For the past 15 or so years, Lotus has focused on creating cars that have one simple design philosophy: lose extra weight. It doesn’t matter if that weight is from heavy materials or the creature comforts that are normally found inside sports cars, it has to go. The resulting models, the Elise and the Exige, are incredibly nimble track machines that are a blast to drive. The only problem is that you couldn’t really use them on a day-to-day basis, but the 2011 Evora takes the company’s performance pedigree and adds practicality.
The Evora is bigger than the Elise and the Exige models, though it is still a small car. The other models were all about shoe-horning yourself into the cabin and being scrunched up next to the passenger. The Evora provides more ample leg and head room, and there is even the option for a rear seat. Only a child or a rather small adult could fit in that rear seat, but still, it’s there.
The other big difference between the Evora and other Lotus models is the interior upholstery; as in, it actually has some. Upholstery and gadgets add weight, so they had no place in the Exige or Elise, but the Evora is built to be used day-to-day, so it has a comfortable interior that you can get in and out of fairly easily (unless you’re over 6’3″, then you might have problems).
Powering the Evora is a 3.5-liter V6 engine sourced from Toyota. This is the same basic engine that powers the Camry, but Lotus has tuned it to provide 276 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This may seem a bit low when compared to other sports cars, but the power is just right. Even though the Evora is a larger Lotus model, it still weighs only a hair over 3,000 pounds, making it far lighter than most sports cars on the market. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, and a paddle-shifted automatic is in the works.
But how does the extra weight and the larger body affect the cherished and venerated Lotus handling? Not a bit. In fact, the Evora is capable of better grip than the sport-tuned Exige S, and can pull a 1.3 g turn on street tires. Very impressive. Also, because of the extra space and the more comfortable interior, the ride is even more enjoyable.
Here’s the bottom line: the Evora is more comfortable than other recent Lotus models, it has better grip, it can get around 30 mpg highway, and it can do 0-to-60 mph. If the Evora is what happens when you take Lotus’ performance heritage and mate it with a bit of luxury, then they should do it more often. U.S. pricing hasn’t been officially announced, but the Evora will run about $75,000 when it goes on sale in early 2010.