First Drive: 2011 Lotus Evora S

The supercharged engine pulls hard from idle to its 7200-rpm fuel cut (6800 rpm when not in Sport mode), with peak backside shove occurring at the 4500-rpm torque peak. It produces almost 90 percent of its peak torque from 2000 rpm to 7000 rpm, so there's big grunt available at all times and all speeds. Gear ratios are the same as the base car -- that's to say, long: First gear is good for a GPS-verified 40 mph; second will get you to 76 mph, and third tops out at 103 mph. The Evora could be more engaging with shorter gears -- but only if the transmission itself were more fun to play with.

The Camry's V-6 never sounded better -- and Lotus engineers have done a careful job of tuning the supercharger's sound. Restrained in that darling British way, there is never any trace of drone from the exhaust, and the Harrop twin-vortex supercharger makes not a single unpleasant sound -- only a faint, evil overlay to what is otherwise a pleasant, musical six-cylinder bark. The supercharger muffles intake noise slightly versus the base Evora, but the additional whooshing noises -- not to mention the louder exhaust and added horse pressure -- make the tradeoff well worth it.

The bigger question of "worth it" concerns the sticker price. The Evora S starts $12,000 dearer than the base V-6 Lotus, but additional standard equipment means the actual premium is closer to $9000. Still, that's a lot of money to pay for a supercharger. Of course, $76,000 (the cheapest Evora S you can get) is a lot of money, period.

The Evora's main competition is the Porsche Cayman, and while the two are at least in the same ballpark dynamically, they're not even playing the same sport where everyday usability is concerned. The Cayman has a perfect shifter, it's much easier to get in and out of, and it has far more cargo space. Also, it comes with a great stereo and a flawlessly finished interior -- for $14,000 less.

The Lotus, of course, offers exclusivity well beyond the Cayman's. Some would call the Evora's flaws endearing and insist that's what gives this car its unmistakable character. We wouldn't disagree -- especially now that the Evora S is available with the extra power we've long been waiting for.

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