A guided tour around the new Lotus Evora 400 – by the chief exec

Published: 03 March 2015

► New Lotus Evora 400 world debut
► Group Lotus chief tells us all
► A full walkaround with Jean-Marc Gales

The Lotus Geneva motor show stand features just one car: the Evora 400. But it’s the first new product to be launched since Jean-Marc Gales was appointed boss ten months ago, and forms a crucial part of Lotus’s plan to shift 3000 cars in the next financial year. CAR grabbed half an hour with Gales at Geneva to find out more.

CAR: What did you think when you first drove an Evora?

JMG: ‘I thought it was a very good car with great handling, but it needed more power. I set the target of knocking six seconds off the Hethel lap time, and we’ve done it.’

Can you tell me how?

‘One of the first things you notice is the much larger brakes all round – at the front we have gone from 350mm to 370mm. It was not 100% necessary, but I wanted absolute braking power, so that nothing could come close to it on the track.’

What’s changed with the 3.5-litre supercharged engine?

‘We have achieved an extra 55bhp thanks to a new Edelbrock supercharger and a new intercooler – previously we didn’t have an intercooler. There’s also a new Lotus-designed ECU. All together we get 400 horsepower, but efficiency improves by 4g/km CO2.’

Have you changed the Evora’s chassis?

‘Yes, we wanted benchmark handling, so we have changed the damper and spring settings. Previously the car was quite soft, so we have pushed the the ride/handling balance much more towards handling while still retaining compliance. We also have a limited-slip differential on manual cars, and it will follow later for the paddleshift. We are now six seconds a lap faster at Hethel, which is as quick as the Exige S, and we get to 62mph in 4.2sec instead of 4.8sec, with a 188mph top speed instead of 179mph.’

Chassis expert Matt Becker left Lotus for Aston Martin. Who is in charge now?

‘We have Gavan Kershaw and Ross Restell, they are both experts in their jobs. Once a month I go out and test cars on our track with them, and I have to say I love it. Every night they give me different cars to drive, and I try out different set-ups. The roads in Norfolk are really great, and I often end up taking a detour home.’

Is the new Evora 400 lighter than before?

‘We have added 40kg with new components like the brakes, the intercooler and larger oil coolers, but we have also taken 62kg out – so it is 22kg lighter overall. One of the first things we did was dismantle an Evora, and work out how we could save weight and cost. The forged alloy wheels save 1kg, removing the mesh from the rear intakes saves 200g and we’ve taken 11kg from the interior – we’ve switched from Recaro to Sparco seats, which saves 3kg. We had a remote-controlled glovebox release – it is totally unnecessary for a car like this and it cost £60 and saved 1kg. We also removed the armrest – another £60 and 1kg.’

How have you made the Evora more user-friendly?

‘We’ve taken 50mm out of the width of the sills, and 40mm out of the height. It’s much more car-like and easier to get into, but we still have the same 27,000Nm per degree torsional rigidity as the previous car. We’ve also adjusted the HVAC system [heating, ventilation and air-conditioning] to make it easier to heat and cool the car after customer feedback, and the buttons to adjust some settings are now much easier to reach  – they were tucked behind the steering wheel in some cases, and are now positioned in a row above the infotainment system.’

How much will the Evora S cost?

‘We are not announcing prices yet, but it will be more than £70k and less than £75k.’

Will some of the updates extend to the Exige S?

‘Yes. We will do the same to the sills to make it easier to climb into and out of, and the engine will get the intercooler and the extra power.’

How many cars are Lotus hoping to sell in total?

‘Last year we sold 1200 cars, we will sell 2000 cars at the end of this financial year in April, and then the next financial year – April 2015 to April 2016 – we are targeting 3000 units.’

How crucial is the US in that plan?

‘Extremely crucial. Last year we sold 300 2014 model-year cars because the latest car wasn’t US compliant. This car will go to the US in December, and help take us to 500 units – that’s why we’ve engineered side airbags into the 400. An Evora roadster is an easy job with this chassis, and that will take us to 700 units.’

Is your dealer network expanding?

‘Yes, we have 50 US dealers with three new ones, and 30 new dealers in Europe. You’re the first person I’ve told, but we also have a new dealer with two new locations in central and northern London.’

There’s no real link between the Lotus F1 team and the road cars. But how beneficial do you think the F1 connection is?

‘I think people can over-estimate the link to motorsport – there is no synergy between the race cars and the road cars.’

Read more about the cars at the Geneva motor show here.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator