It might be a rare sight on our roads, but we’ve always loved the Lotus Evora for its fluid handling, excellent steering and plentiful performance. So we didn’t need asking twice when we were invited to drive the Evora GT4 on Hethel’s racetrack. And no, the GT4 isn’t just an Evora with some sticky tyres, stiffer shocks and a rollcage – 50% of its parts are new.
It’s yours for £124,800 and 30 have been sold so far.
Where can I race it?
Well, as the name suggests, the Evora GT4 complies with GT4 race regulations, so you can compete in the European or British GT4 series, plus the Blancpain Endurance and Dutch Supercar championships.
You can also take part in Lotus’s own Lotus Cup (although the UK series is over-subscribed), while customers have raced at the Dubai 24 hours, Silverstone 1000km, Sepang 12 hours, Bathurst 12 hours and in the British GT championship.
Which engine does the Evora GT4 use?
The Evora GT4's engine starts out in life as a regular 3.5-litre V6, just like the Evora S, but unlike the S model there’s no supercharger attached. That’s because forced-induction engines are subject to multiplication regulations in order that they don’t gain an unfair advantage over naturally aspirated motors of the same size. Hence, the supercharged Evora S would be classed in the over 6.0-litre category.
That’s why the base Evora’s Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre naturally aspirated engine has been developed instead. The head and the block remain the same, but that’s about it: there’s a new crankshaft, plus new rods, pistons, camshafts, valves and springs, all of it governed by a Cosworth SQ6 ECU. The result is 4.0 litres, 355bhp at 6500rpm and 328lb ft at 5500rpm – more than the 345bhp and 295lb ft of the Evora S.
Tell me about the gearbox…
The Evora GT4 has a mid-mounted engine, but because it’s transversely located its relationship with the rear driven wheels is much like a front-wheel-drive car. And that’s why the Lotus Evora GT4 uses a tweaked version of an Xtrac sequential manual gearbox that’s more commonly found in World Touring Car racers.
Its six gears are spread over the same range as an Evora road car’s first four gears, and the gear changes hit home in 80ms.
What’s the Evora GT4 like to drive?
Despite the intimidation that comes with walking up to a racecar, climbing over a rollcage and scanning its business-like toggles and digital dash display, the Evora GT4 is extremely benign and forgiving, especially once you get past the brake-pedal feel. At first the unservoed pedal feels very wooden and there’s quite a bit of force required to get the desired level of retardation, so it’s difficult to judge exactly how much pressure to apply.
Yet you acclimatise and they get in an ideal operating window after 10 laps or so, at which point the pedal feel seems a little more normal. Our car wasn’t fitted with the optional ABS, but the Evora pulled up so smartly that I never felt like I was coming close to locking up the front tyres. Crash your car once due to a lock-up, though, and you’ll probably think ABS would have been a great investment.
Oh, and there’s no traction control, either, but that’s less scary than the lack of ABS: the Evora has masses of traction on its slick tyres, huge front-end bite and it’s so benignly balanced that chucking it around feels perfectly natural – the rear end certainly feel more fluid and chilled out than the hyper-feeling rear of the Exige Cup R that I drove on the same day.
Unlike the Exige Cup R, the Evora GT4 also has power-assisted steering, so it has less outright steering feel, but it also makes the Evora seem even more wieldy, giving you confidence that a quick steering input will save you should you be caught out by a high-speed slide, where you’d have to wrestle a little more with the unassisted rack.
At first it seems like the gearchanges will jar with such easy-going steering, because they don’t half clunk and shunt at low speeds, but they come into their own at race speeds and you forget the harshness and simply appreciate the precision and speed with which they engage – the ’box never once failed to deliver a gear.
What about the performance?
And while Lotus doesn’t have any official performance figures, that’s not because it’s a closely fought battle with the Evora S: the GT4 is miles faster. The Evora is a very, very quick car, but one with an engine that also feels absolutely in tune with its chassis. Personally, I’d never crave more oomph than this, but I might wish that I was better at exploiting the Evora’s stunning balance through corners in order to carry even more speed down the straights.
But with that chassis and a throttle that’s so much more accurate than the boosted 3.5-litre Evora S, the GT4 does everything it can to achieve that goal.
After the initial intimidation and cautious laps that inevitably come with acclimatising to an unfamiliar racecar, driving the Evora GT4 quickly becomes second nature. Its fluid handling, easy steering, huge performance, trusty brakes and comfortable driver’s seat is all part of the magic, and after an hour of hard driving on track you’ll climb out thinking a) you could punch in those very same lap times over and over again, and b) you really want to climb straight back in and give it a try. I certainly did.