Ollie Marriage 03 April 2013

First Drive: Lotus Evora Sport Racer

Not a racier version, but a kit-special: more stuff for not-much-more money...

Lotus Evora Sport Racer

At last, a new sportier, racier Evora!

Woah there, hold your horses, it may be called the Sport Racer, but there's nothing actually sportier or racier about this Evora. Instead this is a value offering - more kit for not much more money.

But it still costs £65,900...

Yes it does, which is £3,450 more than the standard Evora S 2+2. For that you get over nine grand's worth of kit thrown in. This includes £1,500 premium paint, gloss black wheels (£2,200), the Tech and Sport packs (£2,800 and £2,500 respectively) and the reversing camera and folding door mirrors (£700 together). On top of that there's the rather fetching black splitter, sills and roof colour scheme and standard Suedetex seats. Which are totally excellent.

See more pics of the new Lotus Evora Sport Racer

That's fair enough, but it's still almost £66,000.

More, in fact, once you've paid the on-the-road charges. And yes, that is a whole heap of money for a car that comes from a company with a volatile history and an uncertain future, let alone one that isn't, shall we say, as immune to the ravages of time and distance as a Porsche. But I'm being unkind. Lotus claims to have made 150 quality upgrades since the Evora was launched four years ago, but it feels like way more than that. Our car only had a single squeak from the dash. Just one. Owners of early Evoras will marvel at that. The often slack gearchange is now much tighter (still notchy when cold, though) and insulation and refinement have been improved. It feels robust enough to be trustworthy, although there are elements where it feels distinctly out of step.

Such as?

It has an immobiliser that cuts back in if you don't start the car quickly enough. Interior lighting is poor and the buttons on the steering wheel aren't illuminated, so in the dark you find yourself stabbing at things at random. The aftermarket satnav is also way too complex to be operated by anyone old enough to afford the car. It's also awkward to get in and out of because the seats are mounted such a long way forward within the door aperture. That said, if you are a short person with a partner of similarly modest size and two children under the age of, say, eight, you could justify the Evora as a family-friendly car. Considering its size, it is very well packaged. And that way, four of you get to enjoy the driving experience.

Ah yes, the legendary Lotus blend of ride and handling.

Is all present and correct. It's utterly uncanny and I can't work out a single good reason why Audi hasn't swept up to Hethel with its corporate chequebook and employed anyone whose job title includes the words chassis or suspension. Nothing drives like a Lotus. Lots of stuff should. The Evora is just so fluent on any given road, it's blessed with gorgeous steering and a refusal to get flustered no matter what the road underneath it is doing. It's one of those rare cars that is deeply satisfying to drive at 30mph through suburbia.

See more pics of the new Lotus Evora Sport Racer

That's all encouraging, but I can't help feeling deceived by the name.

Yes, it does hint at something more - more track-tuned suspension perhaps, or maybe extra power. But there's none. The Sport Racer uses the same supercharged 3.5-litre V6, developing 345bhp and 295lb ft at 4500rpm. It's OK. It does the job. It's actually pretty quick at the top end and the noise is engaging enough. But this is one of those rare cars where the chassis, not the engine, is the centerpiece. The V6 plays second fiddle. But that's fine because it doesn't have the charisma or characteristics for a starring role.

So what does the Evora Sport Racer mean for Lotus?

Almost nothing, I fear. Since the departure of Dany Bahar last year, the new owners have done remarkably little to inject any confidence into the brand and that makes the £65,900 asking price even harder to swallow. It's a great car, the Evora, a delight to drive and good enough to live with. It's a sports car that treads lightly and there's few of them about. But, really, could you?

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