Car reviews - Lotus - Evora - 400
Superb throttle response and top-end drive, excellent steering and ride quality, great ESC calibration, improved cabin
Room for improvement
Below-par infotainment, optional cruise control, on-limit handling can be tetchy
30 Jun 2016
EVEN when Lotus attempted to create an ‘everyday’ version of its famed track-focused models, some Evora buyers – and the media – complained. The 2009-era Evora was too hard to get in and out of, apparently, and the interior finish was poor. That last point was especially fair.
Compared with the debut model, the new $184,990 plus on-road costs Evora 400 appears sharpened on the outside. Vertical creases and horizontal LED daytime lights replace the smooth frontal treatment of the original, but the more aggressive styling contrasts with Lotus’ intention to make its two-plus-two coupe more liveable and luxurious.
A revised aluminium chassis ‘tub’ absorbs the majority of the 42kg kerb weight reduction for the now-1395kg Evora 400, but importantly the side sills are lowered by 56mm and their width reduced by 42mm to ensure easier entry and egress for passengers than before.
The front seats are broader, yet still supportive, and the driving position is spot on. The driver is also surrounded by a new cabin design with materials and quality that represent a high watermark for the British brand.
Perfectly stitched leather and Alcantara trim spreads across the dashboard and flows down over softly illuminated door handles. The small three-spoke steering wheel is one of the greats to grasp and in manual versions the alloy-topped gearlever falls ideally to hand.
Lotus has not forgotten about its core brand values, however, and those could double as downsides for potential buyers. Cruise control is optional, for example, and there is air-conditioning but no climate control. The aftermarket-looking Alpine sat-nav/audio system would look downmarket in a vehicle costing less than half the price.
For almost the cost of a $189,900 Porsche Cayman GT4, buyers should arguably have a right to expect a greater level of appointments regardless of the ‘track-focused’ ethos of the brand.
A Cayman cannot seat two small children in the rear like the Evora 400 can, however, and the 2+2 911 Carrera (boasting the same 4.2-second 0-100km/h claim as the Lotus) is $30,000 more expensive.
The Evora 400 remains mid-engined and a new Edelbrock supercharger gifts the carry-over 3.5-litre V6 engine with an additional 40kW/10Nm to now deliver 298kW of power at 7000rpm and 410Nm of torque at 3500rpm.
The performance claim remains identical between the manual or $10,000-optional six-speed automatic transmission with paddleshifters. We sampled both vehicles at the national media launch of the Evora 400 at Wakefield Park Raceway, south of Sydney.
These days many comparably priced sportscars feature multi-mode adaptive suspension, but the fixed Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers underneath this Lotus quickly prove they are not required in a well-engineered sports car.
The way the Evora 400 glides over country roads is deeply impressive. Factor in that this coupe is wearing 235mm-wide 35-aspect 19-inch front tyres and 285mm-wide 30-aspect 20-inch rears, however, and ‘impressive’ becomes ‘astounding’.
The steering system also delivers impeccable road feedback and yet is smooth and almost telepathic in its fluid response when turning into a corner.
Superb throttle response completes the driver-connection picture in this Lotus, thanks primarily to the linear delivery of power from the supercharged engine.
The downside is that unless the V6 is revving above 4000rpm, it does not feel as quick as its performance claim would suggest. In that range, though, the 3.5-litre sounds delightfully muscular.
A switchable exhaust system also adds boom and bass to the alternative silence.
Around a soaked but thankfully fast-drying racing circuit the rear-wheel-drive Evora 400 displays epic response on turn-in to a corner and solid traction under power on corner exit thanks, again, to the supercharged engine’s linear response. Even the auto is responsive and reasonably quick.
The standard Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are not the first choice for wet parts of the track, and they do cause some skatey behaviour at times, exacerbating the Lotus’ propensity to become snappy unless inputs are smooth.
Thankfully the three-mode stability control settings – Drive, Sport and Race – all dutifully and subtly assist rather than intervening aggressively, and the AP Racing brakes deliver firm and crisp response through the centre pedal.
Ultimately, though, more time is required with the Evora 400 to find its true handling potential, but first indications are positive. Other remaining questions hang over this latest Lotus, only this time they sit with buyers.
Despite its improved cabin, the specification does not feel extensive enough for the price. If the Evora 400 was a bit cheaper, like the original Evora, then it would be more acceptable. The pay-off is in the bones – the engine, steering, suspension and stability control all appear impeccable.
It is clear that the Evora 400 has finally become a valid alternative to the usual suspects, one that may not be quite as perfect in all areas but remains different enough and is now both more satisfying to first sit inside and then steer.
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