There really aren’t a lot of great places to evaluate a car in Detroit proper, because it’s a city. But over the years, I’ve developed a short loop that can provide a Cliff’s Notes impression of a car quickly and safely. Since I’ve been pretty strict with non-essential travel outside my immediate neighborhood, I’d planned on doing just that loop in the Lotus Evora GT, once, maybe twice.
I ended up doing it again and again, ignoring paranoia and anxiety and pushing into that space where you can’t think about anything but what you’re going to do in the next couple seconds. My notes are as follows “Exactly the experience I want. Wow.”
The Evora GT is criminally underrated. It’s well built, the detailing is nice, it looks cool in person and it’s unreal to drive. It’s one of those things where comparing prices and specs leads you to miss something very special.
Full Disclosure: Lotus wanted us to review the Evora GT so badly that two people in gloves and masks dropped one off at my house with a full tank of gas. It’s good to be back in the ranks of the very serious automotive journalists! Andrew said he feels like the press cars are safe. Good enough for me.
What Is It
This is, for now, the big Lotus. That means that from tip to tail, it’s a little bigger than my shoe, which is good. Between that tip and that tail, there’s a front storage area, a cockpit with two human seats and two little vestigial seats, then a Toyota-sourced V6, another storage compartment and then some wings and diffusers. Nothing you need, nothing you don’t.
Quick story: as a shithead teen, I was bicycling by a restaurant patio when something low and wedge-shaped caught my eye. Immediately, I started to cycle through mental images gleaned from books and magazines and TV. “It’s just a Lotus!” I called back to my pals, disappointed it wasn’t a Ferrari or something. The owner, middle-aged guy sitting on the patio, seemed genuinely hurt. “Just a Lotus? You’re on a fucking bike.” Fair enough.
At that moment in my life, I didn’t know that Lotus is probably the coolest car company ever. Or that a black, twin-turbo V8 Esprit was most likely the coolest car I’d see in person that year.
This Evora GT, like everything else Lotus does, isn’t exactly on the forefront of the sports car conversation. Maybe it’s because it’s not always clear what the status of Lotus, the company is. Maybe it’s the fact that the Evora has been in production since 2009, or that the headlight treatment bears a passing resemblance to the MP4-12C of yore. Maybe it’s that it’s less well-known than something like a Cayman and at least theoretically, more expensive. But it’s probably that the other little race car shops decided at one point or another to start trying to make products that large numbers of people actually wanted while Lotus, for reasons I’m too lazy to investigate, decided to keep making what they knew how to make—a driving experience that reminds you why anyone should care about driving.
Probably the most interesting thing about this car is that it’s a mid-engined four-seater. That’s pretty unusual. The rear seats are, you know, sports car back seats—a place to throw a backpack or a jacket. But still, they exist. You might be tempted to wonder why they bothered with back seats, but don’t fixate. They’re for your coat. If you just can’t get over the presence of little vestigial seats, you can order yours with just a shelf back there.
What’s great is squatting behind the car and seeing a pair of big ass Cup2s behind the holes in the lower bumper. I’m not as crazy about playing “fake vent detective” as a lot of people, but it is cool to know that the little aerodynamic features are functional. The engine also sounds fantastic. I don’t know how, but it does.
The head unit is an Alpine head unit. Like, from the store. It’s fine. It sounds good and you can pair your phone to it. I would argue that if you’re worried about what kind of radio a car like this has, you should probably consider a car with a different kind of radio. A lot of cars have great radios these days.
The Lotus logo on the back is also just vinyl decals. Mentioning it pegs my “are nit-picking” meter but here me out, how cool would it be if it was painted by hand?
This isn’t really the car for casual driving, but aside from the obvious dimensional handicaps, it’s pretty good at it. I ran a couple essential errands in it the other day and didn’t find it uncomfortable in the least, though this is admittedly of a blindspot for me. Great car reviewers of the modern era have very well-defined views on what types of plastic are good and which ones are unacceptable. They’re able to see right past feelings of overall enjoyment or comfort and focus in on the important stuff, like whether or not the buttons are real metal or plastic painted to look like metal, whether they can smell any off-gassing, or whether a knob has an appropriately hefty feel. I have to really look for that stuff, but I tend to end up at “is this what I expected?” and the Evora GT is better than expected.
What I expected was a little of the old British charm, but everything worked, the stitching all lined up and nothing fell off in my hand. The cumulative experience of “now this is a high quality interior!” wasn’t Audi/Mercedes level, but the car weighs 3100 lbs and the heater/air-conditioner is controlled by an intuitive set of knobs. I’d sit on the floor to experience that particular luxury.
I’d really have to take a weeks-long tour of great driving roads and racetracks from one coast to the other to say definitively that the seats are comfortable, but they were more than comfortable enough for a few hours around town. I did forget to try sitting in it with a helmet on, unfortunately.
The short version is: It’s easy to drive around town, easy enough to park as long as you’re comfortable using your mirrors and I can’t really think of a reason why this couldn’t be your daily driver.
There have always been haves and have-nots in sports car building. There are companies who run incredibly tight ships, who blow through sales and profitability targets and who have the resources to push the outer limits of what’s technically possible. The have nots are the scrappy underdogs using say, a Toyota V6 with an Edelbrock supercharger to make 416 HP feel and sound utterly incredible. This car isn’t good because it’s got millions of lines of code tweaking and adjusting things. It’s good because it makes good power, the suspension is thoughtfully tuned and it doesn’t weigh too much. Because it doesn’t weigh too much, it doesn’t have to be overly stiff to deliver.
There are, of course four different drive modes, Drive, Sport, Race and Off. The difference between Drive and the latter three is immediately clear. In Drive, the Lotus feels almost too docile, a flick of the switch and you get a snappier throttle response and more freedom to slide. The sliding, as far as I could tell hoofing on public roads and goofing off in parking lots is very easy and intuitive to control.
The car is compliant enough that it doesn’t skitter on bumpy surfaces and balanced enough that when it does get a little loose you can catch it without thinking. The steering is hydraulic. I’d thought EPS systems had more or less closed the gap with their predecessors, but I’m not as sure about that now. It’s just so easy to tell what the car is doing.
The Evora is a car that even in the absence of a track or a great road, can provide genuine life-affirming joy and entertainment. Like I said, it’s exactly the experience I’m looking for in a car like this. You could buy it today and keep it until you die and it would never stop blowing your mind.
About the Price
Look, this car is more expensive than a C8 Corvette, it’s more expensive than a 718, a ZL1, a GT500, and any number of other great cars. We’ll ignore that some of those cars are automatic only, and that some of those are very likely to end up in the same neighborhood once you add the red seat belts, etc. The Evora GT won’t sell in huge numbers and those kinds of calculations will be one of the reasons why it doesn’t. But I can’t imagine starting a process of cross shopping and calculations only to end up with a Lotus road car in the driveway. There’s always been a more sensible choice.
Like I said, there are a lot of great ways to answer the $100k sports car question. There are more than a few options that are way more obvious, safer choices. But a sports car is an irrational thing and for me, it’s hard to not fall at least a little in love with the ever-troubled, ever inventive, scrappy, characterful Lotus. This time, guys who make it work on will and brain power have made something worthy of consideration. Before you select the default option, see about the Lotus.