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Lotus Evora IPS auto (2011) review

Published:22 June 2011

Lotus Evora (2011) CAR review
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The new Lotus Evora IPS has a very simple mission in life. New Lotus management are busy patching up their product range to expand Hethel’s footprint around the world – and much of the world prefers their cars to be automatics.

Buyers in America and Asia, in particular, are likely to pick the two-pedal option, and Lotus predicts the new Evora IPS will account for 60% of all base Evora sales globally. Sound business, then.

Lotus Evora IPS: what does IPS stand for?

Get ready to wince: Intelligent Precision Shift. That’s Lotus speak for the Aisin-supplied U660E six-speed torque converter automatic, borrowed from the Toyota Camry. Lotus has totally rewritten the control systems, however, to give it a more sporting edge.

Although currently only available on the basic 276bhp Evora, it could be offered on the supercharged Evora S in future; the slusher can handle up to 400NM, coincidentally exactly the 295lb ft peak torque available in the S.

What’s the penalty for picking the Intelligent Precision Shift?

The Evora IPS spews out 9g/km more of CO2, lifting emissions from 199g/km to 208g/km (should you be tax sensitive). Fuel consumption nibbles a tad higher to 32.1mpg and the kerbweight climbs 50 kilos to 1436kg.

It’s no slouch, though. The sprint to 60mph takes 5.3sec and top speed is capped at 155mph. Expect to pay £1800 more for the IPS.

What’s the Lotus Evora IPS like to drive?

The Evora is one of our favourite sports coupes and it still looks crisp and fresh three years after launch at 2008’s London motor show. It remains a rare sight on our roads – they’ve only sold 2000 in the two years it’s been on sale. Which suggests it’s being badly marketed or the Evora, which starts at £49,600 and climbs to just over £60k, is too expensive.

Clamber across those wide sills (access is only marginally better than an Elise) and the cabin itself is well packaged. The seat and wheel adjust plenty and it’s actually quite roomy in the front with a good smattering of stowage spaces. Ours is equipped with the +2 option which is frankly ludicrous and I just can’t imagine even the smallest children feeling comfortable back there. Although our test car is well built, there is no getting away from the cheap plasticky window and mirror switches and that rubbish (albeit improved) aftermarket touchscreen sat-nav and entertainment system. Lotus is promising some pretty extensive improvements in the Evora’s perceived quality in the next 24 months.

There’s no stick shift, just a pair of very cool, black anodysed metal paddles attached to the wheel and P, R, N and D buttons on the centre console. The Evora IPS is a full automatic, but in Normal mode paddles over-ride gearchanges for 10 seconds before reverting to auto. Select Sport mode and you’ll be in full manual with no interference even at the redline. It will shift down to first at junctions, however.

Does the IPS change the Evora feel?

Not much at first. This is a beautifully sorted chassis, one that flows over the road with a wonderful fluency. There might be a few more kilos onboad but you’d be hard pressed to tell as the Evora darts left and right with what should maybe called Intelligent Precision Steering. The helm of the Evora is like a grown-up Elise’s should be: precise, quick-acting but not quite as nervous or full of microscopic detail. The ride is a brilliant compromise between comfort and control, that damping yet again proving Lotus is the master of suspension tuning.

We’re slushing away through the gears and I’m strangely enjoying it. The world has now passed the milestone of more autos being sold than manuals, and I can see why as I brush around the outskirts of Norwich. We’re just bumbling along and the six-speed auto is doing a smooth job of keeping up with the flow.

The paddles have a well executed snick when they select another gear and there’s very little hunting around for the right ratio (thank goodness Lotus stuck with a six-speeder, rather than the increasingly popular seven and even eight-speeders). The software is programmed to avoid unwanted gearchanges during faster cornering speeds where the car is pulling upwards of 0.6g.

And on the back roads?

Press the Sport button and the Evora IPS pushes through shifts with more urgency, hanging on to gears for longer and generally dons its sportswear by being one or two ratios lower than normal. Most of the time, it works very well but there’s no escaping the fact that the automatic won’t suit keen drivers on a thrill-seeking mission.

The problem comes at high-speed downshifts. Nudge the paddle (let’s say it again, they’re really nice little slivers of aluminium), a cog or two is dropped before a corner, and if you step back on the gas there’s a curious lull before the gear is selected. It makes for staccato progress and is the only real fault I could find on the Evora IPS’s new transmission.

The V6 itself provides swift progress and the base Evora has a well judged performance envelope. Engineers bemoan the slightly too quiet V6 soundtrack, but they’ll be fixing that no doubt once the flat-plane V8, and potential V6 and four-pot spin-offs, arrive.

Verdict

We’ve become so used to the instantaneous gearchanges on the latest twin-clutch transmissions that I suppose we shouldn’t expect a good old-fashioned slusher to match those rifle-bolt up- and downshifts. But the Evora IPS does feel curiously stilted under certain downshifts on back roads and this may disappoint some Lotus owners wanting more luxury while keeping a sporting edge.

It’s not a major fault and the rest of the package is well executed. The Evora IPS is brilliant at cruising and it must be said the standard manual gearbox is one of the few weak spots on the regular Evora, with a vague action and a tendency to mis-slot. If you watch CAR’s video of Bruno Senna driving me up the hill in an Evora S at Goodwood, you’ll notice him pick the wrong gear too!

For the £1800 premium, the IPS is a good choice which only extends the appeal of Evora ownership. Lotus hasn’t built an automatic since 1990’s Excel SA and the new one is a wise move.

Specs

Price when new: £51,400
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3456cc V6, 276bhp @ 6400rpm, 258lb ft @ 4700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 5.3sec 0-60mph, 32.1mpg, 208g/km
Weight / material: 1436kg/aluminium and composites
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4342/1848/1223

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  • Lotus Evora (2011) CAR review
  • Lotus Evora (2011) CAR review
  • Lotus Evora (2011) CAR review
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