Lotus' brilliant Evora looks to rectify its key shortcomings with the supercharged S model. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Although the Lotus Evora has been lauded by all who have driven it, two rather obvious shortcomings were apparent. Firstly, it could do with being a bit quicker and secondly, the gearchange action was never up to scratch. With the launch of the Evora S, Lotus has added power and fixed the gearchange. The results are stellar.
Few who have driven the Lotus Evora have come away mouthing anything but a stream of superlatives. The steering, the handling and the ride quality embarrass many other sports car manufacturers, and the reliability of the Toyota-sourced engine is also beyond reproach. It wasn't perfect though. Two key areas needed to be addressed. The first was outright pace. Although the Evora was quick due to its relatively light weight, a 276bhp engine struggled to justify itself, especially when many cars were leaving Lotus dealers at virtually Porsche 911 Carrera money - a car with 345bhp at its disposal. The second issue universally noted was the poor quality of the gearshift. Although the ratios were well chosen, shifting across the manual gate could often result in missed shifts or a graunching, knuckly feel. Lotus has listened to these criticisms and with the launch of the Evora S, has addressed them comprehensively.
There are some cars that communicate their worth articulately within the first 100 yards and the Evora is one of them. The ride quality is instantly supple, the 3.5-litre V6 engine smooth and tractable, the steering direct and communicative without being overly so. The impression that this is a properly sorted sports car is one that remains, no matter how far you drive it. The Evora S fixes the obstructive gearchange and its supercharger brings another 70bhp to the party, lifting peak power to 345bhp and torque to a hefty 400Nm. This makes it significantly punchier than a Porsche Cayman S and it sounds magnificent too, exhaust valves opening at 4700rpm to unleash a wall of sound. The supercharger helps flesh out the torque curve, and there's meaningful acceleration across the board from 2,000 to 7,200rpm. Standstill to 60mph is dispatched in 4.8s. There have been numerous other tweaks to the Evora S. The brakes have been beefed up, the steering has been retuned for added heft, front and rear suspension bushes have been stiffened by ten per cent and some additional aero work improves the car's high-speed composure. There's also a state of the art Bosch DPM suite of electronic driver aids. Gearchanging is improved by the fitment of a lower inertia clutch, new shift cables and a redesigned pedal box
Design and Build
Lotus, it seems, is not above a bit of petty theft. It nicked marketing men from Ferrari and has also pilfered a few quality control staff from Porsche and the latter shows inside the Evora S. Although the basic design remains much as before, quality control is notably tighter. Squeaks and rattles have been quelled, panel fits are much closer and the sort of silly faults that dog lower volume manufacturers, such as reflections on key instruments, are slowly being excised. That's not to say the Evora is as polished as a Porsche in all areas. There are still some residual frustrations regarding the minor controls and the car just isn't as practical as its 2+2 billing would have you believe. The boot is awkwardly shaped, while the rear seats are singularly lacking in legroom should anyone above the size of Frankie Dettori be up front. The styling divides opinion, with some reckoning on a lack of dynamic tension, but it's a design that grows on you. The lines are challenging and complex, but the stylists have done a good job on a very difficult brief. How many other cars with four seats and an engine behind the passengers can you think of that looks this well balanced?
Market and Model
As with the standard Evora, the S is offered with or without the option of rear seats, in this instance at a price starting at £60,300 in 2+2 guise. The options list includes plenty of tempting-looking choices. Many customers will be unable to resist the Tech Pack - which includes an upgraded stereo, a 7-inch touch screen sat nav, USB connectivity and MP3 compatibility, cruise control and rear parking sensors. It makes the Evora a good deal easier to live with, although the sat nav interface isn't as intuitive as it could be. Then there's a £1750 Premium Pack which adds heated seats and covers the interior in leather, which might not be a bad idea if you need to convince a sceptical partner of the Evora's value proposition. All of this means that many Evora S models will roll out of dealerships comfortably into the mid-to-high £60,000 bracket. That puts it squarely against cars like the Porsche 911 Carrera and the brutal Nissan GT-R. Lotus likes to think of the Evora as a more precise instrument than either of these cars, working smarter rather than harder and it's hard to disagree with that assertion.
Cost of Ownership
How much the Lotus Evora S will cost to run on a long term basis is a tantalising question. Whilst it's a hot ticket item at the moment, the company's grand plans to move upmarket with its model range into a shiny new world of Esprits, Eternes and Elites means that in many ways the Evora S marks the end of an era, the last of 'old' Lotus if you will. The success of Lotus' bold venture will very much dictate whether this car is remembered as a genuine classic or a part of the company's history that is not widely trumpeted. On a more pragmatic level, day to day running costs aren't catastrophic. Even with the supercharger fitted, the Evora S will still turn in a combined fuel economy figure of 27.7mpg (down from the normally-aspirated car's 33.2mpg) while the CO2 output is raised from 199 to 239g/km. Insurance ratings also take a sharp hike.
The Evora S is a fascinating car. With Lotus planning big new things, bringing in new staff and pouring big money into new product development, it's a car that could easily be overlooked, but that would do a serious disservice to the engineers and designers who have crafted a quite incredible sports coupe. For a small company in Norfolk to be able to bring a project to market in 27 months and then 12 months later to have honed it to this level of excellence is just jaw-dropping. That's not to say the Evora S is perfect. It still has some idiosyncrasies, but these are more than outweighed by the almost molten way it can pour itself down a typical British B-road at pace and in total security, at all times involving the driver intimately every step of the way. If this is an exemplar of the base level of talent within Lotus, the company's next wave of new products should be something truly ground breaking.