Lotus Evora: a new name for a new type of Lotus. Up-market, like the last Excel and Esprit, but ultra-compact with elegant 2+2 styling. In fact, the car, which was the star of the British Motor Show, looks like a two-seater, but packs some space for two extra passengers between the front seats and the power train.
The use of a transverse engine layout gave Lotus that extra space without making the car too long. There is a slight downside, in theory, in that the front:rear weight distribution is 39:61, which is as much weight as you want at the back, and not so ideal as the 45:55 that can be attained with a fore-and-aft layout.
Still, Lotus has plenty of experience in building cars with this layout that handle as well as almost anything money will buy, so we expect the Evora to have the fine handling of the other Lotus models.First off, this is a great looking car, with the air dam at the front with the Lotus almost-oval grille flanked by shallow air intakes. The headlamps are behind flush fitting glass, and the air from the radiator exhausts through neat outlets in the hood.
From the side, the strong fender lines, with wide haunches, give the car an aggressive look, and there are some neat lines in the panels, which of course are composites. The sides are scalloped out at the bottom, to make the sills narrower, and thus improve entry and exit.At the the rear, there is a very small rear window – restricting rear vision owing to the height of the Toyota engine – an integral wing and the slick curved back end with circular rear lamps that echoes the rear of the Elise.
Altogether a delightful car to look at. Inside, the story is one of opulence, with hand-stitched leather for the fascia and seats in light colours. The instrument binnacle is simple but neat.
Although the Evora looks small it is actually quite large, being as long as a Lamborghini Gallardo, and almost as long as the Ferrari F430 – both two-seaters of course.
But will it be quick? Lotus says it will accelerate to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds – now that is quick. Top speed is put at 160 mph which may not seem very fast, but remember that many supercars are limited to 155 mph.
Although the basic structure follows that of the Elise, with two deep aluminum extrusions forming a perimeter frame, it differs in a number of ways. At the front, the two fore-and-aft members that carry the suspension links and spring/damper units, are extended forward into crushable members that will deform in a severe accident.
The structure is reinforced by the floor and the toe-board which is connected by a flat panel to the extruded door pillars to provide a rigid area. The side sills appear to be rather smaller than on the Elise, so that the car is easier to get in and out of.
The braking system has been developed by Lotus in conjunction with AP and Bosch, who created a system that combines ABS and traction control. This operates in an innovative manner. The AP calipers have four pistons, front and rear.
There is yaw sensor on the car, so the traction control can sense when the car is understeering wide, and temporarily reduce the torque output of the engine to correct the understeer. This feature is disabled in Sport mode.
Lotus will include a stability control on all cars destined for the USA – starting in October 2009 -and will offer it as an option in other markets.
Lotus has followed the trend to the use of larger diameter rear wheels than at the front – the fronts are 18-inch diameter carrying 225/40R18 Yokohama tires, and at the rear there are 255/35R19 tires, on 19-inch wheels.
What about the weight, and Lotus’ original concept of adding lightness?This new Lotus is actually rather heavy, as the car weighs about the same as the Ferrari F430, ehivh has a larger V-8 engine, and the all-steel 295 bhp Porsche Cayman, which is virtually the same size. Not good.
Overall, the Lotus Evora promises to offer good performance in a great package, but before production starts in the spring of 2009 it needs to add some lightness.