The Evora S almost deserves a bonus for being so much better than expected. It rides with exceptional suppleness and compliance, and its supercharged V-6 sounds throaty and vocal and quite distinctive. On top of that, its handling is creamy, its steering is extremely communicative, and its chassis knows all the facets from grip to slide.
What about the gearbox? Well, it still feels a little stiff and wooden, but the shift action is perfectly acceptable, the ratios have been sped up, and, in the end, one doesn't really miss that automatic option. The Evora S is not as well made as its rivals, its cockpit is a concoction of pseudomodern and pseudoclassic elements, and you still have to spend extra for bigger wheels, xenon headlamps, and navigation.
For those who are willing to accept iffy residuals and a hopeless dealer network, though, the Lotus is the most compelling choice. It has more soul than the BMW and the Porsche but not that much less substance. It guarantees a highly competent, truly entertaining, and totally involving driving experience. It is different with a twist, British without the usual quirkiness, and offers the intriguing promise of a potentially up-and-coming brand. Numerically and factually, the BMW M3 and the Porsche Cayman R have a lot going for them, but right now, I'd rather wait for their follow-ups, which are due in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
BMW M3 coupe with competition package
BASE PRICE: $58,775
ENGINE: 32-valve DOHC V-8
DISPLACEMENT: 4.0 liters (244 cu in)
HORSEPOWER: 414 hp @ 8300 rpm
TORQUE: 295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
STEERING: Hydraulically assisted
SUSPENSION, FRONT: Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR: Multilink, coil springs
BRAKES: Vented discs, ABS
TIRE SIZE F, R: 245/35YR-19, 265/35YR-19
L x W x H: 181.8 x 71.0 x 55.8 in
WHEELBASE: 108.7 in
TRACK F/R: 60.6/60.6 in
WEIGHT: 3704 lb
EPA MILEAGE: 14/20 mpg
0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph