2012 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
Precision performance, priceless fun.
Few cars possess the allure of a Lotus. Known in its early years for remarkable racecars engineered by company founder Colin Chapman, the British marque remains famous for producing exotic road cars with distinctive styling and dynamic performance in a lightweight, efficient package.
The Lotus Evora is no exception. Sleek and trackworthy, it straddles the line between true enthusiast machine and flashy commute-mobile, and is compelling enough to elicit comments from well-heeled executives to old hippies in panel vans who declare it bitchin'. Now that the smaller, sportier Elise and Exige models have been discontinued in the U.S., the Evora is left as Lotus's only passenger car on the market.
What separates the Evora from other near-$100,000 sports cars is the focus on a pure, unadulterated driving experience. Unlike other carmakers who cram their sports models with every conceivable driver aid and entertainment techno-gadget, Lotus forgoes many of today's expected creature comforts in favor of engineering and technology that enables drivers to be more engaged, instead of relying on a profusion of electronics.
The engines used in the Lotus Evora are decidedly non-exotic, namely, a version of the Toyota V6 found in the Camry. But that's a good thing, as it means reliability and relatively inexpensive replacement parts. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic, dubbed Intelligent Precision Shift, or IPS (currently available on the base Evora and forthcoming on the Evora S in Summer 2012). The Lotus-developed automatic gearbox features paddle shifters as well as a full automatic mode.
The Evora S is a supercharged-version of the Evora that churns out 345 horsepower, a 25 percent power boost over the base model. Torque tops out at 295 pound-feet at 4500 rpm. Visually, the Evora S differentiates itself with black outside mirror housings and a modified rear diffuser. The S packs an additional 122 pounds over the base Evora, but with its stiffer suspension and new forged aluminum control arms, you'd hardly know it when darting through the esses on a mountain road or a world-class racetrack. The extra power shaves the 0-60 mph time down to 4.3 seconds with the manual transmission.
The Evora 2+2 is the same size as the standard version except they've stuffed a little seat behind the driver and passenger.
For 2012, Evora comes standard with its Sports-Ratio 6-Speed manual gearbox, previously a $1,500 option. Naturally aspirated Evoras also get a new exhaust system found in earlier model years only on the Evora S. For 2012, Lotus ditches the old Alpine navigation display for a more upscale Pioneer head unit on all cars equipped with the optional Technology Package. There's also a new gearshift knob, new wheel designs, a modified exterior paint color scheme and additional interior colors. A new Premium Sport optional interior package gives the Evora cabin an even sportier appearance. All 2012 Evora models come with additional leather interior trim not found on 2011 models, including on door pull handles and air vent surrounds.
Also new is the 2012 Evora S GP edition which features a special black and gold exterior paint scheme, gold-painted wheels, red brake calipers, the Premium Package with Suede-Tex upholstery, the Technology Package and a rearview camera. Only 15 Evora S GP cars will be available in the U.S. The Lotus F1 Team is using black and gold livery on its 2012 Formula One cars and those colors were used for the John Player Special Lotus F1 cars in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Lotus Evora achieves surprisingly good fuel economy for a sportscar. The naturally aspirated Evora is EPA-rated at 18/26 mpg City/Highway or 21 mpg Combined with the manual transmission and 20/28 mpg with the IPS (23 mpg Combined). The supercharged Evora S is rated 17/26 mpg (20 mpg Combined) with the manual and 19/28 mpg with the IPS (22 mpg Combined).
The closest rival to the base Evora is the Porsche Cayman, while the Evora S is better pitted against the Porsche Cayman S, Nissan GT-R, Audi TT RS and even the Corvette Z06. There is no direct competitor to the Evora 2+2, a mid-engine sports car capable of seating four.
The 2012 Lotus Evora is available in two models: the naturally aspirated Evora and the supercharged Evora S. Both are available in either two-seat 2+0 or four-seat 2+2 configurations.
Evora ($66,100) is powered by a 3.5-liter Toyota V6 engine that makes 276 horsepower. A sports-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard, with a 6-speed IPS automatic transmission optional ($1,950). The Sport Package ($1,400 or $1,000 with IPS) features a selectable sport mode with an enhanced throttle response and less invasive traction control and adds a sports diffuser, titanium exhaust tips, cross-drilled brake discs and black painted brake calipers.
Standard equipment includes leather front seats, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power locks and windows, a trip computer and an Alpine audio system with CD player, iPod connector and auxiliary audio jack, cast-aluminum wheels (18-inch front, 19-inch rear), heated exterior mirrors, bi-xenon headlights. Evora 2+2 ($67,600) adds cloth rear seats.
Evora S ($76,100) comes with a 345-hp supercharged version of the 3.5-liter V6 and the sports-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox. The Sport Package comes standard. Evora S 2+2 ($77,600) adds cloth rear seats.
Options for both models include power-folding mirrors ($475), rearview camera ($550), SuedeTex interior trim ($990), and heated seats ($550). Special paint and wheel options are available. The Premium Package ($2,750) includes heated seats, accent lighting, a center armrest, upgraded floor mats and leather trim on dash, door panel and center console. The Technology package ($3,100) includes cruise control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, an upgraded audio system and a new Pioneer touchscreen display with navigation, DVD playback and a USB port.
The Evora S GP ($90,790) features gold-painted 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rear wheels, a special black and gold exterior paint scheme, gold-painted wheels, red brake calipers, the Premium Package with Suede-Tex upholstery, the Technology Package and rearview camera.
Safety equipment includes dual front airbags, seat belt pretensioners, child seat anchors (2+2), and Lotus Dynamic Performance Management with four-wheel ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, hydraulic emergency brake assist. A rearview camera is available, which can help the driver spot a child or pedestrian behind the car when backing up.
In an era when it's fashionable for high-performance cars to look angry and menacing, the Lotus Evora opts for styling that's athletic, yet elegant and approachable. The front grille opening is a broad-mouthed smile reminiscent of a certain type of puffer fish. It's the classic Lotus grille, a happy look similar to the grilles on the 1962 Lotus Elan, the 1962 Lotus 22 Formula Junior, the 1966 Lotus Europa, and, of course, the Lotus Elise.
Evora's taut lines evoke motion, even when the car is standing still. Its sporty stance and sexy angles are sure to seduce onlookers and valets alike, the latter of whom will most likely leave the car out front next to the Lambos and Bentleys.
Evora 2+2 models are the same size as the standard two-seat models (2+0) except that a pair of seats is stuffed in the back.
Evora is no lightweight: Curb weight for Evora is 3,049 pounds, while Evora S is 3,168 pounds. By comparison, a Porsche Cayman S weighs 2,976 pounds, an Audi TT RS quattro weighs 3,306 pounds, a Corvette Coupe 3,208 pounds. The featherweight Elise weighs just 1,931 pounds. The hefty Nissan GT-R tips the scales at 3,829 pounds.
We recommend getting the optional Starshield clear film to protect the paint on the nose of the car.
The first thing we notice when getting into the cabin of the Lotus Evora is that there are a lot of buttons. Six buttons flank each side of the steering wheel (for a grand total of 12). Some are clustered together in logical order, and some are not. The center stack is cleaner, with controls that are well laid-out and easy to reach. In front of the driver, the red color of the electronic display can be hard to read in bright light and is not infinitely adjustable. The chrome trim around the gauges looks beautiful, unless it's reflecting the afternoon sun, in which case it's inconveniently blinding. The steering wheel is comfortable to grip, and, while we're not fans of the flat-bottomed shape, it does offer a little extra room for the driver's legs.
Past Lotus models were dinged for skewing its proportions for the small-of-stature, but the Evora in some ways overcompensates. That's good news for taller folk, but even with the seat all the way forward, someone in the 5-foot, 4-inch range can just reach the pedals. The bottom seat cushion is also longer than in other Lotus models, preventing same-said driver's knees from bending. The pedals are close together, which elicits complaints from those with larger shoe sizes, but it's great for those with smaller feet, especially for practicing heel-toe. The lack of a dead pedal is annoying, but somewhat traditional for Lotuses.
Evora 2+2 models add rear seats, but only people shorter than five feet could come close to fitting. Although it's billed as the world's only mid-engine four-seat sports car, the back seat in the Lotus Evora is essentially only good for carrying small children and abetting lower auto insurance premiums.
The Evora interior is sparse compared to its competitors, but it does offer a refreshing simplicity for those who just want to focus on the drive. Still, there's always a sense that the Evora's fancy leather is just finer covering over a toy, with certain elements looking plastic and disappointing for a car with that kind of price tag. Race-inspired seats offer support around corners, but minimal padding means rear-ends won't fare well on longer road trips. Optional SuedeTex interior trim is a soft-touch, synthetic material similar to Alcantara. On cars equipped with the technology package, the new Pioneer head unit is an improvement over the old Alpine display.
As for storage space, the Evora offers more than other Lotus models thanks to the rear storage/seating area, but it's not the car for someone who travels with a set of matched luggage. The trunk holds 5.7 cubic feet, but its slim opening greatly limits storage options.
Certain features in the Evora, like in other Lotus models, are almost comical. Tiny visors don't block out much sun, and the glove compartment can be taken as a literal description; even the slim owner's manual must be tucked away carefully to fit. The diminutive optional center armrest will support only the sveltest of elbows, which is okay, since if you're driving an Evora, you won't be doing much resting anyway.
The trip odometer only calculates in whole miles, which makes navigating difficult when your route instructions rely on tenths. And rear visibility is minimal due to a miniscule back window. You won't be bothered by this if you're like Italian racer Franco Bertollini played by Raul Julia in 'The Gumball Rally' who tears his rearview mirror off, tosses it over his shoulder and proclaims, 'What's behind me is not important!' When backing up, the available rearview camera is helpful.
Effortless acceleration, communicative steering, dynamic handling and heroic grip can make those behind the wheel feel like far better drivers than they really are. This is why you buy an Evora over those other cars. The suspension, while perfectly stiff around corners, eats up bumps relatively well on the city streets without compromising sportiness.
Evora is powered by a mid-mounted, naturally aspirated 3.5-liter Toyota V6 engine that makes 276 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4700 rpm. Evora has an estimated 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds with a top speed of 162 mph.
Evora S uses the same engine found on the naturally aspirated model but with a supercharger that helps crank out 345 hp at 7000 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. Lotus says Evora S can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 172 mph. We found the sports-ratio, 6-speed manual transmission can sometimes be reticent to slide into the second-gear gate when downshifting.
Lotus Dynamic Performance Management System is composed of electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control and hydraulic brake assist. In Sport mode, these driver aids are noticeably less invasive. When the system is off, it's truly off, leaving only the ABS and some good counter-steering to get you out of a sticky situation.
The Lotus Evora is a real driver's car. With precise engineering, phenomenal handling, and stunningly good looks, it's easy to overlook the Evora's weak spots. For optimal performance, stick with the Evora S, but be prepared for a hefty price tag.
Laura Burstein contributed to this review after her test drive of the Lotus Evora at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Lotus Evora ($66,100); Evora S ($76,100).
Options As Tested
Premium Package with heated seats ($2,750); Technology Package ($3,100); rearview camera ($550); premium paint ($2,400); Diamond Cut Design forged aluminum 19-inch/20-inch wheels with P-Zero Corsa LS tires ($2,950); Starshield clear film paint protection ($995).
Lotus Evora S 2+2 ($77,600).
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