The 2020 Lotus Evora GT is an agile, exotic underdog
Is Lotus even still in business? It feels like ages since we last heard from the lords of lightweighting in Colin Chapman’s old shop. In fact, the last time Lotus made big news was the 2008 unveiling of, more or less, the mid-engine sports car you see here. So many dreams and schemes later, Lotus is indeed still in business—barely—and the Evora still remains in production. In fact, the company sold 228 Evoras in the U.S. in 2018.
Why are we bothering you with this now? Well, Lotus is not the same Lotus, and the new Evora is not the same old Evora. Flush with Chinese investment cash, Lotus is finally emerging from a deep freeze, its long-serving PR man, Alastair Florance, telling us excitedly about a recent company-wide upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 365. Work to complete a half-built assembly hall at the factory on the grounds of the old Hethel bomber base in eastern England has resumed. There are rumors of a Lotus SUV besides an already announced electric supercar, the Evija.
Meanwhile, with the demise of the minimalist Elise and Exige in 2011, the lonely Evora soldiers on as the company’s U.S. model. But not unchanged. A redesign of the glued-up aluminum tub made the side sills lower and the cockpit much more accessible. A reshaped body with some carbon-fiber panels lends extra downforce, and the revamped leather-and-Alcantara interior, although still saddled with parts-bin switches from a previous era, turns up the quality and comfort. An Edelbrock supercharger piggybacks on the Toyota 3.5-liter V-6 to net 416 horsepower, with a choice of an automatic or a six-speed manual.
After skimming along mountain roads in a 2020 Evora for a day, we first thought: This is what the new Acura NSX should have been, a luxurious but still sub-$100,000 corner slasher with a 3200-pound curb weight that only requires 416 horsepower to be riotously entertaining (as well as a respectable Porsche Cayman alternative). Our second thought was: This is exactly what a Lotus should be.
Everything about the Evora GT, base price $98,895, makes it feel featherweight and agile and, well, like a Lotus—from the way the suspension buffers impacts but still provides instant steering response and flat cornering (shades of the old Esprit) to the huge grip supplied by a low center of gravity and state-of-the-art Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. And as paddle-shift hegemony takes over even mid-engined cars, including the new Corvette, the Evora GT, with its light and tight manual shifter, is a sensory joy, even if the V-6 sounds better from the outside than in.
The Porsche Cayman is a logical choice but also a common one. The Evora is more exotic, and unlike Porsche, Lotus still retains its 1960s funky coolness in America the way Triumph bikes get a nod from Harley riders. It’s an underdog brand, at least for now.