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Lotus Evora S 2+2 (2012) long-term test review

By the CAR road test team

Long Term Tests

12 February 2013 09:30

Month 9 running a Lotus Evora S: final report and goodbye to the Evora

The aftermath of Dany Bahar’s plan to take Lotus back to the big time might, to him, feel like the fuzzy waking moments after an epic night of consumption – ‘There’s a picture of me and Swizz Beatz on Facebook? I should call Bob Lutz about those five cars we said we’d make’ – but at least one part of Bahar’s masterplan did materialise: upgrading Lotus’s test track.

What once looked like an airfield after a Luftwaffe strike is now a proper circuit, with a smooth surface, Armco and a real chicane to replace the tyres that you once played chicken with. And regular punters can drive it too, with a series of driver-tuition packages ranging from Level 1 (£499) up to Level 3 (£899), while one-on-one sessions and GT4 race-car level coaching is  also available.
We plumped for Level 3 and, while regular customers get an Evora S for the day as part of the deal, we decided to take along our longtermer – then handed it back once we’d cooked the brakes and tyres as this, sadly, is the Evora’s last update.

I was paired with Jay Bridger, a brilliant coach. I took three key things away from my Sunday: firstly, that I had a tendency to carry a little too much speed into tighter corners, causing the car to nudge wide, compromising my exit speed and line for the next straight.

Secondly, Jay helped to improve my lines in general. He set up a fast slalom on a straight and we concentrated on making my lines as straight as possible between the gates, meaning plenty of looking ahead and planning entry speed and so on.

I already knew the theory, but having an expert sitting alongside to ensure I executed it properly was invaluable, and I genuinely carried Jay’s instruction through to my track driving later on.
Finally, we worked on trail braking, which is braking late and slowly weaning yourself off the brake pedal as you turn into the corner. It means you carry a lot of speed on the approach, plus there’s the added bonus that continuing your braking through the corner keeps the car’s weight over its nose, increasing the front tyres’ grip. It made my entry to slower corners faster, while trimming the excess speed and hints of understeer I previously carried towards the apex. The Evora was a natural at this sort of stuff – balanced, responsive, communicative, fast.

But, away from the track, it didn’t worm its way into our affections quite as readily as we’d hoped. Yes, it looked great, the steering was fantastic, the chassis sublime, but it was left in the car park overnight with surprising regularity. The case against is compelling: entry and egress is almost perversely difficult, the dials are hard to read, the touchscreen infotainment system is whimsically dysfunctional, the radio reception is poor, the pedal positioning is uncomfortably offset, the gearchange isn’t great, the fuel range is stingy, there’s very little boot space and a lot of road noise. That’s enough for now.

These days you need more than dynamic brilliance in a £70k car, and that’s where the P-word raises its head. The Evora S will always be chasing the 911, which starts at similar money, and offers the better all-round proposition. But then you cast your eye down the sales lists to the £45k Boxster S and upcoming Cayman. You’d spend £25k more on a Lotus? Really? As regular Evora custodian Ben Pulman says, ‘If you want a proper Lotus, you’d be better off with the Exige S – it’s more raw and more hardcore than the Evora or the Porsches, so it finds its own niche. Get the Evora and it’ll quickly prove that it can’t match a 911 or Cayman for quality, the niggles will frustrate and, steering aside, what does it do better?’

Harsh? Maybe. True? Absolutely.

by Ben Barry


Month 8 running a Lotus Evora S: the pain of winter commuting

The gorgeous summer evening blasts home are over, as a recent house move combined with shortening days means my commute is now a dark trudge along impossible-to-overtake A-roads. Rather than revelling in the Evora’s sublime steering and superb chassis, I now peer through the windscreen as the single wiper struggles to clear it, and curse the poor radio reception and cacophony of road noise which ruin Radio 4. And the low-20s mpg and small tank mean I’m filling it every few days.

It’s perhaps the reason why near-to-the-office dwelling Tim and Greg are taking the Evora more and more. Mr Pollard defaults to the Lotus if it’s going spare, and Greg can’t stop eulogising about my car: ‘The steering is simply incredible – literally impossible to believe. It’s so direct, so deliciously judged that it morphs you into the car. You can feel it around corners as if it’s part of you, somehow hard-wired into your senses. The car’s many foibles melt away as soon as you lean on it.’ I couldn’t agree more, but I’m not really getting those chances on the A605.

By Ben Pulman


Month 6 running a Lotus Evora S: testing it against the Exige S

It’s time for a trip to Lotus HQ in Norfolk, to sample our long-term Evora’s sister car, the Exige S. This is the one car that former Lotus CEO Dany Bahar managed to launch in his two years in charge, despite big plans that Hethel would rush five new cars to market by 2015. Pretty ironic, then, that while Bahar has gone and at least four of those five cars canned in the interim (the Esprit is dangling one-handed from a creaking rope bridge as foamy torrents lash the jagged rocks below, but it’ll hopefully be alright).

More ironic still is the fact that, while so many of the Bahar models promised to take Lotus off on all sorts of tangential adventures – a front-engined saloon, a folding hardtop, hybrids – the Exige S embodies the Lotus DNA so completely that it could have been fired direct from Chapman’s loins.

Think of the Exige S as a cross-between the discontinued Exige and our long-term Evora S and you won’t be far wide of the mark. Essentially, new Exige uses old Exige’s central tub, but mates it to new, longer front and rear ends with bespoke bodywork and heavily tweaked chassis settings, much of them Evora-derived.

Underneath the Exige’s rear bodywork, nestling in an all-new subframe, lies the transplanted heart of the Evora S, the 3456cc supercharged V6 that pumps out an unaltered 345bhp at 7000rpm and 295lb ft at 4500rpm. But here’s the thing: it’s fully 261kg lighter and costs almost £10k less than our 2+2 Evora S, or almost £8k less than the 2+0. It’s a pretty tantalising head-to-head, don’t you think?

When you step between the two and fire them up, you notice that the Exige S sounds better, sounds more like a raucous V6 where the Evora fails to deliver much more in the way of musicality than a four-pot turbo would. You also notice the Exige’s comfortable-yet-firmer seats – you forget how plump the Evora’s are until you snuggle back into them – and the unfiltered feel from its unassisted steering and the extra effort it requires at parking speeds. The Evora’s helm is power-assisted and is still highly tactile, but the Exige’s introduces a new level of connectivity, an even greater sense of the treadblocks tingling over the road surface. At times, there’s also some fairly hefty kickback, so undiluted is the experience.

And, yes, the Exige S feels far quicker, with instant, adrenal-gland-pricking acceleration from just about anywhere in the rev range, while the Evora S feels only quick enough these days, not oh-mi-god-WTF rapid.

The Exige S we tested came on the optional Pirelli Trofeo tyres, which no doubt contributed to an even more direct feeling of fluidity on the road, as well as adding to the massive traction. The ride quality is excellent – well-controlled and undeniably firm, but with enough breathing space to flow with the road rather than pogoing over it – but as a pay-off there is more road noise than in the Evora.

The Exige S is a fantastic car, better, I’d say, than our already fantastic Evora S – it focuses more intently on the driving experience, where the Evora’s focus is diluted a little by needing to be more usable which I think, for a Lotus customer, is a somewhat unnecessary diversion.

The Exige also makes quite a bit more sense from a market-positioning point of view: it plugs the gap long since vacated by Noble’s M400 in that it doesn’t chase the 911, as the Evora does, but instead it focuses on serving up something definitively more hardcore, at a much reduced price. Not a bad place for Lotus to play, I’d say.

By Ben Barry


Our Lotus Evora vs the school run - 6 November 2012

Can you use a Lotus Evora for the school run? The answer is 'yes', but don't expect your kids to thank you for it.

Of course, at first they'll think it's great: they picture themselves stepping out of the car at the school gates, like Jay-Z arriving at a nightclub in his Veyron, all their friends watching in awe.

The reality isn't so cool. I put my two smallest kids in the back – a skinny 12-year-old who looks like he could do with a hot meal, and a 16-year-old who stopped growing when she was 12. School bags went in the narrow slot behind the engine, we squeezed in the narrow slot in front of the engine. I pulled my seat so far forwards my knees were jammed against the dashboard, and still the legroom in the back was leg-clampingly tight.

After a 20 minute drive, we reached the school gates. To my kids' embarrassment, you don't casually step from an Evora, you sort of clamber up towards the door, then kind of fall out onto the pavement.

By Day 2, the kids were complaining; by Day 3 they were catching the bus. So yes, you can use an Evora on a school run, occasionally, but like all good sports cars, it remains a selfish choice.

By Mark Walton


Getting in and out of the Lotus Evora - 7 June 2012

There's one small problem we encounter on a daily basis with our new Lotus Evora S long-termer: getting in and out.

Put simply, the doors on the Evora don't open wide enough. I'm 6ft 2in, not what I consider to be unusually tall, and my feet scuff the doors every time I swing my legs in. I'm not alone: judging by the muddy collection of footprints on the speakers and door trim, we all suffer this design flaw every time we clamber in or out. Another few degrees of opening and it wouldn't be a problem.

It's a shame, because the rest of the Evora package is surprisingly spacious. There's plenty of space inside the cabin, once installed. It's a genuinely comfy place to sit, even for long trips. It's a shame there's no front boot like on the similarly packaged mid-engined Porsche Boxster/Cayman duo, but otherwise we just don't see this as a difficult car to drive daily.

Unless you need to carry more than a single passenger, that is. More on the rear seats in a future report.

By Tim Pollard


Fuel figures for the Lotus Evora S – 29 May 2012

There are many wonderful things about our Evora S, and I find myself snaffling the keys whenever keeper Ben Pulman isn't looking. But is a 3.5-litre V6 very zeitgeisty? With the +2 rear seats and the supercharger bolted on, our Evora S weighs 1437kg (more than an equivalent 911 Carrera S) and Lotus claims a 28.7mpg combined economy figure and a 229g/km CO2 figure.

I filled up this morning and was surprised by how small the tank was. We were well below the quarter mark on the fuel gauge so I topped up with a scant 42 litres for sixty quid. A refreshing change from the near-three-figure fill-ups that we're slowly becoming accustomed to.

So how economical is the Lotus Evora in the real world? In our recent thrash to Wales (see the full 13-page story in the June 2012 issue of CAR Magazine) it slipped to the high teens. A guzzly 19.9mpg, to be exact.

Back away from open moorlands and with more day-to-day duties in order, we're managing a marginally more acceptable 22mpg. Seems that you'll have to stick with an Elise if you want parsimoniousness with your performance in a modern-day Lotus. I've run an Elise before and know that 30mpg is a realistic proposition.

We're all still intrigued by the political machinations going on at Hethel; read how CEO Dany Bahar was suspended in the past few days here. But above all, everyone at CAR is desperate for the situation to be sorted out. This Evora S is a reminder that Lotus know a thing or two about what matters in a sports car. There are still some rough edges, granted – but there are far fewer than before. And the magic still shines through loud and clear: the back-walloping performance, the purity of the steering, the laser-guided handling.

It's by far and away the most special car on our current long-term fleet.

By Tim Pollard


The key to unlocking our Lotus Evora S – 17 May 2012

As you’ll read about in the new June 2012 issue (out now) the entire CAR team recently decamped to north Wales for a few days of thrashing each others long-termers around secluded Snowdonian roads. We drove, we ate, we drank, the cars drank (Anthony’s RS3 more than most) and Greg Fountain nearly had a heart attack upon seeing our evening meal bills. A good time was had by all, and my Lotus Evora S was loved by all.

There were a few criticisms, granted, which we’ll deal with in forthcoming reports, but most galling for me was the moment we collected together the keys of our nefarious cars. Few were beautiful or beautifully built, but the Evora’s key stood out amongst the many. It’s an improvement over the Elise’s flimsy little thing, but if you’re spending £72k on a sports car to rival the 911 you don’t want something to open it that’s reminiscent of the key fron the Mk1 Ford Mondeo Estate my parents owned many years ago.

The MY12 Evoras might have had many quality improvements (we plan to put our car and an early Evora back-to-back in the near future to make the comparison) but something so fundamental as the key needs to be right. It’s the key, door handle, steering wheel, gearstick and handbrake that should all be perfectly tactile. As Lotus moves upmarket with its future model range it needs to get these things sorted.

Few manufacturers make good keys though, which is surprising given that they’re the first point of contact with your car. There are some noteworthy keys, but none are perfect: Rolls-Royce has something almost as substantial as the Phantom itself that it needs its own manservant to be carry it around, and Aston Martin’s crystal sliver looks lovely but has a silly name (Emotional Control Unit) and we’ve chipped more than we care to remember.

Next time we’ll talk about how the Evora actually got on during its thrashing around Wales. No one but me thought about the key; everyone else just bleated on about the sublime steering and superb chassis...

By Ben Pulman


Hello to our new long-term Lotus Evora S – 19 April 2012

There has perhaps never been a more poignant time to be running a long-term Lotus. I actually collected ‘my’ Evora S from Hethel a couple of weeks ago, but since then a media storm of epic proportions has engulfed Lotus as speculation mounted that it had fired its CEO and was about to be sold or put into administration.

Had it been my own £72,150 that had just been spent on a purple Lotus I would have been worried, but Lotus boss Dany Bahar (still very much in the job, despite the wild rumours) recently granted CAR an interview and was refreshingly honest about the company’s predicament. The trouble isn’t over, and the truth is that no one at Lotus knows exactly what Proton’s new owner DRB-Hicom will do with the Norfolk sports car company.

If things go really, really badly it might be a case of déjà vu (a la our Saab 9-5) as the administrators are called in and our Evora S is collected early. But I’m optimistic (as is Lotus itself) and with the Exige S, Evora GTE and Elise S all to be launched in 2012, there’s a raft of new product to back up the already excellent Evora. And as you walk around Hethel, look at the construction work taking place, visit the new trim shop, and the line where the Lotus-developed V8 engine will be built, it’s a realisation of the scale of what’s been invested in Hethel (and it’s not just money). Of course there are doubters, but very few of them actually want Lotus to fail; as the company’s future unfolds it’s going to be enthralling having the set of keys to a Lotus in my pocket.

Anyway, my car. Inside the factory (currently being re-worked ready to build the new Esprit) it appears grey, but in natural light it’s a lovely shade of purple. Looks great on the black wheels too, and the black leather interior (complete with contrasting red piping and stitching) feels special, with the level of fit and finish much improved versus the first Evoras off the line in 2009. (We’ll look in-depth at the MY12 quality upgrades that our car has in the near future.)

With 345bhp the trip home from Hethel was much quicker than my painful trek out to Norfolk in a underpowered hire car, but rather than the powertrain it’s the chassis and steering that are the stars: the former seems perfectly matched to ruffled British back roads (the sort we love, and that make up the majority of my commute) and the latter is simply sublime.

You and I know that though. Instead what this test is about is living with an Evora every single day. Yes, we’ll report on the driving experience, because you wouldn’t buy a Lotus if you didn’t enjoy being behind the wheel, but it’s also about commuting in it, shopping in it, those early morning airport runs, and trying to take it on holiday when the other half inevitably overpacks.

A fortnight or so into the relationship all is still rosy – nothing has gone wrong like the odd naysayer has expected. After months of having to think about every journey I took in the Leaf, it’s refreshing to be able to climb into my car and go wherever I want, whenever I want. Life with the Leaf felt like I was being robbed of my independence; having an Evora S is a helluva way to get it back.

By Ben Pulman


Speccing our long-term Lotus Evora S – 9 March 2012

A little over 18 months ago Lotus was whisking dust sheet after dust sheet off five new sports cars at the 2010 Paris motor show and waxing lyrical about an expanded range that would kick off with a new Esprit supercar. They’re all (hopefully) still to come, but all the hype has actually taken the spotlight off the existing Lotus range, a line-up that’s been consistently fettled and finely tuned. There's a more powerful engine for the Elise, and a new gearbox, a new Exige (plus an Exige Roadster), and a limited-run Evora GTE that’s sold like proverbial warm buns. Plus the car the GTE's based on, the Evora, has been subjected to a raft of quality updates.

An Evora S, with the 2+2 seating option, the new IPS automatic gearbox, and the MY12 quality improvements passed through the CAR office recently, and frankly, we loved it. While the world’s automotive media focuses on the new 991-gen 911, the Evora has been a bit forgotten about. But while the latest Porsche icon has lost a little of its emotive feel (especially through the steering), that’s exactly what this Lotus delivers. So the order is in and we’re going to run one for six months… (A manual, mind, not the IPS).

We’ve opted for a £60,550 Evora S over the standard £51,550 Evora, which means a supercharger boosts the 3.5-litre V6 engine’s 276bhp and 258lb ft to 345bhp and 295lb ft. And besides four-tenths being trimmed from the 0-62mph time (now a supercar-rivalling 4.6sec) the Evora goes from being a fast car to a properly quick one.

There’s more than just extra power too: you get the Sport Pack that’s otherwise a £1200 option on the standard Evora. It includes a Sport button for a sharper throttle response, a higher rev limit and a louder exhaust note, plus upgraded cross-drilled brakes, red brake calipers and an engine oil cooler.

To that our 2+0 Evora S has become a 2+2 with the optional £1900 rear seats – many of the CAR team have kids so they’re all keen to find out if it can be used as a family car. At least that’s the excuse accompanying the barrage of requests I’m already getting from the Pollards, Barrys and Chiltons keen to borrow it at weekends.

We’ve got the Tech Pack too, which for £2800 adds an upgraded hi-fi system, a 7in touch-screen sat-nav, Bluetooth, MP3 connectivity, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitoring system and rear parking sensors. Another £350 bundles in a reversing camera, and powered door mirrors are the same again, and our car has the Premium Pack Sport for another £2500, so there’s heated leather buckets (ours are Ebony Black with red piping) and extra leather on the doors, armrest, centre console, and footwells.

As for the exterior, we’ve opted for Amethyst Grey Premium Paint (£1500) which has a lovely purple tinge, and because I have a strange affinity for darkened alloys, a rather substantial £2200 has gone towards forged Gloss Black Design Wheels. With these the front wheels grow from 18s to 19s, the rears from 19s to 20s, and the standard Pirellis P Zeros become grippier P Zero Corsas.

All in it’s £72,150, which seemed like a lot… until I had a little play on Porsche’s configurator for the new 911 Carrera. That’s got 345bhp and prices start at £71,449. But metallic paint is £801, tyre pressure monitoring is £437, it costs £931 to paint the wheels black (and you need a £971 20in alloy wheel upgrade to do so), rear parking sensors are £397, a sports exhausts is £1772, cruise control is £267, and heated seats are £320.

At this point some of you will be scouring your nails into your desk and shouting that Lotus can’t match the quality of Porsche, but let’s park those thoughts until our car actually arrives. It’ll be here in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait. And neither, it seems, can Messrs Pollard, Barry or Chilton…

By Ben Pulman