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Lotus blossoms with new Evora 400

15:19 31 July 2015

Light, agile and dynamic: Evora 400 is the fastest Lotus road car ever but the way it sticks to the road is astonishing.

Light, agile and dynamic: Evora 400 is the fastest Lotus road car ever but the way it sticks to the road is astonishing.

Lotus

Lotus has two great test facilities on its doorstep. The resurfaced test track at its Hethel site and the wonderful Norfolk roads. It calls them ‘Lotus roads’ – if its cars drive well here they drive well anywhere.

Having put the new Evora 400 through its paces on the track, and rather more sedately on some fantastic, free-flowing cross-county routes I can honestly say this is the best car I have ever driven.

I don’t really like track driving, or rather I didn’t until I drove the Evora 400. I have never pushed a car so hard nor felt so safe and confident – the grin on my face grew with the speed and G-forces through corners.

With the electronic stability program in normal drive mode, the Evora 400 was so reassuring on the track, clipping the red and white kerbs through the Senna curves, hunkering down under power round Chapman for a full throttle blast along the Mansell straight. Then those uprated brakes are called in action, anchoring on for the chicane and tight Rindt Hairpin, before unleashing 400 horses again up the Fittipaldi Straight. Brake, drop down the gearbox through Clark, and tricky Graham Hill, then a little blast and brake hard for Andretti... and away you go on another lap.

I switch the electronic stability program (ESP) to sport mode, allowing more tyre slip before it stops things getting out of hand, and the Evora 400 feels even livelier with a glorious raspy bark from the exhaust, especially above 5,000rpm. Race mode backs ESP off even more – the idea is owners can explore the car’s limits in confidence. I had reached mine already especially in a £72,000 car I, unfortunately, don’t own!

Tech specs

What makes Lotus Evora 400 different?

There more to the fastest ever Lotus road car than meets the eye – the Evora 400 is the next-generation model and more than two-thirds of it is new.

The Hethel fleet’s flagship is practically a new car from the ground up with a painstaking process of redesign, weight-shaving and honing the pure, dynamic driving experience to make this not only the best Lotus ever but put it right up there with the world’s best sports cars.

It also boasts a higher quality feel, justifying the £72,000 price tag, making it a car Lotus, and Norfolk, can be proud of.

Changes for the better

The basic Evora silhouette remains the same but, beneath the composite skin, there is a raft of well-considered, well-executed differences:

A new 3.5-litre Toyota-sourced supercharged and charge-cooled V6 petrol engine, boosting power to 400hp – up 55hp – and delivering 410 Newton metres of torque from the mid-range.

New intelligent Bosch electronic stabilty program with four modes – drive, sport, race and fully off.

A limited slip differential to improve traction and handling balance.

An enhanced aluminium chassis with door sills 56mm lower and 43mm narrow so it’s mch easier to get in and out and front footwells are wider.

It’s lost 42kg overall, over and above an initial 21kg gain from the new charge-cooling engine technology.

Slicker six-speed manual gearbox and quicker-shifting six-speed auto with paddle shifters.

New lightweight front and rear composite body panels which help increase downforce, further roadholding.

Revised suspension with new springs and dampers to increase body control and response while improving road manners.

New more user-friendly interior and ergonomic dashboard, extra rear travel for more supportive front seats and the 2+2’s rear seats, while hardly suitable for adults, are wider.

New lightweight wheels, wider at the back, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.

Technical data

Price: Lotus Evora 400 £72,000 (automatic £74,000)

Engine: 3,456cc, 400hp, V6 supercharged petrol with charge cooler

Weight: 1,395kg

Power to weight ratio: 293hp/tonne

Performance: 0-60mph 4.1 seconds; top speed 186mph

MPG: 29.1 combined

CO2 emissions: 225g/km

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,394mm; width (including door mirrors) 1,978mm; height 1,229mm

Lotus says the Evora 400 can lap its test track in one minute 31 seconds – seven seconds quicker than the previous model – and I’m not going to contest it!

Given its performance, the Evora 400 is remarkably refined on road, taking Lotus to a new level of quality. The engine pulls willingly lower down the rev range and works well with the automatic gearbox while the manual has a better shift than past models. Even on poor roads, the supple ride capably surpresses bumps and lumps– I’ve driven family cars that bounced about more on these roads.

The extra cabin space suited my fuller figure while the more logical layout, with buttons moved from behind the steering wheel to the top of the fascia, further adds to the new sense of quality, even if you do recognise switchgear from mainstream family cars but it all works well and that’s what matters.

The lower dashboard gives a false feeling of sitting higher but improves forward visibility – least said about the view out of the back the better but at least the Evora 400 boasts decent door mirrors.

The Lotus badge is all about image and the new Evora 400 has more attitude, a very positive one, and is as at home on the track as it is on the road. It heralds a new era at Hethel – timely given that next year is a half a century of it being home for Lotus.

Lotus cars and Norfolk roads – this really is God’s county!

What is your favourite Lotus car ever? Tell us about Norfolk’s finest.

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