Would you spend £72,000 on a Lotus? It’s a key question for the British car company and the answer may determine its future in the luxury motoring market. One man praying that the answer is yes is new head honcho Jean-Marc Gales, who has serious industry history, including a stint as president of Peugeot-Citroen. Over the past year, he’s brought sound business nous to the Norfolk company infamous for the ups and downs of its bottom line.
Gales’ initial plan is to ramp sales up from just 1,200 cars in 2014 to around 3,000 annually. How will he achieve this? The primary platforms are a radically revised Evora and a whole lot more dealers.
But the fact remains that £72,000 gets you into some serious kit – the Jaguar F-Type or Porsche 911, for example – or, for a bit less, the equally charismatic Alfa Romeo 4C. So why would you splash your cash on a Lotus?
One big reason is value for money. For that price, you’d get into a base model Porsche 911, but you’d have to pay for everything else as an optional extra. The Lotus, on the other hand, comes as a complete package, well-equipped and nicely put together. The Evora has been around for a few years already as the next step for owners of the Elise, who were ready to grow into something that offered more space and comfort while retaining that Lotus magic.
But sales didn’t really take off in the way the company hoped. Then there was the American problem; sales there were hampered by failure to keep up with legislative requirements.
The new Lotus Evora 400 is the answer to all this, and more. Crucially, there’s also a convertible model joining the range next year. Right now, though, we have a radically revised Evora coupe. Two-thirds of it is new and, despite bigger brakes and a turbo intercooler, it weighs 42kg less. It looks more fit for purpose, too – less of a GT car, more a dedicated sportster, the bigger wings and scoops giving it a much more aggressive edge.
The supercharged V6 engine has so much Lotus fairy dust sprinkled on it that it’s hard to imagine it originally came from Toyota. Changes have added another 50hp to reach 400hp, which betters all its obvious rivals and, goodness, it is very fast indeed.
The Evora’s throttle responds instantly, with a bellow from the exhaust in the Sport setting, and the car lunges forward with seemingly never-diminishing acceleration.
Coupled with that is the fabled Lotus steering control, which gives a paranormal sense of the road beneath the car. It’s been said that the Evora is one of the best handling cars in the world, and I’m not about to counter that.
All this comes together in a sports car that’s truly exciting to drive when you demand a thrilling ride. It has the entertainment value of a Ferrari 458 Italia at a third of the cost.
It has practical concerns covered, too, with a couple of rear seats that are almost made for throwing your luggage on top when you’re in a hurry, plus a much-improved air conditioning system.
Arguably key to the fresh appeal of the Evora is the new sense of quality inside. The dashboard is classier, it’s easier to get in and out and there’s more room for your feet. The seats are sporty and comfortable, and so is the suspension, meaning the Lotus is finally ready to function in the city.
Of course, if you do choose to drive it in London, you may still need to explain to colleagues why you’ve chosen a Lotus instead of the more obvious alternatives. Only, this time you’ll have some pretty solid arguments on your side.
Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com