2012 Lotus Evora
Exclusive, unique, light and tight. The perfect sports car?
Two of the coolest things about the 2012 Lotus Evora is that it looks sexy enough to proposition—and almost no one knows what it is.
Arriving in it at our high school reunion, a classmate said, "We knew that was you" (they know what I do). Arriving at a country club dinner, the valet said, "Park it there" (by the entrance). Sitting in it at a mall, a man passing by did a double take, stared then exclaimed, "That's the coolest looking car I've seen in at least two years!"
"But what the heck is it?" were the next few words out of all three mouths. Everyone loved our curvilicious British bullet, but no one had a clue what it was. And that was part of the fun.
For those who may not know, Lotus is an iconic British maker of sports and racing cars. Founded in 1952, its street cars are known for their light weight and awesome handling and its race cars for numerous wins through the years, including many at the top Formula 1 GP level.
This 2012 Lotus Evora sports car is the company's first all-new production model since 1995 and the world's only mid-engine 2+2. Its 3.5-liter V6 is wedged between cabin and rear axle for near-perfect balance, and it has vestigial rear seats handy for hauling stuff that won't fit in its tiny rear trunk. Some other sports cars—most notably Porsche's vaunted 911s—have padded cargo shelves posing as rear seats, but none other also flaunts a mid-mounted engine.
Powertrain and Performance
The basic Lotus Evora measures 170.9 inches on a 101.4-inch wheelbase and weighs just over 3,000 lbs. It rolls on 225/40 ZR18 Pirelli P-Zero high-performance tires in front and larger, fatter 255/35 ZR19 P-Zeros in back. Its (Toyota-derived) 3.5-liter DOHC, dual-VVT-i, all-aluminum V6 pumps out a healthy 276 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to propel it from rest to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and top out at 162 mph. That's not Ferrari fast, but it's quick enough for most of us, and it costs a lot less and delivers 18 city and 27 highway EPA economy.
Its lightweight aluminum structure and suspension work with those big Pirellis to generate up to 1.0 gs of cornering grip, and its massive four-piston-caliper brakes can snub it down from 60 in just 100 feet. New for 2011 is a 345-horse supercharged S version and an optional Intelligent Precision Shift (IPS) paddle-shift automatic that replaces the Evora's standard six-speed manual.
"The [Lotus Evora] S is the next level of Evora experience," says Lotus CEO Danny Bahar. "It communicates with you better. The suspension setting has been fine-tuned for added power and control, so it responds even more to direction. It's an instinctual car; the experience is pure." Of the IPS, he adds, "it's been a long time since Lotus created an automatic, and we've spent a great deal of time refining this one to make sure that it perfectly compliments the Evora drive experience."
Like any low-slung sports car, the 2012 Lotus Evora cabin is a bit challenging for mature adults to access, but plenty plush and comfy once settled into place. The leather is hand-trimmed and twin-stitched, the seats are super-supportive Recaro buckets. The trim is real aluminum, and so are the perfectly placed pedals. The large speedometer and tachometer are beautifully precise, but the only other gauges are fuel and coolant temperature. The thick-rimmed, rake- and reach-adjustable, flat-bottomed (for thigh clearance), leather-wrapped, lightweight magnesium, three-spoke steering wheel has a gorgeous green, gold and silver Lotus badge in its center and cruise controls on its horizontal spokes. We wished it also offered a sound system volume control.
The small glovebox, which accommodates the owner's manual, the (available) iPod cable and a couple of folded papers, opens at the press of a dashboard button. Two others in the right-side six-button array are for central locking and instrument light brightness, while three more inboard are blanks awaiting future features. Five of the matching six on the left operate headlamps, running lights, the fuel filler door, traction control (off) and Sport mode (on), while the sixth is another blank. A trip computer offers fuel economy, range and trip information at the touch of the turn-signal stalk, but the cockpit's only 12V outlet is at the back of the center armrest. The only interior storage is a pair of cupholder/bins in the armrests.
We enjoyed considerable road time in the 2012 Lotus Evora and found it surprisingly quick, commodious and quiet, even at freeway speeds. Not surprising was its awesome athleticism. Will it into a curve, whether sweeping or sharp, with a modest movement of its racer-like wheel, and it responds with a precise, sure-footed agility almost unprecedented in production cars. Yet its ride is nicely damped and not overly harsh on rough surfaces. Strong and sure as well are its brakes, and its crisp six-speed manual linkage snares the gear of your choice almost intuitively without the crutch of the slotted gate still common in Italian exoticars. The only ergonomic glitch: the large wheel wells that house those big tires and enable a tight turning circle) leave no room for a "dead pedal" resting place for your left foot between shifts.
Rear visibility is a challenge with the Evora's engine cover filling most of the mail-slot rear window, but the large outside mirrors help you peer around its bulging rear flanks. When it rains, the long single wiper clears the windshield effectively, and the available touch-screen navigation and audio system (part of a $2,995 Technology Package), while looking a little aftermarket, actually works quite nicely. Over nearly 1,500 mostly freeway and suburban miles, we averaged a respectable 24.5 mpg.
We haven't driven the Lotus Evora IPS automatic, but we did get quality road and track time in the new-for-2012 Evora S. The standard Evora is great fun, but imagine one with 69 more snorting horses (total 345) that can romp from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and to a top speed of 172 mph. For an additional $12K over the base car's $64K starting price, it also boasts a standard Sport Package and a sport-ratio (manual) transmission.
Most folks seem to love the curvaceous, sporty-elegant look of the Lotus Evora, and if rare and exclusive float your boat, consider that only 1200-1400 will be (essentially hand-) built each year, and only 400-500 will migrate to North America. You'll get used to explaining what it is. www.lotuscars.com
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