Nothing rides or steers this well | LOTUS Evora 400

Lotus | EVORA 400 Review

MyDrive Logo Transparent THUMB NAILWritten by Peter Anderson

MyDrive | Lotus - For the last few years in Australia, if you wanted a Lotus, good luck. Sales of the Evora slumped to single digits in 2015, a combination of uncertainty over the brand, a loss of momentum after the disastrous tenure of CEO Danny Bahar and a local importer who wasn’t very interested.

Things have changed. Sydney’s Simply Sports Cars are now the importer of Lotus cars, taking over the brand after a period of indifference to the once famous marque.

SSC has been involved in Lotus for years, making go-faster bits and prepping race and track cars for owners.

Not only did it make sense for a company like that to actually import and look after the brand, but it made sense because there’s a difference between a vehicle importer that brings in whatever it can lay its hands on – it’s good business – and a group of people who absolutely bloody love what they’re doing. SSC are the latter and a brand like Lotus needs that sort of love and attention.

The reason for that is clear when you pitch up to an Evora. While it still looks the business almost ten years on from its first showing (how many cars can you say that about?), there are telltale signs Lotus isn’t rolling in cash. The doorhandles look weird. It’s probably the only really jarring moment when you look at the Evora, but it reminds you of its age.

The rest of the car is looking pretty good, thanks very much. Riding as it was on 19-inch frons and 20-inch rears, it’s almost proportionally perfect.

The Evora we had was the Hethel edition, which meant a few cosmetic tweaks to one of the two models available – the 400 and the Sport 410. Based on the 400, the Hethel adds a few niceties and a distinctive Ford GT-style stripe graphic down the side that rather grew on me.

The AP Racing brakes look fantastic through the slim-spoked wheels, with the red calipers standing out against the blue.

The glass engine cover (which doubles as a sort of hatchback over the small boot) gives you a terrific view of the supercharger-topped Toyota V6. There’s a hint of Nissan GT-R about the cabin glass, but in a good way.

Swing open the lightweight door, work out how to cross the wide-ish sill (it’s not difficult like, say, a BMW i8) and you’ll find yourself in one of the best driving positions in any car anywhere.

A good view out and (where you can’t see, there’s a reversing camera), amazing vision forward and everything falls straight to hand.

In this automatic version (yeah, I know), the gear selection is via Ferrari-like buttons on the console and wheel-mounted paddles. The pedals are aluminium, just like the bonded chassis beneath you, and are perfectly set whether you’re a right-foot braker or a leftie racer.

The starter button is old-school racer too – press and hold it after inserting the vintage GM-sourced key and the Toyota-sourced V6 bursts into life. One of the great joys of this engine is that you know you can rev its nuts off and it just won’t break.

Images by Mitch Ford/The Redline.
*Note: Gallery Available on Desktop Version*

Another of the great joys is that it sounds nothing like the other cars it’s found in – when it sport mode, it howls and wails, overcoming even the supercharger whine. It almost sounds like a flat-plane crank, it has a real racecar edge to it.

The extraordinary thing as you start to get to know the car is the balance of the steering and the insanely settled ride. Nothing rides or steers this well – as a package – this side of a McLaren 540C (another $170,000 away and with an optional reversing camera), and all this with Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers made to Lotus’ specification.

It’s genuinely eerie how well the car rides around town but can then be thrown at a twisty road with considerable abandon. The amazing ride contributes to a very well-tied down rear end meaning huge confidence on lumpy and bumpy tarmac. You won’t bottom out, you won’t get spat off the road.

While it may “only” be a supercharged V6, the Lotus-fettled 2GR-FE V6 has an Edelbrock supercharger strapped on the top to produce 298kW and 410Nm. With a recent loss of weight to 1425kg, 0-100km/h arrives in 4.2 seconds, the Aisin six-speed automatic shifting firmly and cleanly at the redline. The road from the V6 really is something else, but I certainly badly want a go in the manual.

The brakes are also tremendously powerful but super-easy to modulate. Being able to pile into a corner braking super-late but without the judder of ABS (it’s got it, but the rubber and chassis stability is so good you have to be an idiot to need it on the road save for an emergency) interrupting the fun.

The stability and control systems are so subtle and so up for a laugh that you have to check they’re on. It’s a brilliant car.

The only real problem is the interior isn’t bang up to date. The fit and finish is good but it is looking a little old, especially compared to the obvious competition.

Because so few of the cars are sold, the price can’t go down, so it’s a vicious cycle. If the car could land for a significantly lower number, then it would be another story.

But. And there’s always a but. When you buy a Lotus from these guys, you’re buying into an unofficial club. You’re buying into over a decade of expertise in Lotus, so much so that an SSC-prepped Lotus Exige finished third outright in this year’s Targa Tasmania. You’re buying into a group of people who told me as I took the car from them to have fun and when the tyres are warm, to let out two psi on the rear tyres. Nobody – not Ferrari, not Lamborghini, nobody has ever given me that kind of advice while driving away.

There are track days, drive days, overseas trips to events. SSC went through a lot of pain and suffering the bring the KTM X Bow to Australia and will continue to work on improving the Lotus proposition. While this sounds self-interested, they actually have cars for journalists to drive so that you can read about them. And remember they exist.

Because I truly believe that the Evora is a forgotten gem. And I’m excited for Lotus’ future because just before I drove the Evora, we learned that Geely has taken a controlling interest in the company. That’s the same Geely who own Volvo.

Which means there’s new product, new interiors and new powertrains on the way that are going to bring Lotus into the fray again. Before Geely, Volvo was owned by Ford and stamping out dull-but-dependable cars. Check out their recent announcements, they’re planning on world domination. Geely aren’t just going to let Lotus dangle like Proton has.

But for the moment, we do have the Evora. It’s a cracking car – powerful, comfortable and properly fast.

Most of all, it’s got the kind of balance you’ll pay a lot more for in Italian supercars but have to deal with the fact you own an Italian supercar.

The Evora is for people who know and people who get it. People who get up at 4am for an uninterrupted drive.

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