It appears that Lotus have succumbed to the reality that building great road-going go-karts is not exactly the most profitable business strategy in the grand scheme of things, and is squaring up its Evora S with Porsche’s legendary 911, in a bid for a slice of the mainstream sports car market.
From their infamous Seven, to their current Elise and Exige models, Lotus has always been the firm favourite for track-day toys and Sunday drives, but never practical enough to be considered for the daily drive, nor exotic enough to entice celebrities, City high-flyers and millionaire playboys to open their wallets.
In what was supposed to mark a pivotal shift for the company, following some overtly ambitious input from former chief executive Dany Bahr, Lotus had major plans to go mainstream, tapping in to Porsche’s monopoly of building sports cars for the masses. Amidst the ongoing legal wranglings surrounding Dany Bahr’s flamboyant spending, I departed London for the weekend and drove up to their Norfolk based factory to get myself behind the driving seat of the new Lotus Evora S and shed some light on whether they are succeeding in their quest.
In terms of exterior styling, I cannot help but assume the design team were briefed to maintain the charismatic essence of the Elise and Exige, yet ironing-out the bubbly bits to make it more conventional looking in order to make it more appealing for a wider audience. If this was the case then it is evident that that they have succeeded in the task, as gone are the frog-like headlights, and the face tuck Evora front-end and side lines are much more crisp, with sharp modern lines, yet sadly a little generic and less personable in terms of character.
Thankfully however, when it came to the backend, the designers have not made any such compromises, especially in the ‘S’ guise, where the aggressive diffusers defiantly make their mark on what has got to be the sexiest-ass on four wheels.
When it comes to the interior the design team have also really risen to the challenge, and in my mind the Evora has got it spot on. Gone are the spartan interiors for which Lotus is renowned, and in goes a comparably sumptuous leather-clad cabin that has reassuringly been double-stitched throughout (tastefully in red with matching piping in my particular test car). All interior hardware looks and feels sturdy and the minimal lines of the dashboard, coupled with the sporty red/white dial colour-scheme and small angular steering-wheel make for a driver experience that is hard to compare with aesthetically, let alone when the pedal hits the metal.
On to the performance, which is where the Evora S really sets itself apart from the competition. Long gone are the small 1.8 and 2 litre engines that were fitted to the previous Elise and Exige models and in goes a much more substantial supercharged 3.5 litre V6 lump, which bolted to a 6 speed manual transmission delivers a blistering 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds, and boosts it all the way up to 178mph. Fuel consumption is not something I am going to dwell on, as I averaged around 14.5mpg on the B-roads around Norfolk, and if you intend to drive this car as it was built to be driven, then you would be unlikely to ever get more than 20mpg. This is hardly going to appeal to any Prius driving eco-warriors, but if this is something that concerns you then you are evidently reading the wrong review.
Behind the wheel of the Evora S is an extremely enjoyable place to be sat, and thanks to the go-kart-like rigidity of the chassis and ‘firm yet forgiving’ suspension, the directness of the steering was literally outstanding, and I felt confidently at one with the car at all times. Permanently eager for action and evidently taking it all within its stride, the Evora S was at home with my foot firmly planted to the ground, aggressively navigating the narrow winding B-roads that weave their captivating routes through the Norfolk countryside surrounding Lotus’ Hethel factory.
Like many things in life, the Lotus is not without its faults, and although apparently the linkages are a vast improvement upon the original Evora, unfortunately at high revs, gearshifts are not very refined with excessively long clutch travel making it quite easy to miss gear changes (especially into 3rd as I repeatedly discovered when pulling out of corners). I could also not imagine how awkward it would be to reverse park without the benefit of the reversing camera option, as the rear window serves little purpose in this department and when I got mud splattered on the camera, felt helpless until I had wiped it clean.
Whilst the base Evora S starts from around £60,550, a tastefully spec’d model including extras such as 2+2 seating, tech pack, reversing camera, powered door mirrors, premium sport pack, custom paint job and 19 / 20” alloys would bring the price tag to over £72,000. Thankfully however, in the UK (and across Europe), Lotus have announced a more affordable pre-spec’d solution entitled the ‘Sports Racer’, which is visually more dramatic, with contrasting accents of gloss black across the roof, front splitter, rear diffuser and side sills, plus further black elements including rear badging, door mirror pods and gloss black forged wheels with a choice of either red or black brake calipers. At £65,900 for the supercharged Evora S, the cost benefits are evident and results in a saving of well over £6,000 with all the options you would realistically want and a few extra ones that were not otherwise available. (Pictured top, in red).
Priced around the territory of an entry level 911, it obviously faces stiff competition, but whilst the build quality (and most likely reliability) will struggle to match a 911, it is a notch quicker on the 0-60 sprint and if you are willing brush aside impracticalities in favour of a more direct and engaging driver experience, then the Lotus Evora S, or rather the ‘Sports Racer’, definitely gets my vote, and I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face every time you get behind the wheel. Besides …everyone has a Porsche nowadays.
Reviewed by Sam Bryan-Merrett
Engine Conguration: Mid-engined, V6, 3456cc, supercharged
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 – from £77,924