The Lotus Elise and fixed-roof Exige define sports car purity, but with the recently unveiled new Evora, due here late this year, Lotus will live a bit larger. The Evora retains the brand's trademark aluminum tub structure and mid-engine layout, but the former is stretched to squeeze in an (optional) pair of kid-sized rear seats while the latter switches from four- to six-cylinder Toyota power. Adapted from the Camry, the 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 276 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, enough to zip the luxe Lotus from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds (the company claims) on the way to a top speed of 160 mph. This despite the Evora's 2976 pounds, a full 50 percent more than the featherweight Elise. Of course, the Elise, with its bare-aluminum interior, makes zero concessions to comfort, whereas the Evora promises to be a veritable Maybach by comparison. It sports such unimaginable luxuries as navigation, an optional paddleshift automatic transmission, power steering, and - gasp! - cupholders. Not only that, but Lotus promises that entering and exiting the Evora will be "a less athletic undertaking," thanks to narrower sills, wider-opening doors, and a taller roof, all of which perhaps explains the brand's sudden embrace by the Hollywood glitterati, who have signed up for early test drives. Either that, or they think it's a hybrid.
A supercharged, 400-plus-hp S version and an Evora convertible in late 2011 - or about the same time as the long-belated, V-8-powered Esprit replacement.