Lotus is a pioneer as far as driver-orientated racing technology is concerned, but the company has often lagged behind its rivals when it comes to creating cars with modern, passenger-focused creature comforts. Its newest effort, however, the four-seater Evora, is designed to show that the Norwich-based company isn't actually run by Mormons and is indeed partial to the odd luxury.
To discover whether this is indeed the case, we hopped into the supercharged £57,550 Evora S model, which is a rival to the Porsche 911 and Cayman.
The standard Evora is fast, make no mistake. Its 3.5-litre V6 engine churns out a very respectable 276bhp and it'll do 0-60mph in a whiplash-inducing 4.9 seconds. But even this level of grunt isn't quite good enough for many petrolheads -- Lotus' engineers included. That's why, for the Evora S, they effectively poured a bucket of steroids into the engine bay, fitting a supercharger.
This supercharger, an Eaton Twin Vortex model, forces more oxygen into the engine than it could receive if it were naturally aspirated. Introducing additional air in the combustion process means Lotus could also increase the amount of fuel forced into the engine, which makes for a larger explosion, causing more power to be produced every time the engine turns over. The end result is an additional 69bhp, which brings the Evora S' total to 345bhp.
This extra injection of power results in a significant increase in performance. The Evora S shaves 0.3 seconds off the standard car's 0-60mph time, achieving the sprint in just 4.6 seconds. Its top speed increases by 9mph, too, to 172mph, so it can compete -- on paper, at least -- with its most direct rival, the Porsche 911.
In practice, the Evora S feels powerful, but the majority of its grunt is only accessible if you're revving the pants off it. Ask it for a burst of speed low down the rev range, and the result isn't very spectacular. It changes character at around 7,000rpm, however, when its supercharger helps it to keep up with -- and in some cases beat -- all but the fastest supercars away from the traffic lights.
Our only gripe is that the exhaust note isn't quite savage enough. It delivers a fairly nice rasp above 6,000rpm -- particularly with the sport mode engaged -- and it sounds fantastic when screaming through tunnels, but more volume from the rear pipes would improve the driving experience no end.
The car's handling is more impressive than its straight-line speed. The original car provided astounding grip and dynamism, and little has changed with the Evora S. It's a little heavier than the standard car thanks to 50kg of supercharger sitting just behind the passenger compartment, but beefed-up suspension bushes help it carry its weight through fast corners with an impressive surefootedness.
The Evora S is extremely agile around tighter, slower bends, too. Disable the traction control, squirt on a drizzle of power as you're cornering, and it'll unfurl its tail end in a manner that's so linear and predictable that even inexperienced drivers can catch and counteract it with a dab of opposite lock.
The car's playful and fun, like an adolescent orca. It has the potential to rip your heart out through your left nostril, and it'll occasionally threaten to do so if you're not careful, but give it the respect it deserves and it'll allow you to pull off some spectacular tricks, making you feel like king of the world.
Historically speaking, Lotus hasn't given a rat's gnashers about practicality or any sort of creature comforts. As long as its cars were fast and could change direction quickly enough to reposition your internal organs, then all was well in Hethel. To the company's credit, the Evora is easier to live with than most Lotus cars, but it has several idiosyncrasies that'll annoy you on a day-to-day basis.
To wit, its gear change is clunky, its roof is low, and the door sills are ludicrously high, so you'll have to pour yourself through the doors in a very undignified manner. The cabin isn't particularly luxurious either, while the air conditioning is ineffectual, the glove compartment is too small to accommodate anything larger than a baby gnat, and the rear seats -- if you can even call them that -- are too small for anybody who isn't a toddler.
The Evora comes with a multimedia entertainment system, but it's not a particularly impressive one. In theory, its Alpine IVA-W520R head unit packs enough features to satisfy most people -- iPod connectivity, radio, CD and DVD playback, Bluetooth streaming audio and satellite navigation are all included. But the user interface is so incredibly dire that you'll want to throw it out of the window.
Even something as simple as changing the radio station is a pain in the backside, as there's no dedicated button for such a basic task. To reach the radio, users must tap the 'source' button several times and navigate their way through the shonky menu system to the radio page, and then tap a link on the screen. Doing this once isn't so bad, but, once you've changed station, the screen reverts away from the radio, meaning you'll have to hunt for the radio menu every time you want to get to the next station.
The sat-nav is atrocious, too. Entering a destination is easy enough, but, once guidance begins, everything that can go wrong basically does. The sat-nav's most annoying trait is a tendency to assume you've taken a wrong turn even if you haven't, at which point it recalculates a new route for no reason whatsoever. This is annoying and confusing, and the constant waiting for pointless recalculation means you often miss your next genuine turn.
The Lotus Evora S won't win any awards for its cabin tech or its comfort levels, but it's sensationally fun to drive and has enough oomph to put a massive smile on your face day in and day out. We're not sure it's sufficiently luxurious to challenge rivals such as the Porsche 911, but it's a beautiful and compelling alternative for those who want something that isn't going to be seen on every high street nationwide.
Edited by Charles Kloet