Sometimes what you need from a car is just a pure hit of driving pleasure. You want feel, sound, performance and feedback by the lorry load; a thorough engagement of all the senses. The Lotus Evora Sports Racer delivers all of that in style.
The Sports Racer S (the ‘S’ standing for supercharged) is essentially an Evora S but with every option added, and at a heavily discounted rate considering the cost of adding all the options piecemeal-style to the lesser model. It promises much.
You expect certain things when you sample a Lotus; sharp and communicative steering, tenacious grip, and an all-round stunning driving experience. You also expect them to be a swine to get in and out of, and the Evora duly obliges. Open the door and the seats look very inviting, then you realise that to actually get your backside settled into one will require a borderline-comical scramble over an intrusive (but beautifully trimmed) sill. So far, so Lotus then.
It’s worth the effort though. Once you’re inside, the Evora immediately reveals itself to be a very comfortable place to be. Not comfortable ‘…for a Lotus’, but comfortable by any measure. The seats, which promised so much to look at, turn out to be supportive and, incredibly, almost luxurious to sit in despite looking like little more than well-trimmed racing items.
The pedals are offset a little to the left – as made necessary by the intrusion of the aforementioned sill – which may upset some, although it doesn’t impede the car’s operation at all. Besides, Porsche got away with offset pedals for years.
The only other significant niggles on the inside are an awkward aftermarket infotainment system, and the inevitable scuff marks on the sill and door trim from the equally-awkward ingress and egress procedure.
A twist of the key summons the supercharged Toyota V6 into life and it quickly settles down to produce a subtle and pleasing burble from the exhaust. Pull out on to public roads for the first time and even at relatively pedestrian speeds and cornering loads the sensation through the steering wheel is nothing short of revelatory.
Nothing I’ve ever driven (except for other Lotuses) feels like this, and I’m grinning like a besotted fool even after just half a mile of hum-drum blacktop, such are the sensations transmitted to your hands. There is a slight tendency to follow imperfections in the surface, but it’s so direct, so accurate, so well-developed, and so communicative. It’s as close to perfection as I’ve felt in a road car’s steering.
Once on a familiar section of road you get a much better sense of what Lotus has achieved. Like the steering, the ride and handling are simply beyond reproach. The Evora negotiates any kind of surface with such grace; body roll is close to nil, the grip is dizzying even in damp-ish conditions, the feedback is joyous, and before long you’re transferring weight as you leave roundabouts like a man who’s been granted eternal life.
Meanwhile, the exhaust nailed on to the V6 sings a purposeful and tuneful note which accompanies the asphalt acrobatics very nicely; much improved over early Evoras.
Performance from the blown Toyota motor is very satisfying. Combined with a very well-developed rear-end the car has no problem laying down its 345bhp and gets off the line very sharply indeed.
It’s probably a further compliment to the engineers at Hethel that once underway it doesn’t give the impression of being that fast… until of course you glance at a speedo indicating a velocity which is a good couple-of-dozen more mph than you genuinely thought you were doing.
Yes, it’s one of those cars… All this, and with a quality of ride which would even shame some performance saloons. This is a simply epic driver’s machine.
However, whereas the steering wheel requires surgeon-like inputs, the Evora’s gearshift needs more robust attention if you’re going to select the ratios with consistent accuracy. Lotus has fitted sturdier engine mounts in an attempt to sharpen-up the shift.
Apparently this has made a significant improvement over the original setup, but the fact is it still stands out as below-par when you consider how rewarding the rest of the car is to operate.
There are a couple of other problems with the Sports Racer, and one of them is the Porsche Cayman S. If you go to Porsche’s configurator and adorn it with every single option you can select, it still comes in at a few grand less than the Evora.
Evora or Cayman?
Lots of people would quite reasonably choose the Porsche over the Lotus. The car from Norfolk costs more, and is probably slightly less practical. That’s one way of looking at it, although it isn’t as simple as that. The Evora is a driver’s cars, that’s what it’s for. Would the Cayman run away with your senses the same way the Evora does? Would it impart the same character? Of course, if the answer is ‘no’ then the next question is: “So, how much more would you be prepared to pay for the Lotus?”
Another basis for comparison is that stacked against some big-dollar, big-horsepower GT cars, the Lotus will cover ground just as fast – if not faster – and offer a quality of ride, handling, and sheer involvement that most struggle to match. Look at it that way and it’s a veritable bargain.