First drive: Lotus Evora S Sports Racer


First drive: Lotus Evora S Sports Racer

The sleek Evora is an often-overlooked machine when dinner party conversation turns to the best tin-top two-seater sports cars on the market. Most buyers and keen petrolheads would instantly gravitate towards the accomplished Porsche Cayman S, and there is no reason why they shouldn't, but we would advise them to mention the British-built Evora. And here's why...

What is it?

Sitting at the top of the Lotus model range, the well proportioned and beautifully styled Evora S feels every bit the Porsche rival it was designed to be and a freshly updated interior only adds to the premium feel. Where the Elise and Exige are created to be track day heroes, the Evora is a more upmarket affair, hand-built to have hairs standing on end yet also deliver drivers to their destination in style.

What's under the bonnet?

A particularly raucous supercharged 3.5 litre V6 that has been created by Toyota and fettled by the race-experienced engineers at Lotus's Hethel headquarters. The powerful lump, that sits bang in the centre of the car, produces a meaty 345bhp that's delivered to the rear wheels. It's a feisty bit of kit and thanks to improved throttle response in the Evora S Sports Racer version via a Sports button, it's brilliantly responsive... it's also bloody noisy, but we will get onto that later. Customers wanting something slightly more sedate can plump for the standard Evora that has had its supercharger removed.

What's the spec like?

Much better than earlier examples thanks to the welcome addition of finer grades of leather and the liberal use of Alcantara on the seats, roof and dash. A new multimedia system from Alpine also helps modernise the previously sparse cabin. It features a clear reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a half decent MP3 and CD player. The Alpine unit is nowhere near as intuitive as Porsche's PCM multimedia system and the sound quality could do with some improvement but it serves a purpose. The cabin feels well put together, the seats are unbelievably comfortable despite offering the grip of a bucket seat and it feels special inside - a welcome break from the homogeny of German interiors.

Any rivals?

We've mentioned it several times already but the Porsche Cayman S is the most accomplished rival at a similar price, it's also one of the few 'value' mid-engined tin-top sports cars currently on the market. Similar money would buy a used Audi R8 or even a Porsche 911 but those wanting the raw thrills of this engine layout and rear-wheel-drive propulsion are definitely not spoilt for choice. On the plus side, the Evora S certainly holds its own in the performance stakes against its German nemesis.

Lotus Evora S Sports Racer

Lotus Evora S Sports Racer

What's it like to drive?

The Evora S is a fantastic machine for those who like the simple pleasures of driving. Some would say the gearbox is notchy and the clutch slightly too heavy but we think it is perfectly weighted with the sort of mechanical feel one wants from a thoroughbred sports car. The steering is light and the chassis is agile, making cross-country blasts an absolute hoot. The supercharger builds speed progressively and is well balanced but never crosses the line into completely unmanageable, scary-driving territory. We thought the new Cayman S was one of the best sports cars money could buy when we drove it earlier this year and that still rings true but the Evora S offers a more visceral experience, something that the Germans have smoothed over somewhat. The Porsche is much easier to live with on a daily basis (more storage space, no ridiculously high sills to clamber over) but it doesn't sound as good nor deliver the snappy, mechanical shift of the Lotus.

The AOL Cars verdict

Unfortunately, the Evora will always be compared to the German offering, as it really is the only direct rival. It also costs a good few thousand pounds more and a Lotus badge doesn't come with the same kind of reliability records and prestige as the boys from Stuttgart but don't let that put you off. The British-built racer will almost definitely receive more admiring glances from passers-by and continue to do so in years to come, plus it's a thoroughly entertaining drive with a snarling soundtrack to die for.

The Knowledge
Model: Evora S Sports Racer
Engine: Supercharged 3.5-litre V6
Price: from £66,850
Power: 345bhp
Torque: 400Nm
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 178mph
Fuel economy: 28.7mpg
CO2: 229g/km