Every moment you’re driving the 2018 Lotus Evora Sport 410 GP Edition you are engaged in motorsport, whether you want to be or not.
There’s no way to make the steering soft, no setting that removes responsibility from you. If you’re feeling queasy about a takeover of autonomous cars, take a day driving this and call me in the morning.
This enhanced version of the 410 looks particularly racy resplendent in the classic John Player Special black and gold livery, made famous by Lotus F1 cars of the ’70s. For driving enthusiasts, it’s the very best kind of car: Focused, fun and hardcore. This is the kind of car we wish there were more of.
A lot more, because Lotus is only making five.
(Full disclosure: Lotus gave me one of these things with a full tank of gas for three days.)
The shape and styling of this car will be familiar to anyone who’s been around the also-excellent Evora 400, but the Sport 410 isn’t just a trim level. This car is the peak of what Lotus can achieve with this platform, thanks to significant weight savings and performance modifications throughout.
Carbon fiber is omnipresent in the bodywork. The roof, rear quarter panels, and even the hatch are made of carbon helping save 32 pounds over its fiberglass counterpart. The aesthetic of the fiber weave adds to the visual impact of the car, giving the bystander the distinct impression that they’re seeing something unique.
A couple of mods stand out immediately when you slide behind the wheel—the first being the wheel itself. It’s the same square-shaped wheel from the 400, but it’s been covered in a grippy Alcantara fabric that’s specifically designed for performance driving. Thankfully, what hasn’t changed is the delightful hydraulic steering, connecting the pilot to the car in direct fashion. Every input is rewarded with instant and specific feedback, like you’ve been speaking the same language as the car’s hardware since birth.
That carbon fiber hatch is the other change you notice from the driver’s seat, and that’s because you won’t be able to see a damn thing in the rearview mirror. The rear windshield has been replaced by louvers, and it took me all of my three days with the car for my brain to begin to adjust to being able to see only the smallest snippets of approaching vehicles. Almost surprisingly, there is a rearview camera that assists greatly with backing out of parking spaces, but you can forget about rear visibility while driving.
But who wants to look back when the Evora does such a marvelous job of devouring the road in front of it? I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, where the roads of Topanga and Malibu Canyons awaited me with their constant elevation changes and turns, along with a veritable cornucopia of Porsches and BMWs enjoying the cool California air.
And during my runs through the canyons, there wasn’t a single German car that didn’t reluctantly pull aside to make way for the black and gold.
Simply put, the Lotus Evora 410 Sport does not, will not and cannot fuck around.
The supercharged 3.5-liter Toyota V6 from the Evora 400 is still here, and it still creates a sound that is rivaled only by the sixes in the Acura NSX and Nissan GT-R, not to mention a thumping 400 horsepower and 301 lb-ft of torque. There’s less sound dampening in the 410, and during your spirited driving, you’ll be thankful for that. Lotus will sell you a Sound Insulation Pack, but it adds 12 pounds. You don’t want it.
For the GP Edition Lotus has firmed up the Evora’s compression and rebound settings in the shocks and reduced the unsprung weight with beautiful lightweight wheels, all while lowering the center of gravity by about half an inch. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you add it together, you have a suspension that simply absorbs the surface, allowing the driver to focus their attention to more pressing matters.
And the additional 141 pounds of downforce created by the aerodynamic improvements in the 410 over the 400 only encourage you to push yourself harder. Brake later. Unwind and throttle out sooner. And the Torsen limited-slip differential is up to the task. In fact, the car can absolutely, positively handle everything you throw at it and there’s a subtle sense that it’s mocking you for not driving more ambitiously.
The grip delivered from the available Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires is almost magnetic. Every time you think you might be in a slight bit of trouble coming around a corner, you can pretty much straighten out by simply adding more power. Don’t be timid—commit to your lines and the Evora thanks you with lateral Gs that you have to feel to believe.
Braking is consistent, predictable, and without fade, not even after a solid hour of rocketing up and down the side of mountains thanks to AP Racing calipers. A nuanced use of left-foot braking is remunerated greatly, and trail braking doesn’t even begin to upset the car.
And the shifter. My God, the shifter. It’s notchy, short, mechanical—in other words, it’s the most genuine row-your-own experience available at this price point. There’s no active rev matching or paddle shifting here. Get your heel-toe technique together here, because you’ll need it.
While there are four driving modes offered, they only affect the throttle response and electronic stability control settings—the steering rack and the suspension remain unchanged. So why not drive in at least Sport mode all the time? The aural symphony that is the titanium exhaust is worth it.
Of course, there’s a downside to all of this, and that’s the time that you spend driving the Evora 410 sport that isn’t a rip-roaring canyon run. The stiff suspension that is so rewarding on the back roads is much less enjoyable while traveling on the surface roads of Los Angeles county, giving my lower back some discomfort that was still present a week or so later. The stereo… well, it isn’t good. In fact, we’ll just go ahead and call it downright poor. Lotus will sell you a better one with a couple more speakers if you want the extra weight, but this car is really optimized for other aural pleasures.
However, if you even think about actually complaining about any of these minor annoyances, the Evora 410 Sport is not for you. The Evora 410 Sport is not a grand touring car to take in lovely views of of what’s around it. No, the Evora 410 Sport is the closest thing an amateur racer could find to replicate the experience of driving a purpose-built racing car legally on the street.
It’s never not loud. It’s borderline uncomfortable at times. It’s hard to see out of. And it’s all completely fantastic.
Yes, there is joy to be had in driving up and down the California coast, stopping for pretty pictures and for beachgoers to nod approvingly. There is something to be said for handing the key, wrapped in a $20 bill, to the valet at the SkyBar in West Hollywood and telling him to please be careful, because this is the only GP edition in North America. But seriously, fuck all that, because this Evora is designed with a singular purpose: Driving.
There is a sincere, profound sense of authenticity in this Lotus, one that I’ve yet to see replicated in any other road-going car. Anything “extra” that wouldn’t make the Evora grip more, handle better, or drive faster is simply not there.
Yes, Porsche has its Cayman GT4 and Chevrolet has its Corvette Grand Sport, but as far as I’m concerned neither of those cars inspires the driver in the way that this Evora does.
The black and gold livery might be a tribute to Lotus’ championship Formula One efforts, but the passion that is instilled by this car is less refined than that–it’s much more Smokey And The Bandit.
In this era of the digital supercar, the Sport 410 is a pleasant and constant reminder of how great driving used to be, even if only in our minds. Lotus will happily provide you with acceleration and top speed numbers (3.9 seconds from 0 to 60 and 190 mph, if you care), but its true excellence doesn’t exist in the measurable realm.
It’s nimble, more quick than it is fast, precise in its movement and focused in its delivery. It doesn’t rely on electronic gimmicks or nannies to give the appearance of stability—it actually is stable. No, the magic isn’t in a lap time, it’s in your core being, in the way that you feel connected to the heart of this magnificent beast when you drive it.
Naturally, it’s also not cheap. Lotus will need to collect at least $104,200 from you if you’d like your own 410, and if you want the GP Edition, you’ll be looking at $110,000. If you want one, you might need to go even higher because the current U.S. allocation is all spoken for. But what you’ll get for your money is a handcrafted car that is genuinely unique and different from everything else in its class. In fact, one could make the case that the Lotus Evora 410 Sport is really in a class of one.
Or, at least in the case of the GP Edition, a class of five.