Pros: Impressive fuel economy for something so fast; unbelievable handling; exotic styling

Cons: Limited rear visibility; hilarious optional rear seat; sparse standard equipment list; not cheap

New for 2013: No significant changes were made.

The Lotus brand is little-known among mainstream American drivers, but it is a legend in racing circles. All you really need to know about Lotus is that it builds lightweight, simple, fast cars -- emphasis on lightweight. If a BMW is a business suit and a Bentley is a fur coat, the 2013 Lotus Evora would be a spandex bodysuit designed to help its driver slip through the air with ease, while weighing him or her down as little as possible.

The 4-seat (okay, 2+2) Evora is also the top model in the Lotus lineup, and thus makes a few concessions to comfort with soft leather seats, a sophisticated available Pioneer audio system, reverse camera and more. And it's not cheap: with a base price of $66,800, the Evora competes against such sports cars as the Nissan GT-R, the Chevrolet Corvette and the legendary Porsche 911 Carrera. But whereas the GT-R uses computer wizardry, the Corvette uses brute force and the Porsche uses, well, all of that and then some, the Lotus model's strengths are its precision and balance. Oh, and with its mid-engine proportions and zoomy styling, the Evora looks like a $200,000 Ferrari while costing only a third of that.

Comfort and Utility

The 2013 Lotus Evora is available in two models: base and S, each of which are available in 2+0 and 2+2 seating configurations. The base model ($66,800) includes 18-inch front/19-in rear wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, Recaro sport seats, power accessories, 12V power outlets in the cabin and trunk, air conditioning, keyless entry and an audio system with CD/MP3/WMA receiver. The more powerful Evora S ($77,100) features 18-in front/19-in rear wheels and a Sport Pack (optional on the base Evora) that includes a switchable Sport Mode with raised redline, a rear diffuser, titanium exhaust pipes, cross-drilled brake rotors and red-painted brake rotors. The 2+2 models cost $1,500 more than the 2-seater. And if you want Lotus' fantastic 6-speed Intelligent Precision Shift (IPS) paddle-shifted sequential automatic transmission, prepare to shell out another $2,850.

The Evora is no family car. Nor, for that matter, is it a luxury car. Despite the offering of a 2+2 model, consider the Evora a strict 2-seater -- to create the 2+2 model, Lotus basically pads the rear shelf behind the Evora's front seats and installs seat belts. Cargo space is similarly limited. Still, the Evora is quite comfortable for the front two passengers. Standard Recaro sport seats are covered in soft leather that cradle the body in corners, while the driver gets to wrangle the racy, magnesium flat-bottom steering wheel. The Evora also has a carpeted floor, which the Elise doesn't.

Too bad the standard equipment list is so short. Missing are things like Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, heated seats, a USB port and even cruise control. Option packages bring fancy items like upgraded Recaros, full leather-trimmed and top-stitched interiors, upgraded sound systems, a reverse camera and more.

Although it doesn't look like it, the Evora has ample headroom. For that, thanks are surely due to the insistence of the Lotus brand's chief technical officer, the 6-ft and 6-in tall Wolf Zimmermann. Unlike other small sports cars, the Evora has enough head and legroom for even very tall drivers to sit upright with legs comfortably extended.

Technology

The Evora differs from Lotus models past in that it contains modern entertainment and media technology. This includes a specially designed Pioneer 7-in touchscreen multimedia system, which we think is worth spending the $3,100 to upgrade as it brings not only the nicer stereo but also a reverse camera, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and cruise control.

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 miles per hour from a standstill in just 4.8 seconds with the 6-speed manual transmission or 5 seconds flat with the IPS automatic, and has a top speed of 163 mph and 159 mph, respectively.

The Evora S, with its supercharged version of the same 3.5-liter V6, produces 345 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds (manual) or 4.5 seconds (automatic) with top speeds of 167 mph (manual) and 178 mph (automatic). Yes, we know that's way faster than a sensible driver will ever go, but it's nice to be able to answer the passersby who will inevitably ask, "How fast does it go?"

The Evora is remarkably fuel efficient considering its impressive performance figures. The standard Evora is said by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get 19 miles per gallon in town and 28 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission and 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual.

Safety

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 seat belt 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.

Driving Impressions

Alone on a racetrack or bombing along a country road, few vehicles -- even among its impressive competitive set -- 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.

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.

This starts with the Evora's very surgically precise, if somewhat heavy, steering. The quick ratio doesn't require the wheel to be moved much to glide the car through sharp corners, yet it never feels jittery. The communicative, firm suspension and stiff body allow for pan-flat cornering, which lets drivers get back on the accelerator early and often. And when the time comes to stop -- say, when you see a deer pop out from behind a hedge -- powerful racing-derived brakes can bring the Evora to a halt right now.

The brute force created by the standard 3.5-liter is more than enough power to let most drivers to push their limits. The engine is mounted directly behind the passenger compartment and when it produces 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. The protuberant chin can also scrape on driveways. But trust us, with a car this satisfying, both of these issues become less and less important with every passing mile.

Other Cars to Consider

Nissan GT-R - Nissan's GT-R -- a.k.a. Godzilla -- 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 its 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 still beautiful, has a more accessible dealer network for service and is just as exhilarating to drive.

Chevrolet Corvette - The 1LT Corvette coupe with a 430-hp V8 is far cheaper than the Evora. The Corvette is an American hammer of a sport coupe. It's far less precise than the Evora but is definitely worth a look.

AutoTrader Recommendations

The base Evora costs $66,800, but for an extra $10,300 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.

What do you think of the new Lotus Evora? Let us know in the comments below.

author photo

Steve Siler is a freelance automotive journalist and presenter based in Los Angeles, California. Known for his ability to make automotive subjects accessible to both enthusiast and non-enthusiast audiences, Siler has contributed to dozens of lifestyle and enthusiast publications, including The Robb Report, Automobile Magazine, Edmunds.com and Car and Driver Magazine.

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