Great Drive: 2010 Lotus Evora

Jason Furnari

But time spent motionless in the Evora gave us a crucial opportunity to take measurements in the areas of basic livability and reliability. Secondary systems and controls - climate, wipers, electric windows, backup camera . . . gak, did I say backup camera? In a Lotus? - items one might ignore in a mass-produced car, take on a different meaning in a Lotus. Near as I could tell, our test car was in perfect order. That is, everything was operational. But this statement of current condition was as far out on a limb as I, a longtime Lotus owner, was prepared to go. Long-term reliability may be part of the package, but only a fool or a Lotus novitiate would bet his last dollar on it.

For the Evora is very much a Lotus, although company founder Colin Chapman's apocryphal credo - "simplicate and add lightness" - may have to be amended in its honor. At 2976 pounds, it's almost 1000 pounds, or 50 percent, heavier than the Elise. Big for a Lotus, it still weighs less than its competitors; in the world of fast GTs, 3500 pounds comes up awful quick. But the Evora does more than take the hand of the game-changing Elise and raise it two seats, two cylinders, and two quarter tons of grand touring heft. While we admit that "complicate and add relaxation" doesn't sound as good as Chapman's original slogan, it's just what the new car does, with excellent results. This is a new kind of Lotus.

The Evora's +2 facility is - unsurprisingly, given its sporty looks and mid-engine configuration - not its greatest feature; 2 + 2 two-year-olds is more like it, on account of limited head- and legroom. Nonetheless, Lotus says the Evora's theoretical ability to accommodate a brace of microdudes will help many a child-rearing enthusiast persuade on-the-fence partners to bless their purchase. We say: good luck with that.

The Evora is enormous fun, too, but neither is its ultimate credential the fact that it feels like a big Elise, a master of body control and prodigious grip, even in the wet. It is a tad less responsive to steering input than the Elise, but it's got more balls, thanks to the bigger engine. And the Evora is usefully bigger than an Elise - its rear trunk will actually hold a set of golf clubs.

Yet its most winning parlor trick is, surprisingly, ride comfort. The cause of road-holding benefits from four wheels suspended properly. Which is why Lotuses have tended to ride well from the early days, but the Evora sets an amazing new standard. Its predecessor, the Elise, goes nicely enough for a single-minded sportster, yet sharp bumps and potholes will catch it out, the suspension crashing with an excruciating brutality that one feels through the entire structure, up to and including the cavities in one's teeth. That's where the Evora turns the page. Although cornering remains its raison d'être, with the requisite forged-aluminum control arms all around, one feels mercifully isolated from the worst of the worst roads. Our test car was tight and rattle-free, too, unlike many of the glorified kit cars in Lotus's past. If Evoras manage to keep this solid feeling over a period of years, a new chapter in Lotus history will have truly begun.

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