Lotus' brilliant Evora looks to extend its market reach with the paddle-shift automatic IPS 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 345bhp Evora S, Lotus nailed the power issue and sweetened the shift quality. The IPS model dumps the gearstick altogether.
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. The Evora S was the classic two-birds-with-one-stone response. But the IPS (Intelligent Precision Shift) model we're looking at here gives customers for the regular Evora the opportunity to do away with the chore of changing gear once and for all. Good idea?
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. Question is, does have a Toyota-sourced six-speed torque converter auto with steering wheel paddle add to or subtract from the driving experience? For Lotus, having an auto Evora to sell in markets such as the US, Middle East and Far East (that more or less demand the two-pedal option) is undoubtedly a good thing. From the enthusiastic driver's perspective, however, there are a few compromises to weigh up. The 0-60mph time, for instance, lengthens from 4.9 to 5.3s. There's no permanent manual mode, either - the paddles can be used to override the default auto setting, but if you don't use them for a period of time (10s in Normal mode, 30s if you've pressed the Sport button) the transmission reverts back to auto. As for the 'box itself, it's mostly smooth and cooperates willingly with the engine but it isn't as slick or as biddable as the best systems on the market - especially on downshifts - and doesn't really gel with the Evora's otherwise pure and beautifully finessed character. The braking and suspension systems draw on the know-how of some of the biggest names in motorsport with the Bosch brakes using four-pot callipers from AP Racing, the suspension springs supplied by Eibach and dampers from Bilstein. The Evora rides on purpose-designed Yokohama tyres and Bosch was also involved in the creation of special ABS and traction control systems that allow the Evora's performance capabilities to shine through without intervening too early.
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 latest Evoras. 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 IPS is offered with or without the option of rear seats, in this instance at a price starting at £52,350 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.
Cost of Ownership
How much the Lotus Evora IPS will cost to run on a long term basis is a tantalising question. While 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 this generation Evora marks the end of an era, the last of 'old' Lotus if you will. The Evora does have a future, though, which begins with the much modified model year 12 car. On a more pragmatic level, day to day running costs aren't catastrophic. Even with the inherent inefficiencies of a torque converter, the Evora IPS will still turn in a combined fuel economy figure of 32.1mpg (down from the manual car's 33.2mpg) while the CO2 output is raised from 199 to 208g/km. Insurance ratings also take a sharp hike.
With the S and this IPS model, the Evora is beginning to evolve into a proper family of cars. 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 IPS is perfect. The auto 'box 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.