Tuesday, 6 October 2009


The usual hyperbole surrounding the launch of a new British (albeit foreign owned) sportscar has subsided a little, and its possible to get a more sensible perspective on the new Lotus' merits.

I think the styling is superb; it clearly retains Lotus DNA but moves the game on, looking fresh and contemporary. Its perhaps a lesson Porsche, constantly re-inventing the 911, should take on board.

Seeing the Evora in the flesh as it were, and its clear how big the new car is; dwarfing the Elise and looking everyone of its surprisingly porky (ho ho!) 1300kgs. While the addition of occasional rear seats will definitely open up the market for Elise-owners with children/a golf habit, it does land the car uncomfortably in between the market defined by the Boxster/Cayman and the 911's. The pricing reflects this; the fully optioned launch cars were £60k, well above the £44k of a Cayman, and even Lotus' basic cars will be near £50k.

Some initial road tests appeared to laud the chassis as some sort of physics defying combination of ground effect grip, Rolls-Royce ride and Lotus 7 steering feel. However more reasoned journalists look to have placed it as class leading drive; with more driver feedback than the Cayman, but with a little less refinement.

The use of the Toyota Camry engine/transaxle, something you might have expected to be a weakspot, isn't felt to be so at all. Loosing several hundred kilo's of Toyota avoir dupois reveals a smooth responsive peach of a motor; a sign of just how good mainstream Japanese production engine design currently is. You can certainly expect it to behave in service without any of Porsche's well known but unacknowledged 996 & 997 design weaknesses.

Talking of 911's brings me to my point; take a look at that Evora cross section. That big Toyota engine sits way up high, above not in front of the rear axle line. It reveals how Lotus squeezed in rear perches without a unwieldy long wheelbase; the thing owes a lot more to rear engined sportsters like the Renault Alpines than you'd expect. The cross section also reveals just how limited rear seat space is; note the poor (female?) passenger in the back has their knees by their ears, and that the driver is sitting in an invisible seat......

I read a piece by Mark Hales in a recent copy of Octane in which he analysed the handing of the similarly rear engined Elise on track. He pointed out the effect the high engine position had on the limit, especially in the wet, causing the cars to spin with little warning at high speed. In fact he likened it to the characteristics of old 911's. He did point out that most of the problem could be designed out with the use of modern suspension bush and tyre technology, and that 99% of the time 99% drivers would simply be unaware of the issue.

It'll be interesting to read track tests of the Evora, particularly if a high powered version is launched next year.


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