or even a week, we forge judgments and opinions about vehicles and then decide if we like it. The Lotus Evora, in striking contrast, isn't one of "them."

You "get" the Evora immediately – or it goes completely over your head.

Recovering from the welcomed blow, we've got a grin on our kisser rivaling the Mazdaspeed3 within the first block. We lock the doors, snug our belt, and head for the open road in the mountains just east of San Diego.

Familiar with the Elise and Exige, both minimalist sports cars that joyously drive like oversized go-karts, we expected the power-assisted steering and extra half-ton of curb weight on the Evora to muffle the fun like a bout of asthma at a harmonica convention. Not going to happen, says the Lotus engineering team. It takes but a few turns to realize that the Evora drives with a springing lightness that defies any preconceived notions. Maybe the tires are filled with helium?

Fling the Evora into a corner above your comfort level and it responds to minute steering inputs like a well-trained Labrador retriever. Without hesitation, it loyally delivers everything asked of it and not one degree more.

Mile after mile, corner after corner, we smiled, giggled, laughed and tears of joy rolled down our cheeks (bring tissue on your test drive). We felt invincible – the same way we do when piloting the Elise and Exige.

All credit is directed towards the chassis and a very accurate steering system teamed with what may be the world's best suspension tuning. Any vehicle that boasts a cornering grip in excess of 1g (as the Evora does) typically rides in washboard fashion. Not in this case. Through some secret black art – and without the use of electronically-controlled dampers – the Evora corners perfectly flat, yet absorbs pavement breaks and cow crossing grates without drama. The suspension on the Evora is unequaled – perfectly compliant and beautifully composed.

Lotus boasts that the Evora's brakes are "fade free." While we never had a chance to victimize them on the track, they continued to stop short at any request and seemed to get better as we heated them up. The transmission's ratios are a perfect spread with the sport gearing (don't even consider the taller "standard" gearbox), but we did feel the throws were a bit long for such an agile sports car. Furthermore, while it's easy to shift when just poking around, the clutch prefers a full, foot-to-the-floor engagement, otherwise you'll be grinding gears or chattering your way through traffic. But don't rush things and you're rewarded with clean, smooth shifts that inspire just as much confidence as the exemplary suspension.

We consider the Evora quick on its toes, but not particularly fast. The torque-rich 3.5-liter six pulls cheerfully from all positions on the tachometer and it seemed to relish spinning to the right side of the dial – surprising for a mill pilfered from the Toyota parts bin. We only found ourselves yearning for more power on the straight, or in the taller gears while on the highway. Before you challenge that Subaru STI to a drag race at the light, keep in mind that most of the Evora's competition will outrun its claimed 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds (top speed is a drag-limited 162 mph). Bet on a forced-induction model in the future, as the chassis could easily handle more power.

In the big picture, our enthusiast-tuned taste buds say the new Lotus is one of the most enjoyable sports cars we have ever driven – standing only behind its Elise and Exige siblings when forced to get in line. Baring our soul, we'll even go so far as to say the Evora is more fun to drive than the benchmark Porsche Cayman S. Or a 911. Yeah, we said it.

But, would we choose the Lotus over a Porsche?

While the Evora is leaps and bounds more civilized, comfortable and well-rounded than anything we've seen from Lotus in recent memory (we'd gladly drive it 1,000 miles in a day), it still seems to stop short of filling that critical second slot in our own driveway. Like most limited-production sport cars, the Evora still feels too special to weather the road salt, bug guts and bird excrement that pummel our daily drivers.

Nevertheless, the all-new coupe is a remarkably more compatible mate than its aging predecessors, delivering 98% of the performance while tripling the convenience and amenities. While both the Elise/Exige are frisky cars you date, the Evora is exceptional enough to wed. And for the masses that dream of putting a Lotus in the garage, the all-new Evora is the answer to their prayers.

Photos by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Love Lotus. Have owned two Esprits. Will NEVER buy one with a Japanese engine. Won't buy a German tub either. Both of those countries tried their best to kill my father during WW2. If they were successfull I would NOT be here. To young to even consider that? Look up the number of people killed by the war machines of these two countries. Fueled by industries still making cars today. My little (BIG) protest. Think I'm crazy? Not enough to put money into those two counties auto industry.
      If you have an American flag on a foriegn car - that is NOT patriotic. That is all !!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      There's a couple of these stunners over at Lamborghini Lotus of Chicago in the burbs... while the bright colors are just OK, the metallic green/gray one they had was a stunner.

      I so want one of these, but for now I'd be ecstatic when I finally buy an Elise. I love driving these machines!

      I can understand why a Porsche would be a better daily car though, there is a solidity to the construction in a Porsche that shames anything you car to name. It feels as if they are hewn from blocks, not constructed. My experience with Elise and Esprits suggests more of a crafted feel. Nevertheless that makes it more special in my eyes. Yes anyone can rock a Cayman/911/Boxster day in/out. But an Elise (and now Evora) would bring much more joy everytime I saw it in the garage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        buy an elise already, they're going for v6 accord money thanks to the carpocolypse. a coworker's selling his for 25k.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Very well put. Great observations.

        - Mike
        • 5 Years Ago
        Think of Lotus as reasonably priced relatively low volume hand-built exotic cars - because they are.

        Porsches nowadays are machine/robot made commodities coming from a mega corporation. Sure, they are fantastic cars but there is something extra special about a car put together by fine English craftsmen.

        If you have to ask why you just don't get it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The one thing that has kept this car and the Elise/Exige off my weekend car list is the fragile nature of the composite body panel and aluminum spaceframe. I know that they are as strong or even stronger in crashes, but the fact is that once any part of the backbone gets damaged, the repair for the spaceframe is so extensive and costly that it's just easier/more economical to total loss and buy a new one.
        I was looking on Elise forum a couple years back, and read that cracks in the front clam shell(basically everything cab forward) can easily become big enough to have to replace the shell(5k+ last time I checked). I didn't find out if it was possible to just repair the shell like you do hulls(?), so maybe that's a possible alternative.

        Either of these two major components of the car is in jeopardy here in Bay Area especially on the highways. We get countless crap dropped on highway all the time, where common steel bodied/chassis cars would just shrug off, whereas the Elise/Exige could be heavily damaged. Read an owner in another state who unknowingly ran over a block of wood(passed over it in the middle) that gave a 4 inch + gash in the bottom of the tub. Ouch :(
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would love to check one of these out. Not in the market, but I am curious to sit in it and compare to the Elises I have been in. I do not think Lotus equates with a car you could drive everday though. They are too fragile...seems they have always been. For the money we are talking, I would buy a base Boxster/Cayman/ or Corvette and have an R1 or Aprilia RSV right beside it for those special glorious days. However, I would love a nicely restored BRG Elan now that I think of it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The biggest flaw I have with the car is the engine. Potential for tuners is there don't get me wrong.

      For the price of the car I would have expected an extra 50hp for the kind of car this is. I guess that's what you get when you put a truck engine in a sports car - when will Lotus ever learn!! They were using for the longest time Land Rover engines in their sports cars! They smartened up using the 1.8L from the Celica and it was a GREAT engine, especially after some tweaks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I guess that's what you get when you put a truck engine in a sports car - when will Lotus ever learn!! They were using for the longest time Land Rover engines in their sports cars!

        When did Lotus ever use Land Rover engines? I'm pretty sure that you're mistaken. The Lotus Twin Cam was a Lotus head on a Ford Kent block. The 4 cylinder that was in the Elite/Eclat and later in the Esprit, was a Lotus designed unit (though originally also sold to Jensen Healey). The 8 cylinder Esprit engine was also an in-house Lotus design. FWIW, so was the first Corvette ZR1 engine - GM owning an interest in Lotus at the time.

        Since the Elise has been made, Lotus has been sourcing its engines from Toyota, which I believe bought GM's share in the British company, now owned by Proton, the Malaysian company.

        It's true that some folks have retrofitted Loti with the Buick/Rover V8, but that all aluminum engine is hardly a "truck engine".

      • 5 Years Ago
      Beautiful car. Excellent photography.

      I want to drive one of these... oh wait, maybe I shouldn't, because then everything else I drive will feel inferior. Hrm.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Car noob here. I was wondering, are all sports cars sticks like this one? Can you request one in automatic? Just curious. Thanks!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm.... torn on this. My first thought was "oh good god, that's gorgeous!" And there is still the positives of drivability, Lotus-like handling, etc. But there's still the niggling issue of the fact that this car is similar weight, and similar hp to a Cobalt SS. It weighs 50% MORE than an Elise. Suddenly it's not about pure sports car lightweight anymore, but growing bigger, fatter, heavier, and more refined. It's even becoming practical! If BMW could ever be made into a verb, I'd say that Lotus is getting BMW'd.

      What's happening to all of the sports cars these days? I know the talk is that fuel economy and crash standards are killing the sports cars, but I think that it's actually an aging population and lazy consumer sentiment that's doing it. Porsche is focusing (or at least spending a lot of research $$) on SUVs and 4-door cars. BMW is putting out bloated and expensive secretary cars like the 328i and the new Z4, not to mention the atrocious X series...

      But on the plus side, I now own a car that weighs LESS THAN A LOTUS!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Loti have always ridden smoothly. I recall a Road & Track review of the Europa Special remarking on the car's smoothness out on the interstate saying, "a master chassis tuner has been at work".

      The suspension philosophy at Lotus since Colin Chapman has been stiff chassis, soft springs, stiff shock absorbers. I think the concept is to let the suspension be compliant to the road and do its work.

      Still, as a Lotus fan, it's always rewarding when folks say, OMG that thing can handle, but then saying that a Lotus can handle is like saying that water is wet. Lotus has built the best handling road cars made in the past 50 years. Though they may not have had exotic engines (though the Twin Cam was pretty sophisticated in its day), any Lotus built has at least been able to keep up in the twisties with contemporary cars from Porsche, Ferrari, etc.

      The original Elan, with 13X4.5" rubber, could exceed 0.9g on the skid pad. That was in 1964.

      Back in the day, there was a t-shirt with a drawing of an Europa going around a corner, with the caption "Lotus, The Shortest Distance Between Two Points".
      • 5 Years Ago
      C'mon guys! A Lotus that gives up some performance for luxury and practicality? This is brand dilution!! BRAND DILUTION!!! All of those who complain about Teutonic brand dilution should be up in arms about this. This is just the first step to a GT, then to a sedan, then to an SUV.

      C'mon anti-Brand Diluters!! Speak Up!! Hehe.... :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Loti have always been relatively luxurious. Fully trimmed and carpeted interiors and electric windows in the 1960s. Leather and decent HVAC by the '70s. Colin Chapman had a taste for the good life and his cars reflected that. Chapman was a proponent of lightweight cars but he didn't believe in wearing hair shirts. As he got older and his family grew, so did Lotus cars, first the Elan +2, then the four seat Elite/Eclat/Excel. When Chapman died there was even a four door Lotus luxury sports sedan on the drawing boards at Hethel.

        Sure, the Elise was very minimalist when first introduced, but the idea that Lotus is only about saving weight is mistaken. Most Lotus cars have been built to be driven on the road, daily if needed, not just to be track day toys.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I know exactly where you are! That's the burn area between Mt. Laguna and Julian. I was just there for a drive a few weeks ago when there was snow. There's some great driving to be done up there!

      Oh yeah, the car sounds pretty good too. I'm intrigued as to how they pulled off such perfect suspension tuning.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The interior seems below par, but I would gladly drive this car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice review guys.
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