2012 Lotus Evora: New Car Review
Pros: Impressive fuel economy; exceptional handling; dynamic styling
Cons: Driving visibility is limited; rear seat is an extra-cost option
The Lotus brand is about to go through big changes. The Evora is one of the last Lotuses built according to the automaker's founding mission to build light, simple and fast cars. In the next few years, Lotus will begin rolling out bigger, heavier models with more horsepower. But for now, you can still enjoy that traditional Lotus feeling in the Evora, the top model in the Lotus lineup.
With a base price of $66,100, the Evora competes against such sports cars as the Nissan GT-R and the Chevrolet Corvette. The Corvette is a hammer, the GT-R is a laser-guided missile and the Evora is a scalpel. Where the GT-R uses computer wizardry and the Corvette uses brute force, the Lotus's strengths are its precision and balance.
Comfort and Utility
If there are any two things people don't typically associate with the Lotus brand, they would be comfort and utility. Lotus is renowned for delivering a visceral driving experience, inspiring exhilaration and excitement - but not comfort and not utility.
The Evora is different. No, it doesn't have any practical utility to speak of - witness its tiny optional back seat and small trunk space - but, unlike its brand underlings, it's quite comfortable. Lotus is pitting the Evora against bigger, more luxurious sports cars, so it had to be bigger and softer than the entry-level Elise. And it is, noticeably so.
The interior is cramped, but by Lotus standards it's big. The sport seats are covered in soft leather that cradle the body in the corners but also absorb the shock of hard road surfaces that the suspension can't sufficiently dampen. The Evora also has a carpeted floor, which the Elise doesn't.
Although it doesn't look like it, the Evora has ample headroom. For that, thanks are surely due to the insistence of Lotus's chief technical officer, six-foot-six Wolf Zimmermann. Unlike other small sports cars, the Evora has enough head and leg room for even very tall drivers to sit upright with legs comfortably extended.
The Evora differs from Lotuses past in that it contains modern entertainment and media technology, including a specially designed Alpine seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system. Uniquely, the satellite navigation is removable so that customers can program it in the comfort of their home or take it with them when in an unfamiliar pedestrian location.
The Alpine Imprint audio system in the Evora is one of the most sophisticated systems in the automotive world. It is able to cancel out sound imbalances caused by the cabin's window glass, resulting in amazingly crisp, clear and undistorted sound from any seating position.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The standard Evora is fitted with a mid-mounted 3.5-liter V6. Licensed from Toyota, it makes 276 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Evora will hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.8 seconds and has a top speed of 163 mph with the six-speed manual transmission and 159 mph with the Lotus Intelligent Precision Shift transmission, which is controlled with paddle shifters.
The supercharged Evora S, with the same 3.5-liter V6, produces 345 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and has top speeds of 167 mph (manual) and 178 mph (automatic).
The Evora is remarkably fuel efficient considering its impressive performance figures. The standard Evora is said by the EPA to get 19 mpg in town and 28 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission and 17/26 mpg with the six-speed manual.
Lotus is obsessed with lightness and precision, but that does not mean a lack of attention to safety. The Evora's aluminum tub chassis, similar to that on the Elise, has incredible inherent strength, especially in side impacts. Cleverly, Lotus has designed a tubular steel seatbelt anchor frame that acts like a rollover structure and adds torsional strength to the chassis as a whole.
In addition to the aluminum tub chassis, aluminum front and steel rear subframes have been attached to the tub using joints designed to minimize damage to the tub in a collision for better passenger protection.
ABS and traction control are both standard, and airbags are standard for both driver and passenger. The passenger's-side airbag has been cleverly engineered to deploy vertically and deflect rearward off the windscreen to protect children as well as adults.
For those familiar with traditional Lotus driving characteristics, the Evora will feel like a natural evolution in the company's performance heritage. The uninitiated will be impressed by the Evora's distinctive driving feel.
The Evora has a very quick steering ratio, which means the steering wheel doesn't need to be moved much to glide the car through sharp corners. And glide it does. The Evora's suspension and stiff body allow for quick, composed and level cornering, which lets drivers get back on the accelerator.
The brute force created by the standard 3.5-liter is more than enough power to let most drivers to push their limits. With the engine, mounted directly behind the passenger compartment, producing a loud exhaust note, the Evora will send shivers up the spine of any driving enthusiast.
Customers who step up to the Evora S will be delighted not only with improved acceleration but also the auditory pleasure of the supercharger's whine added to the throaty exhaust note.
We will admit that the Evora isn't perfect. Its greatest shortcoming is limited outward visibility that, coupled with the car's low height, can make it nerve-wracking to drive in traffic among large SUVs and trucks.
Out alone on a track or a country road, though, few vehicles can match the sheer stripped-down driving pleasure of the Evora. On a sunny day, howling through a mountain pass, the Evora becomes its own form of therapy. Hammering the accelerator, running through the gears and grinning will effectively melt away a driver's stresses and worries.
Other Cars to Consider
Nissan GT-R - Starting at $96,820, the GT-R is nearly on the opposite end of the sports car spectrum in philosophy. The GT-R is packed with computers and technical wizardry designed to improve performance and handling. The Evora is far more stripped down and simple, relying on efficient design and algorithms to improve performance.
Porsche Cayman - With a base price of $51,900 and a 265-hp engine, the Cayman is the Evora's most direct competitor. Arguably, the Cayman is a bit blander-looking than the Evora, but it's just as exhilarating to drive.
Chevrolet Corvette - The 1LT Corvette coupe with a 430-hp V8 runs $49,600. The Corvette is an American hammer of a sport coupe. It's far less precise than the Evora but definitely worth a look.
The base Evora costs $66,100, but for an extra $10,000, you can get the much more exciting Evora S. In the long run, we think this is the better investment, not only for motoring pleasure but also for resale value.