Lotus has a long history of making great sports cars that are a thrill to drive on the road and the track. However, this Hethel, UK based manufacturer has gone through a few ownership changes since its founder, Colin Chapman, died in 1982, and has seen most of its financial years end up being marked with red ink, rather than black.
Part of the problem has been its inability to offer products continuously in North America, which is seen as the most important market in the world for sports cars.
Compared to the old Evora S model, the Evora 400 offers 55 more horsepower, and an extra seven lb-ft of torque. Labelled as the fastest road car ever made by Lotus, it sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, while its top speed is rated at the magical 300 km/h mark (for the manual version; the automatic version is limited to 280 km/h).
Before a car wins you over with its technical specifications, it needs to attract potential buyers. Approaching the car, it doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, but that is largely because this is an evolution of the Evora, not a revolution. So, the silhouette and many details remain the same, but there are differences, too. The front bumper is all new, housing much larger air intakes than before. The rear end got an even bigger modification thanks to a restyled, three-piece, rear spoiler, and the re-positioning of the reversing lights from near the tail lights to a new housing in the lower part of the bumper. Its derriere is finished off with parking sensors nicely camouflaged in its apron, along with a reversing camera.
The head of Lotus design, Russell Carr, wanted to give the car a more aggressive, yet functional look. So, while the new nose has lead its aerodynamic drag to increase from a Cd. of 0.33 to 0.35, it was needed to allow the fitment of larger radiators to aid cooling. The Evora 400 also has more downforce than before, about twice as much. At 242 km/h, the Evora 400 generates 12 kg of downforce at the front axle, and 20 kg of downforce at the rear axle – for a total of 32 kg. While these numbers won’t impress a Dodge Viper ACR owner, they are enough to give the Evora 400 a planted stance at speed.
The results are spectacular, as the Evora 400 passes all safety tests, and needs no exemptions to be granted in order for it to be sold in North America. In fact, Lotus is the smallest car manufacturer in the world to have passed homologation requirements to sell its vehicles in North America.
Apart from the safety tech, as mentioned before, the Evora 400 comes with an Alpine infotainment unit that features navigation, and also projects the image from the reversing camera. Stereo sound is pumped through four speakers, which do an OK job, but this is no automotive concert hall on wheels. For some real music, turn the stereo off and stomp on the throttle.
I was tasked with hitting the track first. One lap of Gingerman is 3.0 km long, and has 11 corners. What makes this track especially challenging is that many of its corners are off-camber and have blind entry points – in short, it would be far too easy to throw a car off the track here, if you’re not focused. To help me save from the embarrassment of crashing an expensive sports car, I was taken out on a few exploratory laps by Lotus Cars Chief Engineer of Motorsports, Gavan Kershaw. Kershaw pointed out where to brake and turn, and where to keep the throttle in, even when the road seems to disappear – the straight between turn10 and turn 11 is particularly thrilling due to its blind crest.
Nor did the engine lose its temper. Thanks to its charge-cooling system, the engine stays cool under pressure, and you can just continue to have your fun.
After my 25 minute session on the track, it was time to hop out and take another unit out for the road test. The car Lotus had provided for this test had the optional six-speed automatic transmission. The Evora 400 auto loses the limited slip differential that the manual car comes with, and weighs 12 kg more. Thanks to Lotus engineers writing code for their TCU (transmission control unit), this Aisin gearbox swaps gears twice as quickly as it would on a Toyota Camry – which uses the same unit.
This became evident as I hit the country roads of South Haven. The auto-box shifts quickly and smoothly, and you can really relax as you take to the road. The roads I was on were not exactly smooth, and also quite narrow, but the Evora 400 shined thanks to its excellent ride quality, and its smallish dimensions (4,385 mm long, 1,575.5 mm wide). The only issue you’ll have is rearward visibility when you look through its central rearview mirror, but you’ll get used to it. Just because the auto is easier to live it, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on performance – it’s just as quick as the manual, and its steering-wheel mounted pedal shifters still let’s you have some fun with gear ratios.
The Lotus Evora 400 seems to be a sports car with almost no foibles. It looks good, has a very nice interior, its ride and handling is top notch, and it can take the punishment. It might just be the most perfect sports car currently in production.
If you want one, you’ll have to fork out $140,000 to bring one home. That sort of money gives you lots of choices, and while most of them are very good, none of them will take the abuse on the track like the Lotus can. So, if you’re looking for a track day car that can also be used on the road, the Evora 400 might just be the perfect car for you.