September 06, 2019 By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Isabel N. Delos Reyes

2019 Lotus Evora 400

Niche Precision

Lotus is a brand that is beloved, appreciated, and celebrated by Baby Boomers and Generation X, my generation. The company and its engineering arm are mostly owned by Geely (Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd: which also owns Volvo, Proton, and Polestar) since 2017. Geely is said to be preparing for an even larger stake from its Malaysian partner Etika Automotive Sdn Bhd which holds the remaining shares. Lotus is slowly yet methodically gaining commercial success again after many years of struggle, turmoil, and ownership/management changes since the death of its founder Colin Chapman in 1982.

Despite its glories with seven Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championships, Lotus’ branded chassis and suspension tuning expertise for multiple car manufacturers over the years since Chapman’s passing has kept its long-game reputation for dynamic excellence alive in my opinion. Sure, the 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me helped keep the flame alight while Chapman was still alive, and we may not have had the brilliant Mazda Miata (MX-5) if it wasn’t for its principal inspiration, the Lotus Elan. The brand’s string of misfortunes has been also relentless with one of the worst situations happening about the time of Chapman’s death when both the man and brand were implicated in the DeLorean Motor Company scandal since Lotus designed the chassis.

So if it wasn’t for the Elise model range that began in 1996, which includes the more aggressive Exige range that started four years later, we may have also been deprived of one of the most underrated and unappreciated small GT sports cars available today, the mid-engined Evora (born in 2008), and specifically our red North American test unit, the 400! Just weeks after our testing, Lotus released their more ferocious and more refined 416 bhp Evora GT (also known as the 410 GT Sport).

Our test unit was delivered straight from being featured on Jay Leno’s Garage show. I was presented with a choice from the head of Lotus Cars USA, Ryan Watson (who was the General Manager and helped setup the Lotus distributorship for the Philippines’ Autohub Group) with either a yellow Evora 400 with a 6-speed manual and Torsen limited slip differential or this red paddle-shifted automatic unit. I chose the automatic for two reasons; one, it’s actually quicker than the manual off the race track, and second, as a GT I needed to establish its credentials as a forgiving 2+2 sports car.

The 400 bhp Evora is powered by a reliable intercooled and Edelbrock supercharged (9 psi of boost) Toyota 3.5-liter 2GR-FE V-6 engine and by Lotus tradition is assembled by hand in Hethel, England. It’s a handsome small premium sports car with boatloads of charisma and driving ability that appeals to a very niche market. The biggest problem with the Evora 400 is its price. At almost 100-large in the most forgiving car buying market on Earth, it needs to have more than personality and pace. There are far more opulent and faster sportscars available for even less money. So how can a Lotus Evora 400 earn your love? You have to drive it. There is no other way to understand how special and great it is while accepting its shortcomings. And if you need to know, yes, the Toyota engine has its own unique voice. The supercharger whine and the special exhaust help create its own sensational cacophony.

It’s a very tactile and emotional connection. If you sit behind the steering wheel and take the time to study all the interior details of the cabin before pressing the ignition button, you may find yourself just shaking your head in disbelief that such a huge sticker price buys so little in an almost deliberately dated execution. The top red center tab on the steering wheel is purposeful and the wheel does feel good to touch. However, when you look at the very dated screen graphics on the driver information screens that flank the somber analog instruments (which reminded me of my Atari days), the GM/Ford-sourced switchgear, the sub-par infotainment system, the very spartan stitched leather interior, the barely passable fit-and-finish, the very small rear trunk, poor rear visibility, and the tiny rear seats which barely accommodated my 5-year-old son’s safety child seat, my heart sank. I just felt really bad for Lotus. Then I started the engine.

 

Within the first mile on the road, I already started forgiving the aluminum Evora 400’s interior and trunk compromises. I felt so connected to the car and even without adaptive suspension, the ride was so lithe, compliant and planted! The three drive modes (Normal Drive, Sport, and Race) are easily accessed with straightforward buttons on the center dashboard which also includes the new exhaust toggle. The electronic nannies can also be fully disabled or reduced depending on the drive modes you choose. The Evora 400 uses sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport 235/35R19 91Y front and 285/30R20 99Y tires on mixed forged alloys. While the fantastic braking is handled by red AP Racing 4-piston calipers on all corners gripping two-piece drilled and vented discs, 14.6 inches (370 mm) in front and 13.8 inches (350 mm) at the rear. Oh boy, and you will need them.

With the Evora 400 on Race mode with the exhaust on full wide open, the unique expression of speed is an incredible experience! You then switch cogs in your mind about levels of acceptance. The more time spent behind the steering wheel only increases this emotional attachment and you truly start forgiving the issues you once had with it. The Evora 400 is a genuine driver’s car that is unique and gloriously uncommon. The handling is so composed and tenacious that I can see the rigid chassis handling another 200 bhp easily. The updated bodywork includes a new front splitter and a three-element rear spoiler that together generate about 71 pounds of downforce at 240 km/h.

Compared to the stunning Alfa Romeo 4C Spider we tested a couple of years back, the Lotus Evora 400 is an overall better sports car that offers even more performance, comfort, and everyday enjoyment. It is still a tough sell for the general buyer but for the discerning fan, it will give them closure.

Specifications

Engine

Engine V-6, 3456 cc, dohc 24V, Port Injection Intercooled Supercharged, 6-speed AT
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 400 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 302 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm

Performance

Top Speed 278 km/h (174 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 4.2 sec.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l) 16 mpg City / 24 mpg Highway

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) US$ 96,485.00
What's Great Way better than expected, brilliant handling without compromising ride comfort, a very compelling alternative sports car.
What's Not So Price tag, dated interior, tiny rear seats.
C! Editors Rating 9.5/10
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