Company founder Colin Chapman’s apocryphal credo – “simplicate and add lightness” – may have to be amended in honor of Lotus’ new 2+2, the Evora. Of course, “complicate and add relaxation” doesn’t sound as good, but that’s what the new car does, with excellent, possibly even brilliant results that will tempt not just the Lotus faithful, but more than a few Porsche 911 intenders.
Lotus has lived on the razor’s edge most of its 61-year existence but has enjoyed some of its greatest sales since the introduction of the extraordinary Elise in 1995. That car led many Lotus fans’ eyes to tear up, for here again was a revolutionary Lotus – with its rigid, safe and easily configurable aluminum tub chassis – a technological beacon that pointed the way forward for other low-volume manufacturers (notably Aston Martin, which has adopted the concept throughout its lineup) and restored the Norfolk carmaker to its place at the forefront of sports car technology.
But 13 years and more than 30 Elise variants in, the company saw the need to move the brand up-market, while at the same time broadening its appeal. Rather than launch a promised replacement for its long-lived supercar, the Esprit, which went out of production in 2003 after 28 years, Lotus radically rethought its plans – following the return of longtime executive Mike Kimberley in 2006 – and instead turned out in an astonishing 27 months the Evora, marking the company’s return to the 2+2 market after a 17-year hiatus. Models like the Elan +2, the Elite, and the Excel comprised 20% of all Lotus sales volume through 1996, and the Evora – expected to sell at the rate of 2000 cars per year, with roughly one-third coming to the U.S. – picks up where they left off. Being a mid-engined four-seater, however, it is currently in a class of one on the world stage.
Upon first glance, you can’t imagine this car being anything other than a 2-seater, but open the door and there they are: rear seats. Also pleasantly surprising are the large door openings that allow you to gracefully slide in and out of the car’s supple Recaro seats. Unlike Lotus’ other hardtop, the Exige, there’s no unnatural bending or twisting involved with getting in and out. Once inside, you’ll find a surprising amount of head and leg room for front-seat passengers. Kimberly, who stands 6-foot-5, supposedly told the project team, ‘If I don’t fit in this car, you won’t fit in my company.’ Effective inspiration indeed.
Toyota’s DOHC 3.5-liter 2GR-FE VVT-I V-6, good for 276 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, marks a step up from the Elise’s VVTL-I four, also supplied by Toyota. It helps this car, which is longer, wider and almost 900 pounds heavier than the hyper-focused Elise, reach 60 mph in just under 5 seconds, and a top speed of 162 mph, while delivering over 30 mpg on the highway. Though six-speed manual transmissions, also sourced from Toyota, are standard, with a sport-ratio option present on the cars we drove, an automatic gearbox will become available with the 2011 model year.
Stepping into the new machine, one is instantly aware that the Spartan aspect of Elise life has been banished. It’s amazing what a little leather and carpet and a modicum of sound-deadening material will do for perception. Along with the cabin’s extra width, which allows one’s shoulders to be on less intimate terms with his front-seat passenger, longer doors mean one no longer require summoning the skills of a contortionist for ingress and egress, instantly making the Evora a car more suitable than the Elise for daily use. The rear seats – marginal, at best – may be deleted for a storage shelf and a 30 pound weight savings, at the customer’s request.
2010 Lotus Evora
|List price||est $75,000|
|Curb weight||3046 lb.|
|Weight Distribution, f/r||est 40/60|
|Type||alum. block & heads, dohc V-6|
|Bore x stroke||94.0 x 83.0 mm|
|Horsepower||276 bhp @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque||258 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpm|
|Fuel injection||elect. sequential port|
|Recommended fuel||premium unleaded|
CHASSIS & BODY
|Layout||mid engine/rear drive|
|Brakes, f/r||13.8-in. vented discs/13.1-in. vented discs, vacuum asst, ABS|
|Tires||Pirelli P Zero, 225/40ZR-18 f, 255/35ZR19 r|
|Steering||rack & pinion, pwr asst|
|Suspension, f/r||upper & lower A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks, anti-roll bar/upper & lower A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks, anti-roll bar|
|Estimated combined||30 mpg|
|0–60 mph, sec.||4.9|
|0–100 mph, sec.||12.3|
|1/4-mile, sec||12.5 sec.|
|Braking, 60–0 mph||110 ft.|
|Top speed||162 mph|