Writing about the Lotus Evora is one of those things that reveals how inadequate the written word is. I wish I could just mind-beam you the feeling of driving the Lotus. Or, even better, the feeling you get as a Home Depot parking lot watches you remove your squirmy, giggling toddler from this tiny car.
When you pull up to park in a Lotus, people watch. For many, it’s the size of the car, which by modern standards is almost bacterial. For some, it’s the sound, and the world-of-tomorrow look of the car. Some simply know and appreciate what a Lotus is. But when you pull your kid out of the back of the car, people’s looks change from those of interest and envy to disbelief and confusion. And there’s something really satisfying about that.
No rational person buys a Lotus to haul around their kids. I bet the number of people who buy Lotuses as family cars is only rivaled by those who buy Lotuses to be the workhorse of their drywall business. But the incredible thing I learned is that you actually could use an Evora as your daily family car. You could. With some admittedly huge compromises.
But before we get into the difficult bits, let’s just linger here for a second and consider how incredible it is that it’s even possible in any way whatsoever that you can legally transport your lovely little spawn in one of these. It’s a mid-engine car. If your car-buying criteria is mid-engined and able to take your spouse and child anywhere, you’re done shopping. This is your car.
I really can’t think of another mid-engined car other than the Evora available in America today that has any provision for a back seat. Cayman, no. Forthcoming Alfa 4C, no. Lambos, Ferraris, Paginis, McLarens — no, no, no, and nope. So the fact that the tiny Lotus manages to cram you and three other seats between those axles along with a supercharged V6 is nothing short of incredible. It is a little short of convenience and comfort, but let’s not spoil the moment.
So, yes, the Evora S will baby. It’s probably the most borderline child-usable car I’ve ever tested for this series, which to me makes it likely the best Will It Baby car ever. The rear seats of the car are really 3/4 scale seats, if we’re honest. And, really, that whole back area is not fully human scale. In fact, putting Otto in there made him look absolutely huge.
He was so much bigger to the proportions of that little cramped passenger compartment that his head scraped the fuzzy ceiling. He could easily reach through the holes in the backrest of the front seat to grab my wife’s long hair, and his little feet would often end up kicking you in the head. Most tellingly, he asked to go into the back of the car by saying “Daddy, make me big?”
Still, he did fit. I wish the rules for child seats were less strict, because I feel like he would have fit absolutely perfectly into the seats without the bulky child seat. And, getting that child seat in was like reverse-birthing a baby rhino. The seat required about 30 rotational maneuvers to get into the car, and the act of finding the latch hooks between the tiny cushion and backrests is an act better suited to a tiny, trained octopus than human hands.
Getting Otto into the car and kid seat also required a lot of contortion and unnamed Yoga moves, though it wasn’t really that much harder than entering the car into the front seats on your own. Most of that is thanks to a pair of side sills in the Lotus that are about as wide as red-upholstered sidewalks and just as easy to step over. Getting in the car is a process that can cause improbable body-contact accidents like kneeing your own eyebrow or stepping on your lip. It’s not easy.
Once you’re actually in the seat, the interior feels cozy and inviting in a futuristic space-pod sort of way. Otto, with a three-year old’s perception, called the Lotus the “spaceship car” almost from the beginning, and I think that’s a good call. It feels very spaceship-like, right down to shaped red dot-matrix dash screens that really, really look like they were surplus Virtual Boy screens.
The layout of secondary controls is pretty haphazard and puzzling. Look at this array of buttons here. What do you think the one that looks like it’s bisecting the hypotenuse of a right triangle does? And that one that looks like a speedo — would you have guessed that’s for instrument brightness? Or look how the buttons for the left and right seat heaters aren’t actually to the left and right of one another.
There’s other details to remind you this isn’t a mass-market car. HVAC control knobs are lovely aluminum, but the lack of grooved edges — like any non-nickel or penny coin — makes them slippery and hard to use. The locations of things aren’t bad, though.
And, really the controls that actually matter — wheel, pedals, stick — are sublime. The shifter in this car is perhaps my favorite shifter of anything I’ve driven in years. It’s very mechanical-feeling, and has such a satisfying feeling when you put the car in gear. I like the length of the throw, how you can feel engine vibrations through the stick, everything about it. I fucking loved shifting this car.
Practically, this car is a challenge — even without a kid. The trunk is actually mildly useful, but it’s tiny and I didn’t even try putting the stroller in it because, come on. Maybe if I puréed it it would fit. Otto fit in it just fine, and could even nap back there, if that wouldn’t get him placed in a foster home almost immediately.
The rearward view in the Evora is sasquatch-like in its difficulty to actually be seen. The rear window layout is only rivaled by the Tatra T87 I drove for uselessness. In the Lotus, fully half of the tiny window is taken up by the valve cover of the engine, the one thing you know is following you. There is a rearview camera, a godsend on this car, but, really it should be on all the time. The side mirrors actually are quite good, because they damn well have to be.
You don’t even care about any of this crap when you’re driving the car, though. It’s about 3100 lbs, and that Toyota-sourced supercharged 3.5L V6 makes 345 HP, good enough to get you and your optional kid to 60 in about 4.4 seconds. I didn’t time it, but I found some open roads to open it up on, and holy crapples does it feel good.
The acceleration is strong and relentless, and the engine noise is a loud, futuristic-sounding drone that makes you feel like you’re about to lift off. Otto loved the feeling of acceleration, and pleas of “Daddy, go fast?” punctuated every ride in the car.
Like you’d expect, though, it’s in the corners that the Lotus really makes your chest ache with raw longing. The steering is very communicative, the front end light and wildly nimble, and the way the car settles in and feels planted, with the bulk of the weight low and right behind you is really one of the best driving experiences you can have.
So, sure, you can’t really carry shit in the car, you likely will have to give up your stroller, your kid can kick your head and grab your ears from his seat, you have to dislocate your clavicles to enter and exit like that guy on That’s Incredible, and the gas mileage is really pretty crappy (I averaged 12 or 15 MPG or so), but driving it for ten minutes makes all these drawbacks seem just fine.
And the way people look at the parent taking his kid out of a Lotus while surrounded by minivans and Prii just might make any amount of discomfort totally worthwhile. Because, at that moment, everyone watching will want to either be that parent, that child, or hell, both.