To say that driving the new Lotus Evora 400 is exciting would be an understatement of major proportion. Potential customers got the chance to test drive the vehicle April 21-22 at Lotus of Las Vegas, 6401 Centennial Blvd.
As you approach the Evora from the side, you cannot help but notice the sleek lines that somehow make it look as if the automobile is flying, even while standing still. Part of the illusion is created by the fact that the rear tire rims are 20 inches in diameter while the front rims are 19 inches.
The midengine placement also makes the exterior features much higher in the back while allowing the front end to cut a deep sloping angle into the wind. Looking at the Evora from the front, it almost takes on a human-like, mischievous facial expression, with its slanted hood, wide grill and deep-seated headlights.
It is not until you sit inside the Evora, however, that you realize that this is a truly well-built machine. The Evora 400 weighs in at only 3,179 pounds, yet the doors feel heavy and solid. And despite the aerodynamic windshield and side windows, there is plenty of room for the driver and passenger in this two-seater. Oh yes, there is a little bench seat in the back, which is not very practical for human passengers but great for carrying groceries, a couple of overnight bags, or perhaps a medium-size dog.
The bucket seats are covered in a rich-looking hand-stitched leather with firm but extremely comfortable cushioning and contoured support that will accommodate most any body shape and size. Adding to the luxury look and feel of the interior is the matching hand-stitched leather center console, dashboard and steering wheel.
The Evora comes with a sports ratio six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic. While the automatic transmission is faster than the manual transmission, due to the human aspect, the “Quaife Limited Slip Differential,” only available with the manual transmission, does allow the car to get more traction and hold the road better. Also helping the Evora hold the road is an exceptionally rigid and strong chassis with a fully independent suspension, anti-roll bar, Eibach springs with Bilstein dampers and a lightweight rear sport diffuser that delivers an extra 50 pounds of downforce.
The car that I drove was an automatic and, unlike most cars, the shifter was replaced with buttons for park, neutral and drive, all within comfortable reach on the center console. The dashboard is well laid out with easy-to-read instruments including a display screen for viewing the rear-facing camera and rear parking sensor, Satellite navigation, entertainment options and Bluetooth communication.
OK, time to start the engine, and words can hardly describe the low throaty sound that comes out of the 3.5-liter V-6, 24-valve, water-cooled, 400-horsepower, all aluminum, Toyota Camry engine with Edelbrock supercharger. The all-titanium exhaust system almost makes the car sound like it is purring at idle with a deep burble that gets your attention but is not too loud.
Step on the gas and this baby goes from zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, and you can hear the power as it shifts through the gears.
On the day of my test drive, Lotus of Las Vegas set up a test track in the parking lot behind the dealership. Arthur Merabian, internet sales manager, took me for a two-lap spin around the track to show me how the Evora 400 performs and to familiarize me with the track. In the hands of an experienced driver such as Merabian, you feel like you are strapped into an Indycar and racing the Grand Prix; this car was made for tight turns and open-road driving.
Even with an automatic transmission, the tires squealed off the starting line, and at over 55 mph through the first sweeping 60-degree turn, the car had a solid grip on the pavement without any sideways movement. Shooting the short straightaway, the Evora wasted no time building speed then shot through the four zig-zag obstacles with superb precision.
The straightaway at the end gave the Evora some running room and, while we didn’t hit the 185 mph top end that this vehicle is capable of doing, Merabian set me firmly against the back of the seat when he floored the accelerator. Even at high speed, stopping was not a problem with the Servo-assisted two-piece cross-drilled and ventilated brake discs with AP Racing four-piston calipers.
I took the wheel and did three laps around the track, each one progressively faster but nowhere close to the speed that Merabian was driving. But I could feel the power of the engine with each millimeter of pressure on the gas pedal and the response of the incredible steering system with each subtle movement of the wheel.
Everyone who drove the Evora 400 that day had nothing but praise for the automobile.
Jill Halverson, a mild-mannered middle school teacher by day, but an experienced SCCA AutoCross driver in her spare time, drove the Evora around the track in nearly record time.
“I’d sell my first child for one,” Halverson said after her test run. After hearing the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $89,900, Halverson decided that she would have to look for an alternative way to raise the money.
“My son’s probably not worth that much; he doesn’t do chores very well,” she said.
Halverson described the handling as “very intuitive.” She also thought the seats were very comfortable for normal street driving.
“But on the track, the all-leather seats tend to be slippery, and I would rather have cloth seats if I were to race the Evora,” she said.
Lotus actually has an answer to the slippery seat problem and offers a bucket seat with a combination of suede in the seating area and finished leather around the outside. No cloth seats for this race horse.
Frank Leonard is a competitive go-cart racer in his spare time and described the Evora’s handling as “crisp and tight.”