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As luck would have it, my drive in the Evora S IPS coincided with a visit to the newly rebranded Lotus F1 team. Now 100 per cent owned by venture capital outfit Genii, the ink is so wet on the paperwork the team’s giant artic rigs are still wearing 2011’s Lotus Renault insignia. Confusing, huh?
It should all settle down this year, when the Renault name will be discretely dropped. Group Lotus boss Dany Bahar is an ex-Red Bull and Ferrari vice-president, so he knows the power of a high-profile F1 presence, even if it’s just a marketing deal. He also believes that Lotus is loaded with untapped brand equity, almost the equal of Ferrari or Porsche. He’ll be hoping to shift more than
a few Esprits off the back of it, come 2014.
For now, though, the principal profit generator is the Evora, and the brutal truth is, it’s not selling well enough. So while the application of the IPS - Intelligent Precision Shift - automatic to the Evora S is the main reason I’m driving this car to Enstone, the subtext is brutally simple: quality.
Lotus’s design boss Donato Coco (amongst other things, he oversaw the 458 Italia during his stint at Ferrari) is a smart thinker, and without changing the shape, the Evora somehow punches much harder. TG’s test car is a fashionable bronze colour, on black alloys, and other powerful black highlights lift its shape. The exterior door handles and key fob are both still pretty crummy, but the interior is now vastly better. The seats look and feel gorgeous, there’s red stitching on the dash surround, aluminium on the centre console and wheel, and a hugely improved Pioneer multimedia unit replaces the titanically dreadful Alpine one. Overall, it feels, yes, like a small Ferrari.
As I’ve said before, in my view, only the 458 and McLaren MP4-12C get down the road with anything like the comfort, pace and dynamism the supercharged Evora S delivers. It’s superbly agile and tactile, with fingertip delicacy to the steering, and unbelievable compliance over undulations.
And the automatic gearbox? Well, it’s a torque-converter, borrowed, like the rest of the Evora’s oily bits, from a Toyota Camry. Lotus has given it new software and paddles, but it’s still all over the shop a lot of the time. The Evora needs a DSG: the instant snap of a dual-shift is the only system now worthy of its sublime chassis.