Adding comfort and convenience to a sports car is never an easy task. It's considerably more difficult when applied to Lotus, a niche automaker that turns out some of the most entertaining yet punishing and impractical cars ever made. The 2011 Lotus Evora sets out to do just that by offering more room and refinement without sacrificing too much athleticism in the process.
Though it can hardly be considered spacious, the Evora is considerably larger inside and out than its Elise and Exige counterparts. It also costs about $12,000 more, but for the money you get two rear seats and a much nicer interior. All this makes the Evora the only midengine four-seater on the road, but just barely, because those rear seats are incredibly small.
All of the Evora's added niceties also come at the expense of weight, as this car weighs 50 percent more than the Elise. But at around 3,000 pounds, the Evora is certainly no porker. To deal with the added tonnage, a Toyota V6 replaces the Toyota inline-4 seen in the rest of the current Lotus line. This year, Lotus also goes a step further with the V6 by supercharging it for the new Evora S, and there's an optional automatic transmission as well.
At the end of the day, the 2011 Lotus Evora can keep up with its Elise and Exige stablemates just fine. And it accomplishes this feat with a much quieter cabin and a more comfortable ride quality. If you disregard the rear seats (and really, you should: they're terrible) the Evora's closest competitors all hail from Porsche.
Despite only being offered with two seats, the 2011 Porsche Cayman's midengine layout, exceptional handling and price make it the most obvious alternative. Should you need four actually usable seats, the 2011 BMW M3 offers incredible performance and handling, with an impressive amount of practicality as well. None of these are as engaging as the Evora, though, and with new 2+2 models from Lotus on the horizon, this level of driver engagement might be in jeopardy. We'd suggest acting sooner rather than later if a Lotus Evora is on your wish list.
The 2011 Lotus Evora is a four-seat sports car that is offered in base and Evora S trim levels.
Standard equipment includes cast-aluminum wheels, bi-xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, air-conditioning, leather-upholstered front seats, cloth-upholstered rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power windows, a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and handbrake, a trip computer and a CD/MP3 player with iPod integration and auxiliary audio jack.
There are three main option groups available. The Premium package adds accent lighting, a center armrest, heated front seats, premium floor mats and leather trim throughout the cabin. The Sport package features selectable sport modes, enhanced throttle response, a higher rpm limit, a rear underbody diffuser, titanium exhaust tips and cross-drilled brake rotors with black-painted calipers. The Technology package includes cruise control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and an upgraded stereo with DVD playback, a 7-inch touchscreen display, navigation and a USB port. A SuedeTex option adds faux suede interior trim elements.
Stand-alone options include a sports ratio gearbox, a rearview camera, power-folding mirrors, various wheel options, clear paint protection film and a premium audio system. Buyers can also opt to delete the rear seats in favor of a rear parcel area.
The Evora S receives more power thanks to its supercharged engine, and the powertrain also features an exhaust bypass valve that opens in Sport mode, a heavy-duty clutch and a close-ratio transmission. Also included are all the items from the Sport package along with a sportier suspension tune and a more aggressive rear aero diffuser.
The Evora's interior is quite a departure from the hard-core sports cars in the Lotus lineup, sporting a modern cockpit with rich leather surfaces, carpeting and significantly more creature comforts than what's offered in the Elise and Exige. The relatively few knobs and buttons are within easy reach and are elegantly styled and placed.
Entry and exit from the front seats are much more civilized than in the Elise or Exige, thanks to a shorter and narrower side sill and larger door openings. Once seated, there is significantly more space up front -- enough to comfortably accommodate 6-foot-plus adults. Unfortunately, though, the front wheelwell intrudes on foot space. As a result, the clutch pedal is shifted an inch or so to the right, which can be awkward for some drivers. We had bigger issues with the lack of a functional dead pedal, however. A small ledge that can only fit a few toes is all that is provided, and its placement is painfully uncomfortable.
The rear seats don't fare any better, and are really no more than an upholstered package shelf with seatbelts. Rear space is almost nonexistent, and may even be uncomfortable for small children. In a pinch, these seats might come in handy, but we'd probably opt for the rear-seat delete. Rear visibility is laughable, but fortunately, a rearview camera is available as an option. As for the trunk, Lotus claims the Evora can hold up to 5.7 cubic feet but its narrow shape drastically limits what you can store back there. Strangely enough, the Elise's trunk, which can hold only 4.0 cubes, more easily accommodates bulkier items because of its wider shape.
The 2011 Lotus Evora is powered by a mid-mounted 3.5-liter Toyota V6 that produces 276 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The only standard transmission is a traditional six-speed manual, with a push-button six-speed automatic with shift paddles available as an option. The Evora S gains a supercharger and increases power output to 345 hp and 295 lb-ft or torque.
Lotus estimates the 0-60-mph run at around 4.9 seconds for the base Evora, with a stated top speed of 162 mph. The Evora S should hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and top out at 172 mph. Just as impressive as the performance numbers is the fuel efficiency; the Evora is expected to achieve 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway for the standard manual, while the sport gearbox should get 1 mpg more in the city.
The 2011 Lotus Evora is most at home on tight, twisting roads. Like its smaller Elise and Exige cousins, the Evora knifes through turns with uncommon precision and otherworldly levels of grip. Unlike the Elise, however, the Evora provides a relatively serene cabin with few squeaks and rattles, plenty of sound insulation and a suspension that reduces pothole effects to "normal" car standards.
Power is plentiful throughout the rev range and the transmission features well-spaced gears to make the most of the V6's output. Steering feel is as good as it gets for any car, and the power steering makes maneuvering in tight spots effortless.
The 2010 Lotus Evora is noticeably sparse when it comes to safety equipment. Antilock brakes and traction/stability control are included, but no type of side airbags are available.
The 2011 Lotus Evora acquires a new, more powerful Evora S model, an automatic transmission, heated front seats and optional faux-suede upholstery.