Lotus, builders of some of the most iconic and sublime cars of all times finds itself, yet again, approaching dire financial straights. It needs a hit, a palpable hit, and it has chosen to update, up-rate and subtly alter its Evora sportscar for even more bang throughout the performance envelope. How you can squeeze more go, stop and turn out of a car as capable as the already impressive Evora is a hard question to answer, but Lotus answered it, and it seems to have done so most definitively.
Lotus was founded by one of the all time great automotive and racing engineers, Colin Chapman, who had one of the all time best personal and professional mottos: "To go fast, simplify and add lightness."
A lot of people edit that down to "To go fast add lightness," and that works just as well. Seemingly every car the crew from Hethel ever turned out appeared to be light as a swallow, and twice as maneuverable. It can be so obsessive about weight that on the legendary Lotus 7, paint is optional. Paint! How much can paint weigh, you ask? Well, 6.1 lbs (2.7 kg) on a 7. Hell, there are stories of Chapman nearly firing mechanics because he caught them using washers on race cars. Seriously, these people are obsessed with that motto.
Which is why, in some ways, when the Evora first rolled out, it was a bit of a puzzle. It wasn't exactly fat, but it was heavier that people expected. And it had more comfort and convenience features and more luxury items too. And what was that? A back seat? Yes, notional as it was, the Evora is a 2+2. Chapman had made other 2+2s in the past, most notably the Elite and Eclat (they even squeezed a +2 into an Elan as well), but normally, a Lotus is two seats, no waiting.
A lot of this added puffery found on the first iteration of the Evora can be laid squarely at the feet of former company head Dany Bahar. He seemed like a well meaning fellow and all that, but then he started alluding to things like "Lotus is a lifestyle brand, not really a car company" and that "the cars are too Spartan and won't attract the upper class clientele" he assumed the company really needed.
One does not blaspheme in such a manner at the Church of Lotus, and as far as we're concerned, Bahar was lucky to get off as lightly as he did. Bahar's story ended up with him getting run out of town on a rail, and his name is rarely, if ever uttered.
Another facet of Lotus has been its constant treading near the edges of financial disintegration. And although it isn't mentioned it in any of the press materials for the Evora 400, Lotus needs the 400 to sell and be a hit and get some sort of cash flow into the company coffers.
Although the lineup is impressive with the Elise, the Exige and the current Evora, the word among gearheads is that the Lotus offerings are getting rather stale. Both the Elise and Exige, wonderful though they might be, are getting rather long in the tooth. And yes, the Evora is impressive, but where's the magic ask many enthusiasts. Lotus hopes that the Evora 400 will answer that question.
"A requirement for all Lotus cars is to be a benchmark for handling, to be the quickest car from A to B and to provide the driver with a pure and involving driving experience," says Jean-Marc Gales, Chief Executive Officer for Group Lotus. "The Evora 400 is the fastest road-going Lotus that we have ever produced, possessing performance that can only be matched by cars costing significantly more. It delivers supercar looks allied to supercar performance."
"We have always said that to make a car better, you must make it faster and lighter," Gales added. "We have achieved this, of course, but we didn't stop there, as the considerable number of changes in the interior, chassis, engine and body design have warranted emphatically, the title of a new Lotus Evora,"
Over 60 percent of the Lotus Evora 400 is new, including its supercharged and charge-cooled mid-mounted 3.5-liter V6 mill that cranks out 400 horsepower (hence the name) and 302 pound feet of torque (298 kW and 410 Nm). The chassis is new, incorporates a new interior and, of course, is made from hydro-formed aluminum alloy. The body? Lightweight composite of course, and it's been seriously re-worked both front and rear. All told, the 400 tips the scales at 22 kg (48.5 lb) less than its predecessor.
The numbers stack up rather nicely too: Maximum speed is 186 mph (300 km/h) and acceleration from 0-60 mph is just 4.1 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds).
The traction control and the slip thresholds (drive, sport and race settings) can be changed via a driver-selectable switch, which give the pilot more direct control if they so choose, or if they want the computer to decide things, then so be it. Also, both sport and race settings increase throttle responsiveness.
There are also revised spring and damper settings, and a Torsen-type limited slip differential. Downforce figures come in at 70 lbs total at 150 mph (31 kg at 241 km/h). That splits at 26 lbs in front and 44 lbs out back (11.7 and 19 kg, respectively) thanks to the Evora 400's flat-floor, lightweight composite rear diffuser, three-element rear wing and reworked airflow management.
Naturally, the gearbox has been seen to as well. A number of enhancements have improved shift quality, there's a new clutch disc and a low inertia flywheel so the engine zings quicker and the gears snik-snik just so. This manual transmission gets the Torsen-type limited slip, which gives better traction, to produce better lap times. There's also an automatic transmission option with a new shift strategy available. Normally, even suggesting an automatic would cause disquiet among the natives, but so far, no one seems upset at all. Automatic gear changes are made with lightweight aluminum paddles mounted to the steering wheel.
And in case you're feeling environmentally irresponsible about all this, fear not. Thanks to the improved efficiency, there is a reduction in CO2 exhaust emissions from 229 g/km on the old Evora to 225 g/km for the 400. In other words, more power, faster, less pollution. Everyone wins.
Stopping power? Braking comes from more powerful two-piece, cross-drilled and ventilated brake discs, 370 x 32 mm up front and 350 x 30 mm in the rear. The old Evora sported 350 x 32 mm front and 332 x 26 mm rears, in case you're wondering.
There are new, lightweight wheels, with forged aluminum 19s on the front and 20s on the rear. These tip the scales at 3.3 kg (7.3 lb) less than the previous model. Said wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (235/35x19 91Y front; 285/30x20 99Y rear).
Now, about that exterior. First, there's a new front end with a redesigned bumper that incorporates larger cooling apertures and daytime running lamps. Out back, the rear end features a new rear bumper, lightweight composite rear diffuser and three-element rear wing. There's also a new door mirror design.
Overall, the car comes off as having a more aggressive stance, which appears lower, wider and more planted to the tarmac. The overall length has increased by 1.4 in to 173 in (439 cm) overall. There is a small increase in Cd, from 0.33 to 0.35, largely due to the cooling requirements driven by the increase in engine power. The aerodynamic downforce has increased to double that of the previous Lotus Evora.
And finally, the interior has been comprehensively reworked as well. New seats, new steering wheel, better doors; the inside has the same amount of revisions as the outside.
But it all comes down to answering this simple question: Will it work?
Will the new Evora 400 be the boost that Lotus is looking for to see itself into a brighter future? The company has big plans, including an expanded dealer network, acquiring a larger engineering staff, secretive model line expansions they won't divulge, and so forth.
All that is well and good and pretty much the norm for any car company that wants to not only grow but flourish in the years ahead. But to do that takes money, and that's what Lotus needs. Lotus needs the Evora 400 to be a hit. They need it to leave a positive impression on the press, but more importantly the driving public.
Lotus has been here before, and it has always pulled itself back from the brink with superbly engineered, innovative products. Is this going back to the well once too often, or simply tapping the inherent resources the company has at its disposal?
Time will tell.