Start time: 6:10am Saturday; odometer 865 miles
End time: 8:45pm Sunday; odometer 2219 miles
Total miles: 1354
Fuel consumption: 58.98 gallons, average 23 mpg
Every year my BFF Marty and I take a cross-country motorcycle trip, but last year I had to skip as I was still trying to get settled in my new job as creative director at Automobile Magazine. This year’s trip was again foiled due to work. I’d been texting Marty all week about his trip plans and details, as I was so jealous. According to media reports about Harold Camping’s Doomsday, the world was going to end, and here I was stuck at the office.
The powers that be must have wanted my last days on earth to be heavenly, because on Friday, the keys to a Lotus Evora S landed on my desk. I swear I could hear angels singing, but then panic set in because the key itself is slightly confusing. After a crash course on how the key works, I was off to the gym. As I powered my way through an endless ab workout, all I was thinking was, “what should I do this weekend?” There were friends and events in Detroit that could have created a fun night, but the thought of taking the Evora S to a Detroit nightclub left me feeling a little unsettled in the tummy, and not from doing abs.
That night I sat at home doing some Facebooking while occasionally glancing out the window to admire the beautiful lines of the Evora S parked outside. Suddenly it hit me. I texted Marty and asked what his ETA was for the campsite at the River’s Edge in Georgia. His reply was 6 p.m. Saturday. My reply back? “CU there.”
The next morning, I tucked an overnight bag, my motorcycle tent, and a sleeping bag behind the front seats, loaded my iPhone playlist, and was on my way at 6:10 a.m. Yes, there’s a sealed rear storage compartment, and I assume it’s insulated, but I did not want my gear to melt into one chunk from the heat of the engine. Best to keep things like protein bars and temperature-sensitive items in the cabin.
Two unobtrusive 12-volt power ports were available for my radar/laser detector and my Garmin. Thankfully, a third connection for the iPhone was in the glove box. Initially, I thought that perhaps the devil’s sense of humor was at work in these last days: I get a fine car, but no satellite radio subscription, and the entire Alpine system is archaic.
My Zumo 550 gave me an ETA 2 hours earlier than the car’s nav system did, but I let both run. In the first 30 miles of the trip I started to think that this might be a painful mistake. Michigan freeways, fresh from the spring thaw, suck. Ohio is not much better. The smooth, fault-free roads of the Dixie States, on the other hand, made me feel like I was in a glider plane as I zipped through the Smokey Mountains onto the back roads of Georgia. Running about 80 mph, I was averaging about 23 mpg.
Both GPS systems missed my destination by about 2.5 miles. As I was sitting on a side road looking at the GPS display, referencing contact info for the River’s Edge, and Googling it on my iPhone, a young guy pulled up and smiled. I lowered the window, and he said, “Not to sound stereotypical, but you’re not from around here, are you? And you’re lost.” I laughed, swallowed my pride, and said yes. He told me I was on the right route; I’d just not gone far enough.
When the Lotus and I pulled into the River’s Edge, it was as if Brad Pitt had arrived. Not many peeps go camping in a Lotus, clearly, and many people never see a Lotus anywhere, let alone at a campsite. I parked at the top of the hill in the grass by the lodge. I did not want to attempt to drive down to the campsites, even though most people do drive their cars down there.
Catching up with Marty over a campfire, we re-routed my return itinerary to Michigan via the Tail of the Dragon. After all, that is the holy grail of roads for motorcycles and sports cars alike.
After a restful night under the stars, I headed north from the campsite, hitting HWY 78 and HWY 28 to get to 129. I highly recommend this route, because it’s a great warm-up exercise for Tail of the Dragon but with considerably less traffic.
I enter HWY 129, Tail of the Dragon. The first time through, I turned off the sport mode and simply enjoyed the road and the drive while listening to one of my favorite play lists. When I got to the Dam, I U-turned and headed back to the start, with sport mode on. After all, end-to-end it’s only 11.1 miles, and I drove more than 700 miles to get there. On my second pass, I killed the radio, put the windows up, and listened to the songs and whistles of the engine. To get back home, I had to make a third pass. This time, sport mode on, no radio, and windows down so I could enjoy all the sounds from rubber and exhaust. Sport mode can sometimes feel like a gimmick to me on certain cars, but it really feels different in the Lotus.
This road showcases how well the Evora S handles. The Tail is smooth and tight, and it makes you feel as if you are on a well-built, modern rollercoaster. I was reminded of my stint at the Porsche Sport Driving school, when the instructor told me to “trust the car.” Because the Tail drive is one curve thrown into another curve, there is not much room to brake and accelerate into every corner. You have to pick and choose the corners you truly want to power through.
I’d done the Tail twice before, but both times were on motorcycles: a BMW K1200 and a 1000RR. It’s a completely different experience in the Lotus but just as much fun. That said, my bike experience definitely informs the way I now approach the drive of a car: push the limits, but don’t exceed your capabilities, and don’t let anyone else lead you to doing more than you are capable of. On the Tail, I was not as worried about being responsible for something unfortunate happening as I was about someone else’s screw-up affecting me and the Lotus. That sounds cliched, but it was all too true, especially because I was driving a car that all the other motorists were obsessed with. Drivers of all ages were trying to take a photo or video of the Lotus, and whether they were passing me or I was passing them, they were usually drifting 2 or 3 feet in their lane while they got their shot.
That fun over, I hit the interstate. I slid the seat back further to give my left leg a bit of room to rest. The cruise control worked flawlessly. I hit some torrential rain in Ohio on the way back, so I played it safe and dialed the car back several notches, as I was having flashbacks to my less than stellar 360* performance on a wet skid pad at the Porsche school.
Once I was home, I unloaded my gear and cleaned up the Lotus. I was feeling a bit sad that I was back to reality and had to return the car the next morning. If it was going to be the end of the world, this is the way I would have wanted to go: with a huge smile, at the wheel of this car, after a night at the River’s Edge!
In the end, I love this car. It makes sweet sounds, whether idling at a stoplight or jolting from 3000 to 5000 RPM in a curve or straightaway. My average of 23 mpg was not bad for this type of car. I always felt in constant control. So either I’ve become a much better driver or Lotus makes adventure easier. Or both!
Base price (with destination): $77,175
Price as tested: $88,795
3.5-liter supercharged V-6 engine
6-speed manual transmission
Lotus dynamic performance management
4-wheel cross-drilled disc brakes with ABS
AP racing 4-piston calipers front and rear
Heated power side mirrors
18-inch front; 19-inch rear wheels
Options on this vehicle:
Technology package — $2995
Diamond cut forged design wheels — $2950
Premium package with heated seats — $2500
Star shield paint protection film — $995
Metallic paint — $990
Premium audio system — $695
Reversing camera — $495
Key options not on vehicle:
17 / 26 / 22 mpg
3.5L supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 345 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Curb weight: 3166 lb
Wheels/tires: 19-inch front; 20-inch rear forged wheels
Pirelli P-Zero Corsa performance tires