In recent years, Lotus has become synonymous with narrowly focused sports cars that are big on performance and miniscule in size. Comfort and convenience play second fiddle to handling and acceleration. Not surprisingly, the company's cars have had fairly limited appeal. All that looks to change, however, with the introduction of the 2010 Lotus Evora -- the company's kindler, gentler version of the all-out track-tuned Elise and Exige.
The Evora is bigger than the Elise, but that's like comparing subatomic particles -- both are tiny compared to your typical passenger car. Still, the Evora measures 5 inches wider, 4 inches taller and 22 inches longer than the Elise. For the added size, the Evora gains two rear seats, a roomier (though hardly spacious) cabin and a mid-mounted (and Toyota-built) V6 engine. It should be noted, though, that the rear seats are still really small. How small? Well, have you seen a Porsche 911's rear seats? The Evora's are worse.
Still, the Evora's larger dimensions and added comfort and convenience make this the first Lotus you won't mind driving every day. A larger door opening and narrower side sill makes getting in or out of the cockpit much more graceful, and the cabin receives a healthy dose of luxury. Leather and carpeting cover the hard plastics and bare metal found in the Elise and the cabin has an upscale, modern appearance. Even power steering (!) is included.
But don't think that this Lotus has gone soft. Lotus says the Evora's new extruded aluminum chassis is 60 percent more rigid than the one it uses for the already unyielding Elise and Exige. This allows for a more compliant suspension without sacrificing too much in the way of performance. To quote Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" (also referring to a Lotus), "This baby handles like she's on rails." The 2010 Lotus Evora can change direction in the blink of an eye, all while relaying plenty of feedback through the steering wheel, pedals and seats. Acceleration and braking are also worthy of praise, registering Elise-like performance numbers despite being more than 1,000 pounds heavier.
As the world's only midengine four-seat sports car, competition is understandably sparse. Considering the Evora's lack of rear-seat space, a Porsche 911 immediately comes to mind as a more mainstream choice, though it's not as nimble and certainly more expensive. The similarly priced (yet two-seater only) Porsche Cayman S is another enticing choice. For something with truly usable rear seats, the only option currently available is the much larger Porsche Panamera four-door super sport sedan, which will set you back an additional $25,000. Overall, Lotus has done a lot right here. For those seeking the type of handling found in the Elise or Exige, but in a much friendlier package, look no further than the 2010 Evora.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Lotus Evora is a four-seat sports car that is offered in only one trim level. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy front wheels (19-inch rear wheels), bi-xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, air-conditioning, leather front seats, cloth rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power windows, a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and handbrake, a trip computer and a CD/MP3 player with iPod integration and auxiliary audio jack.
There are three main option groups available. The Premium package adds accent lighting, a center armrest between the front seats, premium floor mats and leather trim throughout the cabin. The Sport package features selectable sport modes, enhanced throttle response, a higher rpm limit, a rear underbody diffuser, titanium exhaust tips and cross-drilled brake rotors with black-painted calipers. The Technology package includes cruise control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and an upgraded stereo with DVD playback, a 7-inch touchscreen display, navigation and a USB port.
Stand-alone options include a sports ratio gearbox, a rearview camera, power-folding mirrors, various wheel options and clear paint protection film. Buyers can also opt to delete the rear seats in favor of a rear parcel area.
Powertrains and Performance:
The 2010 Lotus Evora is powered by a mid-mounted 3.5-liter V6 that is sourced from Toyota. The engine produces 276 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission available is a traditional six-speed manual, though there are rumors of an upcoming paddle-shift automatic in the works. Lotus estimates the 0-60-mph time at around 4.5 seconds, while top speed is electronically governed at 150 mph. Just as impressive as the performance numbers is the fuel efficiency; the Evora is expected to achieve 26 mpg in highway driving.
The 2010 Lotus Evora is noticeably sparse when it comes to safety equipment. Antilock brakes and traction/stability control are included, but neither side nor side curtain airbags are available.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The Evora's interior is quite a departure from the hard-core sports cars in the Lotus lineup, sporting a modern cockpit with rich leather surfaces, carpeting and significantly more creature comforts than what's offered in the Elise and Exige. The relatively few knobs and buttons are within easy reach and are elegantly styled and placed.
Entry and exit from the front seats are much more civilized than in the Elise or Exige, thanks to a shorter and narrower side sill and larger door openings. Once seated, there is significantly more space up front -- enough to comfortably accommodate 6-foot-plus adults. Unfortunately, though, the front wheelwell intrudes on foot space. As a result, the clutch pedal is shifted an inch or so to the right, which can be awkward for some drivers. We had bigger issues with the lack of a functional dead pedal, however. A small ledge that can only fit a few toes is all that is provided and its placement is painfully uncomfortable.
The rear seats don't fare any better, and are really no more than an upholstered package shelf with seatbelts. Rear space is almost nonexistent, and may even be uncomfortable for small children. In a pinch, these seats may come in handy, but we'd probably opt for the rear-seat delete. Rear visibility is laughable, but fortunately, a rearview camera is available as an option. As for the trunk, Lotus claims the Evora can hold up to 5.7 cubic feet but its narrow shape drastically limits what you can store back there. Strangely enough, the Elise's trunk, which can hold only 4.0 cubes, more easily accommodates bulkier items because of its wider shape.
The 2010 Lotus Evora is most at home on tight, twisting roads. Like its smaller Elise and Exige cousins, the Evora knifes through turns with uncommon precision and otherworldly levels of grip. Unlike the Elise, however, the Evora provides a relatively serene cabin, with few squeaks and rattles, plenty of sound insulation and a suspension that reduces pothole effects to "normal" car standards.
Power is plentiful throughout the rev range and the transmission features well-spaced gears to make the most of the V6's output. Steering feel is as good as it gets for any car, and the power steering makes maneuvering in tight spots effortless.