Lotus Evora

7 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Lotus Evora
Lotus Evora

Lotus Evora

What we liked

Most comfortable Lotus ever made

Doesn’t jar over bumps

Looks the business

Not so much

Lotus charges extra for ‘Sport’ button that delivers more revs

No side impact airbags available, offset pedals

Back seat not for anyone taller than a metre

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0

Price, Value, Practicality: 3.0/5.0

Safety: 2.5/5.0

Behind the wheel: 4.0/5.0

X-factor: 3.0/5.0

First all-new Lotus in 14 years

Lotus hasn’t had a new four-seater since Holden killed the Kingswood — and it hasn’t had an all-new model since 1995. So the all-new Evora is a big deal in the Lotus world.

It also marks a change in direction for the Malaysian Government-owned British company. Until now Lotus has proudly stuck to its lightweight sportscar roots which usually attract love-it or hate-it responses.

Lotus sportscar engineers make no compromises; they leave that for the customers to do. So a typical Lotus experience usually involves a trip to a physio afterwards to iron out the cramps in your lower back. These are cars better reserved for track days rather than the daily grind — and their owners generally know and appreciate that.

But the hope (and the promise) is that the Evora might just be a car that Lotus customers CAN live with every day.

An all-new chassis means the Evora is longer, wider — and heavier — than the tiny Elise that has come to symbolise the brand over the past decade or so. And instead of a small capacity four-cylinder engine, a Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6 has been squeezed behind the back seats.

The other big selling point with the Evora is the claim that it is a four-seater. As the extra bench is a $7000 option it’s a little cheeky to be calling it a four-seater in the first place. And the jury is out on just how effective the rear accommodation is.

We’ll get to these points shortly.

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

The price looks good, until you check the options list

The starting price is a rather attractive $149,990 plus dealer and registration fees, but that doesn’t really buy the Evora most people would like to drive.

For starters, the basic model misses out on the full potential of the engine; a $3095 Sport pack releases a few hundred extra rpm and sharpens the throttle response. It seems odd to me that a sportscar maker would charge extra for the ‘sport’ component. Especially when it feels quite underwhelming without this feature (see drive impressions).

And if you’ve been lured by the four-seat flexibility you may be surprised to find the rear seats are a $7000 option.

But this is the first easy saving; the optional seats aren’t much use other than a place to secure a briefcase or travel bag with a seatbelt. Best to make do with the bare luggage area and pocket the cash.

As far as standard equipment goes, the Evora has most bases covered: air-conditioning, CD player, remote entry and power windows. The $8200 Tech Pack includes an upgraded sound system, a 7-inch touch screen display, a navigation screen that can be unclipped when on foot, USB audio connection, iPod connection, cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Stump up an extra $7900 for the Premium Pack and you add interior accent lighting, leather trim in the tailgate, the Evora logo on the dashboard, a choice of leather upholstery colours for the seats and door panels and centre console, and premium floor mats.

Metallic paint is $2400 and Lifestyle paint (pearl effect) is $3400. BiXenon headlights clip the ticket a further $1950. Graphite coloured forged alloy wheels add $5600.

So the price of an Evora with the works can easily stretch to in excess of $185,000. Not only does this comfortably eclipse the asking price of a Porsche Cayman S (the Lotus’ nominated rival) it is heading towards 911 money.

MECHANICAL

Toyota Aurion V6 brings plenty of grunt

Weighing 1380kg, the Evora is heavy by Lotus standards — the Elise weighs just 860kg, so this represents a 60 per cent increase in weight. But the Evora is not lardy by class standards: it is on par with its intended German rivals, although it should be pointed out that it is 30kg heavier than the Cayman S.

And there’s one other cute way to look at it: imagine what would happen if you somehow managed to remove 200kg-plus from a Toyota Aurion V6, moved the driving wheels to rear, and dramatically lowered the centre of gravity.

Toyota doesn’t make a manual transmission for this engine, so Lotus borrowed a six-speed manual from the Toyota Avensis (not the peoplemover sold in Australia, but an executive sedan in Europe of the same name), and fashioned an adaptor plate and bell housing to make it all fit.

It works surprisingly well and doesn’t feel like a DIY job at all. The one big complaint, however, is the fact that the pedals don’t line up with the steering wheel; they’ve been pushed inboard by the large chassis rails in the floor designed to improve the car’s crash structure.

A six-speed automatic version of the Evora, which should have a less claustrophobic pedal arrangement, is due towards the end of 2010.

Two-plus-two what? Are they kidding?

Apart from the aforementioned offset pedals, and the fact that it’s difficult to see some of the controls hidden from view behind the steering wheel, there’s the small matter of whether or not this truly is a four-seater.

I tried to sit in the back but couldn’t even fit through the small gap when the front seat flipped forward. Not only is the back seat only for kids, the back pews really are only for someone else’s kids. You wouldn’t do it to your own.

If you leave the seat out of the equation you’ll also save yourself 20kg of weight.

Evidently, Lotus says the option of the back seat is absolutely crucial to sales. Apparently it has done research that has found the typically male buyers use the faux back seat as a dealmaker with his partner. Lotus reckons Porsche has done the same research and Porsche drivers have been getting away with this con for decades.

Call me cynical but I’m not sure there are too many lady folk who will be fooled by this ruse.

The crash test video looked good, but that was low-speed

For all the Evora’s advancements, it still has some way to go to bring the brand up to contemporary safety measures. The crash test video looks impressive but that is at significantly lower speeds than those which independent crash test authorities such as EuroNCAP tests vehicles. Unfortunately because the Evora is a niche sportscar we are unlikely to see ENCAP invest its limited resources into measuring the crash performance of this vehicle.

Lotus Evora

Of course, the Lotus meets and/or passes all relevant government tests, but as recent tests have shown, we know the bar is set pretty low these days.

The good news on the safety front is that because the grip is so good (see handling) a sensible driver will hopefully be less likely to get themselves into trouble in an Evora.

Antilock brakes and traction control (which prevents excessive wheelspin in slippery conditions) are standard. Stability control (which can prevent running wide if travelling too fast into a corner) is due mid-year in Australia but cannot be retro-fitted to Evoras already here.

Now the not-so-good news. Should the worst happen or, God forbid, someone else decides to run a red light and T-bone you, the Evora offers little in the way of side impact protection. Dual front airbags are standard on the Evora, but they are designed to contend with frontal impacts.

There is no side airbag protection, even as an option.

When you consider that side and curtain airbags are standard in sub-$15K hatches you wonder how a supposedly premium brand can release a car without these life saving features.

Somewhere between Porsche Cayman S and 911 – or Audi TT-RS

Lotus says the Evora was designed to compete with the Porsche Cayman S, which costs about $157,000.

The Cayman S has a 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine (albeit a ‘flat’, horizontally-opposed layout compared to the Evora’s V-shaped six) mounted between the rear axle and the driver compartment — the Evora has a 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine mounted in the same position.

Power outputs are similar: 235kW for the Cayman S and 206kW for the Evora. Torque outputs are also similar: 370Nm for the Cayman S and 350Nm for the Evora.

But I reckon the Evora bridges the gap between the Cayman S and the basic Porsche 911. The regular 911 Carrera is powered by a 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine with 254kW and 390Nm and is a four-seater (well, in the same sense that an Evora is at least) whereas the Cayman S is a two-seater only.

There’s one other wildcard entry: the recently released Audi TT-RS. At $133,000 or thereabouts it’s either an insanely expensive TT — or a cut price Porsche. Or Lotus.

The new range-topping TT is powered by an awesome turbocharged 2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder engine (with a whopping 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque) that can propel the Audi coupe from rest to lose-your-licence in less than 5 seconds.

As with the Evora, the Audi TT-RS is only available with a six-speed manual transmission; the Porsches are also available with a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox which delivers performance and economy advantages.

ON THE ROAD

Superb handling but can we have more grunt please?

I thought something was wrong. Where was this amazing performance and quick throttle response we’d been promised? My first impressions of the apparently amazing Evora were underwhelming.

Then I realised I had forgotten to press the ‘Sport’ button.

Fortunately I found it before our preview drive between Sydney and Wollongong was over — but I didn’t find it before the rain came in.

The exercise merely served to make me question why Lotus would charge a premium to supply customers the very thing they thought they were paying for: sport. Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz might be able to get away with tricks like this but in my opinion the secret to Lotus’ success is to over-deliver — not overcharge.

Nevertheless, overall first impressions are positive. What you may have read in the sycophantic UK press [Ed: or even our own international launch drive ] about the sublime chassis tuning and how the Evora doesn’t rattle your bones over bumps is all true.

The steering is not-too-heavy, not-too-light, the brakes feel strong and the grip is profound — largely thanks to the latest-generation Pirelli P Zero tyres that everyone is using these days.

We encountered a fair amount of traffic on our loop — and the odd bumpy road — and came away from the experience relatively unexhausted. For a Lotus.

There are still some foibles. I struggled to overcome the discomfort of the pedal arrangement. And I love the engine; the Toyota V6 is one of the best of its type in the world.

I just wish it had a little more grunt.

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Published. Monday, 25 January 2010

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