First Drive: 2011 Lotus Evora S

If you didn't notice the more pronounced rear diffuser, matte black door mirrors, and single exhaust, then it's this Evora's S badge that gives the game away. The S, of course, means this Evora wears a supercharger atop its mid-mounted Toyota-sourced V-6 engine.

And that means the scream of 345 horses comes through the tailpipe -- up 69 from the regular Evora. They're less muffled, too, thanks to a new exhaust bypass valve that's open all the time in Sport mode and at high engine speeds otherwise. So not only does the Evora get the sound it needed, it gets the power we always knew it could handle.

The S badge changes little about the Evora's driving experience. Climbing in still requires a fair bit of flexibility, but once you're inside, headroom is vast, rear visibility is scant, and the Alpine double-DIN touchscreen nav/stereo system flat-out sucks in every way, from sound quality to usability. Whatever -- the driving position is, of course, nearly perfect -- but into each life some traffic must fall. And when it does, there's nowhere for your left foot to rest when it's not on the clutch pedal -- the front wheel well lives there. The clutch pedal itself feels about half as heavy as the one in the base Evora, thanks to revisions to the master cylinder and pedal assembly.

The cable-actuated shifter linkage is still vague and notchy, with loads of play in all directions, and the Evora's transmission (sourced from a diesel Toyota Avensis) expresses its distaste for rushed shifts by grinding gears and its intolerance for low revs by broadcasting loads of gear noise. We sampled multiple cars, and each Evora's shifter felt slightly different, though none of them was pleasant. Each had gas pedals that responded differently to inputs -- one car ignored throttle blips (essential for smooth downshifts) completely, another responded most of the time, and others worked perfectly.

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