by Roger Biermann
Lotus might be the smallest carmaker selling cars in the US, but those in the know understand that Lotus has always built cars that are more than what the mere numbers suggest. Launched in 2010, the Evora was the first Lotus to be sold in the US since the famous Elise was launched in 2006. Deriving its name from the combination of evolution, vogue, and aura, the Evora is the first Lotus to be built on a brand new platform, the last one being in use since 1995. In addition to that claim, it also prides itself on being the fastest Lotus ever produced. But don't be deceived into thinking that's what the number 400 is for, that's a not-so-humble brag about its power output. More in every way over a regular Evora, the Evora 400's aerodynamics have been improved to develop more downforce and power is increased thanks to improvements to the cooling system and supercharger. Lotus's fastest ever production car delivers all the thrills you'd expect, but it comes at a steep asking price of $94,900.
The Evora 400 carries over its features from the 2017 launch, where it replaced the Evora S to become the latest and greatest Evora one can buy, but essentially still based on the first generation car first launched in 2010 with updates every few years. Power is up from 350 hp to 400 hp, there's an all-new body kit producing more downforce, and the driver can choose how loud they want the exhaust to be. Slight revisions are made to the interior to ease ingress and egress, and there are a new dashboard and center console designs. But the one thing that hasn't changed is the Lotus ethos of lightness. Colin Chapman would be proud.
When the Evora first launched, it was clear that lotus had stuck to its roots in terms of exterior design and styling; the Evora made strong references to the Elise, Lotus' smaller and most popular car in recent memory. The Evora 400 has received a few exterior updates to distinguish it from the lesser Evora S. The 400 is decked out with track day ready body modifications that have helped it create more downforce; a lightweight rear diffuser and three-piece rear wing give it the edge over the S it replaces. Red brake calipers hide behind 19-inch wheels in the front and 20 inches at the back, and a combination of bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights give the Evora 400 serious presence on the road. The rear of the car is finished with round brake lights and an exotic looking central exhaust outlet.
The Evora 400 is larger than its petite sibling, the Elise, and can be compared in size to a BMW Z4 or Porsche 718 Boxster. The 400 is 172.6 inches long, 48.4 inches high, 72.6 inches wide and rolls on a 101.4-inch wheelbase. The Evora 400 tips the scale at 3,120 pounds, a number which crosses a specific psychological barrier, as Lotus cars are meant to be 2,000-pound featherweights. The Evora is comfortable in its GT skin and carries its weight well. The mid-engined Alfa 4C with its carbon-fiber tub weighs in at only 2,465 pounds, but only has to carry two passengers and a smaller 1.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine.
The attractive shell of the Evora 400 can be covered in 11 different colors. For those who prefer a more mature pallet, Lotus offers a metallic blue and black that gives the 400 a decidedly GT look. Other color options are; metallic white, silver, gray, white, and orange. Signature Silver is an optional color, as is the luminous Signature Orange. Colors that suit the Evora 400's racing aspirations are solid red, solid yellow and of course, the classic racing green, which is a staple of British sports cars. The color options for the 400 can either highlight the car's aggressively sporty looks or subdue them to give the car a more mature look, but since when was a high-performance Lotus ever subtle?
As can be expected from Lotus' fastest ever production car, the Evora 400 delivers scintillating performance, so much so that only an experienced racing driver would be able to exploit its capabilities thoroughly. There are a few reasons why the Evora 400 is such a strong performer, but it all starts with the construction of the body itself. The lightweight aluminum tub is connected to a steel subframe which holds the drivetrain in place. Torsional rigidity is increased by using a combination of epoxy bonding and riveting to keep everything together. This has helped keep the Evora 400's weight relatively low and mated to a large displacement V6; the results are quite astounding. Zero to sixty times are aided by a limited-slip differential that puts the power down evenly and consistently, giving the 400 a zero to sixty time of only 4.2 seconds. The Evora 400 will continue accelerating up to a top speed of 186 mph.
For a car with such exotic connotations, the Evora 400 is powered by a rather ordinary powerplant. Lotus have sourced a 3.5-liter V6 from the king of middle management motoring, the Toyota Camry. But they haven't left it standard, not by a long shot. The addition of an intercooled supercharger developed by Edelbrock, helps the standard engine push out 400 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque between 3500 and 6500 rpm, a typically broad torque range thanks to that supercharger. Without any turbo lag, the V6 almost feels like a V8 in the way it delivers its power, despite what it may sound like.
On that topic, Lotus has included an electrically controlled exhaust valve that can modulate the exhaust sound between timid and sonorous, and at full tilt, the Evora sounds more Countach than Camry. Sending all that power to the rear wheels by default is a short ratio six-speed manual gearbox that offers clean and snappy gear changes that compliment the V6 perfectly. The available six-speed automatic won't win any prizes but is a significant improvement over the previous version, although equipping it rids you of the Torsen limited-slip differential. Long story short, get the manual.
A lightweight chassis, rear-wheel drive, and a mid-mounted engine are always going to be a recipe for a good time, and that's precisely what the Evora 400 offers. The suspension setup on the Evora 400 has seen thorough development: it consists of a fully independent front, and rear forged aluminum double-wishbone setup with thick anti-roll bars, Eibach springs, and Bilstein dampers keeps that Evora 400 in check. It may not have the suppleness of an adaptive damper-equipped system over broken roads, but Lotus has done enough to make the ride quite bearable considering the bias the 400 has towards track use.
A hydraulically assisted steering system gives the Evora 400 excellent steering feel that just can't be duplicated with modern electrically assisted steering. Small steering inputs are met with an immediate change in direction, and every ripple in the road is telegraphed to the driver's fingertips. It's something integral to a sports car that begs you to seek out its limits.
However, when you find those limits, there's disappointingly more understeer than expected, and oversteering action will only be achieved with a bit of vigorous throttle play and steering input. Of course, that's once you've broken the grip of the sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which takes some aggression.
Bringing the fun to an abrupt stop is a set of four-piston calipers front to back that will bite hard no matter how harshly they've been abused around a track or twisty downhill road. Despite the Evora being heavier than your typical Lotus, the brakes make it feel like a featherweight, and negate even the thought of equipping carbon ceramics - there's simply no point.
The Evora 400 isn't the easiest car to exploit fully, but it has a soft limit that makes it accessible to the everyday driver and endearing to the professional.
The benefits of a low curb weight are numerous. Not only does it improve acceleration, handling, and braking, but it also helps the Evora use less fuel, despite the size and supercharged aspiration of the V6. The Evora 400 achieves EPA estimates of 16/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined in manual guise, with the automatic proving marginally more efficient at 17/24/20 mpg. The Toyota Camry, which shares its 3.5-liter V6 with the Evora, manages 22/33/26 mpg despite lacking the Evora's supercharger and carrying a 429-pound weight penalty. The Evora comes equipped with a 14.5-gallon fuel tank which gives it an estimated combined range of 290 miles in its most economical automatic guise, approximately 130 of the slowest laps Laguna Seca has ever seen.
Lotus cut to the chase when they designed the Evora 400's interior. It is immediately apparent who is catered for once you step inside. The driver gets a fighter jet-like cockpit with all the buttons, knobs and display screens focused to the left of the dashboard while the front passenger gets to stare into a simple panel housing an airbag. The Evora has moved away from the all or nothing race car feel of previous models such as the Elise end Exige. Instead, you get a decidedly grown-up interior that strikes a balance between track day weapon and every day luxury. An engine start button, air conditioning, and heated seats are the sum total of luxury features, but Lotus gives you the option to do away with the airconditioning and sound system; a nod to their rich racing heritage where every pound saved means quicker lap times. The interior of the Evora 400 is focused on driver comfort; everything else is a well put together afterthought, even if it does share switchgear with a number of Ford and GM products.
Lotus markets the Evora 400 as a 2+2 seater, which is wishful thinking, to say the least. The mid-engine layout cuts out a big chunk of interior space, and rear passengers are the hardest hit. There are no official measurements for interior space, but due to the limited space in the back, it would be better to think of the Evora 400 as a two-seat sports car and use the back as extra storage. The Evora's doors are large and open wide to make access to the front seats an easy affair, aided by a redesigned interior boasting narrower side sills to this end. Getting into the back is a different story altogether, and only children or small adults should attempt it. The front seats are of the bucket variety and feature integrated headrests. They provide the driver and front passenger ample support, and the seating surface is big enough to accommodate larger drivers, even if the rest of the interior won't. They're also heated for those cold morning joyrides.
Interior materials are limited to leather, aluminum, and optional Alcantara. The gear knob is made out of lightweight aluminum that is perfectly weighted to ensure that every gear change is brought home with a satisfying clunk. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is wrapped in leather and features a discrete steering line indicator at the top. Door grab handles are covered in leather, and the floor is covered in black carpeting. The dark headliner is made of quality material. The instrument and vent surrounds are finished in gunmetal aluminum, so are the door handles. The seats, gear lever, and handbrake receive double stitching. Down below, the pedals are constructed out of aluminum as is the tradition on any car with sporting ambitions. Lotus gives new owners the option of covering the interior in Alcantara at an additional cost.
The Evora 400 won't be winning any awards for interior space and cargo capacity any time soon. The 2+2 seater offers a total of six cubic feet of cargo space, which according to some owners is enough space to fit a set of golf clubs if they are loaded separately, and at specific angles. Though minuscule by sedan standards, there's enough space for a trip to the grocery store or a weekend's worth of light luggage. Personal storage space is non-existent; you won't find a place to put your coffee or even your cell phone. The Evora 400 makes it blatantly clear that it's made for driving, not for sauntering down to your favorite bodega for a snack.
The Evora 400 has a more extended features list than most Lotus cars that have come before it, but that's not saying much, as the 400 stubbornly clings to the Lotus tradition of the stripped racecar aesthetic. Lotus lists air conditioning, heated seats, a reverse parking camera and central locking amongst its main features. Other features worth mentioning are heated and power-folding side mirrors, a heated rear window, and an immobilizer security system. Additional options include cruise control, electrically adjustable front seats. If you're only interested in performance, Lotus gives you the opportunity of removing the air conditioning system and the rear seats at no additional cost. With all the extra options ticked, the Evora manages (just) to offer a premium feel.
Infotainment duties are taken care of by the supercharged V6 engine sitting right behind the heads of the occupants, but if that gets tiring, you can turn to a rather basic system that looks like an aftermarket afterthought. You do get full sat-nav, five speakers and a subwoofer, which sounds good in the Evora's small cabin. Thankfully you can opt for a more extensive seven-inch system with Apple CarPlay integration. The standard infotainment system is a definite drawback to what is an otherwise premium interior, and the competition does it way better. Lotus simply can't hide behind it's "but it's a race car" attitude. The controls on the standard system are clumsy at best, while the larger seven-inch display makes navigating through menus easier but still no cinch.
The Evora 400 has proven to be a reliable vehicle mechanically, and Lotus has come a long day in terms of build quality and parts durability. Who can forget the poor fit and finish on early-model Elise cars? Despite a good track record of reliability, the Evora has been recalled five times in recent years. A recall issued in 2018 affected the steering column, which would fail to collapse during a head-on crash, potentially causing serious injury. This issue affected approximately 40 cars. In 2019 a recall was issued for another frontal accident issue, where unsuitable material was used in the footwell that could injure the knees of front passengers in case of a crash. Lotus covers the Evora 400 with a three-year/36,000 mile basic warranty, an eight-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, and a three year/36,000 mile drivetrain warranty.
Due to its high asking price and low sales volume, the NHTSA and IIHS haven't bothered to test the Lotus Evora 400; not even the European rating agencies have made an effort to test one. Despite the lack of official ratings, the Evora should prove to be a reasonably safe car, partly due to the fact that it's bonded aluminum structure offers excellent rigidity and overall strength. It also makes use of standard modern safety technologies.
Safety features on the Evora can best be described as basic. Standard issue safety features such as ABS brakes, seatbelt pre-tensioners, stability, and traction control as well as a tire pressure monitor come as no surprise. You do get slightly more advanced features such as brake assistance and a back-up camera with parking assistance. LED daytime running lights pay lip service, and cruise control is an optional extra. Four airbags are included, as the Evora 400 adds side airbags to the previously include dual-front airbags.
Lotus has come a long way since the days of the Elise, and more recently, the Exige. There's no doubt that Lotus builds excellent driving cars, but for the most part, their offerings have been severely compromised in terms of comfort and practicality, all in the name of outright performance. For loyal fans, this recipe has, and continues to work, and is regarded as being part and parcel of the Lotus experience. The Evora has changed this and is by far the most livable and practical Lotus in modern history. From the outside, it still means business, but a more refined interior and 2+2 seating give it a sense of maturity. By any other standard, the Evora 400 would be considered a stripped-down track weapon. It owns its title as the fastest production Lotus ever built and delivers scintillating performance from its well-balanced chassis and potent supercharged V6 engine. Yes, it is pricey and somewhat impractical, but it's one of the best cars Lotus has ever built. In isolation, it's simply excellent, but against the likes of the Porsche 718 Cayman, well let's just say the Germans make a better daily driver, but nothing makes you feel the way a Lotus does.
The Lotus Evora 400 sells for a starting MSRP of $94,900 which places it in the same price range as Jaguar's larger, but just as excellent F-Type Coupe which offers more standard equipment, practicality, comfort and build quality, without sacrificing much driver engagement and overall performance. It must be said that the Evora lives in a market segment of its own, and similarly priced sports cars can't offer the same mid-engine thrills and raw driving pleasure.
The Evora 400 is a standalone model, so you only get one option, but the additional options list can turn the 400 into a track weapon or a premium mini GT depending on choice. Standard exterior features on the Evora include active exhaust sound control, tire pressure monitoring, LED daytime running lights, heated and power-folding wing mirrors and alloy wheels (19-inch front, 20-inch rear) wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Supersport tires. On the inside, the Evora 400 gets an engine start button, air conditioning, heated seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and handbrake lever as well as a reverse camera. The infotainment system consists of a five-speaker double din unit with satellite navigation and an integrated subwoofer.
3.5-liter Supercharged V6 Gas
Rear Wheel Drive
Although the standard features list on the Evora 400 might seem scant, a sufficient options list can transform the car into either a stripped-down road racer or a passable premium daily driver. Starting with the minimalist options which will appeal to the hardcore fans keen to extract the most performance and drop the most weight, Lotus offers a 2+0 seat configuration that replaces the back seats with a sort of parcel shelf. You can also delete the subwoofer and amplifier, as well as the air conditioning. The options that actually add to the Evora's list of features includes a six-speed auto transmission, updated for 2018 to deliver faster shifts, a $450 cruise control option, an upgraded infotainment system with Apple CarPlay integration, Alcantara interior trimmings and a set of $2,700 gloss black alloy wheels. Probably the most important optional extra will be choosing which color to paint the brake calipers.
Since there's really only one model available, you should instead look at what options to select. To make the Evora 400 as comfortable as possible, the cruise control, upgraded seven-inch infotainment system and leather or Alcantara interior trim package should be chosen. If pure performance is the order of the day, the six-speed manual version should be the go-to option. The option to get rid of non-essential features such as air conditioning and the rear seats should help shave a few thousands of a second off your daily commute to work.
The Porsche 911 is probably one of the most well-known sports cars and is loved by millions across the globe. The 911 is often used as a standard measurement of how good a sports car is, and it just so happens that the Evora 400 is priced right next to the mighty German, and offers comparable performance numbers. Firstly, an entry-level 911 Carrera Coupe will set you back $91,100, $3,800 less than the Evora 400. The 911 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six engine that produces 370 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. The key difference here is that the 911 offers up all that torque from a low 1700rpm, instead of 3500 rpm for the Evora. The 911 Carrera will accelerate to sixty in 4.1 seconds, matching the Evora's time and will use 20/29/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The Porsche is without a doubt the more practical and comfortable car to live with, which begs the question why the Evora 400 has to sacrifice so many creature comforts only to achieve similar results around the track?
The Acura NSX is considered by some to be an entry-level mid-engined supercar. Its $156,000 starting price already puts it at odds with the Evora 400's $91,100 price tag, but the two cars do share some similarities. Firstly, both cars make use of a mid-mounted 3.5-liter V6 engine with forced induction, but as we know, the NSX gets some extra help from an electric hybrid system. The NSX outclasses the Evora 400 in terms of power, developing 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque, sending it from zero-to-sixty in only three seconds, over a second quicker than the Evora. The NSX offers more standard features, and despite its supercar status, will be a more practical car to live with on a daily basis, but it won't provide the raw sense of purity the Evora conveys.