This summer, Lotus became part of the same family as Volvo and the London Taxi Company. It made a deal with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, hoping the Chinese company can work the same magic on its Norfolk cars as it did on Volvo.
Jean-Marc Gales, the ever-enthusiastic Frenchman responsible for turning a profit at Lotus for the first time in years, looks like he’ll finally get the war chest the company needs to move ahead, including multiplying production of a mere 1,600 cars, which he believes is now possible. “Certainly, there are many projects we can now accelerate…. different segments that we never had the capital to progress,” Gales says.
So that’s what Lotus needs, but what’s in it for Zhejiang Geely? Why buy a tiny UK car company? Gales says it’s all about the confidence of its brand. “Lotus is 70-years-old and one of very few world-famous sports car brands. We have won more titles than anybody apart from Audi and McLaren.”
Race-bred, it’s quivering enough inside the car, but trackside at the Lotus Hethel test circuit, it sends a cold shiver down your spine.
Recent emphasis has been on encouraging buyers to purchase more expensive Lotus cars. Over the first five months of 2016, the average sale price was £42,000. In 2017, that moved close to £60,000. The new Lotus GT430 is a case in point as it’s the most expensive road car Lotus has ever offered and the first to break the £100,000 barrier. Like Porsche’s GT3 offerings, it’s not so much about increased horsepower than it is about honing this Lotus into the sharpest, most dynamic and lightest Evora the firm can build.
The 430 horsepower is just 30hp up on the regular Evora, but this is basically the Evora race car in road-going trim; that means plenty of aerodynamic appendages, lightweight adjustable dampers and extensive carbon fibre weight-saving measures.
The rear wing is enormous and has real purpose if you can find an unrestricted motorway abroad or, more likely, a race track in the UK where you can exercise your inner Lewis Hamilton.
You can also choose the GT430 in Sport guise, a more road-friendly version without the rear wing and the kerb-cruncher at the front, plus more comfortable Sparco seats. Without the wing, it’s 6mph faster, too.
But it is the full-blooded GT430 that makes the real impression. It’s breathtakingly hardcore as a track day car, yet still usable on the road – with a bit of care.
Initially, it’s the sound from the titanium exhaust that surprises you. Race-bred, it’s quivering enough inside the car, but trackside at the Lotus Hethel test circuit, it sends a cold shiver down your spine.
This Evora is immensely fast – 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds (a touch quicker with the auto gearbox), less than eight seconds to 100mph – and there is so much grip, braking power and balance that you’ll feel like a champion as you scythe around a circuit at simply astonishing speeds.
The steering, brakes and gearbox complement each other brilliantly. The engine instantly gains speed to enable fast downchanges, which is just what’s needed when you are hard on the brakes and you really need a gearshift that’s going to work perfectly every time.
If the minimalistic race seats and never-less-than-very-firm ride worries you, then think about a cheaper Evora – or something else entirely. But for everyone else this Evora GT430, in the right environment, is a truly thrilling, utterly rewarding drive. And, perhaps, not excessively expensive after all.
Lotus Evora GT430