Review: 2012 Lotus Evora S – The Kinder Side of Jealousy

 

Driving the 2012 Lotus Evora S is akin to hanging out with a supermodel who’s very nice to you, laughs at your jokes, but unfortunately won’t go home with you unless you can afford to spoil her. It’s a shame what Lotus did in giving me this car for a week…

When driving an exotic car I always try and be as nice a driver on the roads to make up for the lack of respect most sports car drivers have for everyone else around them. No matter how nice I am, I still get people that cut me off, mean mug, and just generally look at me with contempt for a young man having something they don’t or can’t.

Unfortunate, really, because there are some cars that you shouldn’t have any hatred for. I was driving such a car recently: the 2012 Lotus Evora S in beautiful Carbon Grey with Venom Red premium sport package interior. If I were ordering a Lotus Evora this is the exact color combination I’d get. It’s sexingly understated, but still stands out.

Sexingly is an adjective/verb I created a few months ago to describe something or someone that had a certain je ne sais quoi that oozes sexuality and taste. It sounds weird at first, but try using it, you may like it. I have a few random people that I’ve gotten hooked on using it in daily speaking.

The minute I found out I was getting the Evora S I decided to research driving roads in a mountain town called Boone, NC. Everything worked out perfectly, because Boone is only an hour away from Winston-Salem, NC, the nearest area to me where Lotus keep their press cars. So what better excuse can one have to pick up a press car instead of having it delivered?

The immediate second I pulled up to the dealership it seemed everyone there was a tad skeptical of why a 20-something gent with a scraggly beard was saying he was the guy picking up the 2012 Lotus Evora S for a week… And by everyone, I mean two people.

I proceeded to get all of my gear from my car to put into the Evora S, and I was worried. I only had a backpack, a bag filled with camera gear, a camera bag for my Canon 60D, and my buddy’s bag, as well as two big tripods. Kevin Smith, head of North American PR for Lotus, always told me that you could fit a bag of golf clubs in the trunk of the Evora. Not once did I care to believe him, only because I couldn’t care less about buying a car that fits something I don’t need in my life. But I have to say, he was right. With all of that gear, I was impressed that it all fit.

I always like to try and get acclimated with the interior for a bit before I set off, and in this case I only had a few minutes, because I was on a short timetable for that day. What I did find in the Lotus was a comfortable, albeit narrow, cabin. Everything is well laid out, however the radio dials are a tad far away, and you can’t actually see the screen in the daylight. I fiddled for hours to find a brightness setting, only to find out that there wasn’t one. Let me just say this: Lotus replaced the crappy Alpine unit that everyone complained about to a new Pioneer system that worked great as navigation, Bluetooth audio, iPod player, etc. But you can’t see anything on the screen unless it’s dark out, or you’re in a poorly lit area. This makes backing up a chore since the rear window isn’t very useful, unless you’re looking at that gorgeous Lotus Engineering badge on the top of the motor, of course. Surprisingly, it was incredibly easy to get in and out. It’s no Corvette, but it’s not an Elise, either.

Being able to take a glance at the motor while packing the trunk reveals a tiny looking 3.5-liter Toyota sourced V6 which makes 276 hp at 6400 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4600 rpm in the standard Evora. For the Evora S, Lotus have strapped on a Harrop supercharger making 5.5 psi of boost (Harrop are an Australian performance company primarily tasked with making V8 motorsport motors faster). This pumps the V6 to 345 hp at 7000 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The horsepower is an interesting number, though, because you can’t go past 6800 rpm without the sport button pushed, allowing for a 7300 rpm redline at that point. That little Sport button also turns the exhaust up a bit, making the Beethoven-esque symphony from the rear sound absolutely perfect. For extra aerodynamic stability, the Evora S comes standard with a rather large rear diffuser that not only makes the car look “Star Spangled Awesome”, it also just makes it that much more aggressive looking and driving.

Soon after finding a power outlet inside the car for my Valentine 1 radar detector (new for 2012 is a socket right under the dashboard behind the air controls, as well as the standard one that was behind the armrest), we set off to have dinner with my buddy’s sister. Arriving early to meet her we decided to make a stop at a local exotic car dealer in Charlotte, NC to see what was on the lot, but also what they’d think of the Lotus Evora S. Since their dealership focuses on new and used Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Porsche, and other assorted exotic brands, we were both wondering if they’d even notice a car like the Evora S, what since they’re used to 458 Italias and such. However, the minute we pulled up you’d have thought we landed on the parking lot in a private helicopter and gotten out with the Kardashian sisters; each salesperson, including the sales manager, were all over the Evora S like I was raffling it off at a golf tournament.

The whole time I was there they were asking if I owned it -of course I said yes, what do you think I’m stupid?- how much I walked out of the dealer for, and if they could take pictures inside it. Shortly after we left with Tom’s baby sister in the backseat of the Evora S. Not exactly an easy feat, as you have to sit in what’s called the ‘Lotus seating position’. At about 5’1″ and maybe 100 lbs, Alice is small enough to fit in the rear seats with a bit of ease, however she wouldn’t have been comfortable for more than an hour. Luckily dinner was only 15 minutes away. After dinner Tom and I set off for Boone, and upon reaching the mountain roads it was as if the Lotus went from plush sports cruiser to track day star. Pushing the Sport button and leaving the transmission in 3rd you could just hear the supercharger sucking in more air, and you feel more thrust with the tires grabbing at every bit of road surface there is to glue themselves to.

That’s one thing you’ll never stop loving about the Lotus Evora S: Traction. The Evora S I had benefited from optional 235/35 ZR19s up front, and 275/35 ZR20s in the rear with Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires. The standard tires are 225/40 ZR18s in the front, and 255/35 ZR19s in the rear with regular Pirelli P-Zero tires. Twenty extra millimeters certainly helped in the rear when hauling the car from one tight mountain corner to another. Did I mention we were heading up the mountain with the drop off next to us? That’ll certainly get the blood flowing. But fear is never an issue with the Evora S, because the chassis is the stiffest I’ve ever felt. Supposedly it’ll take around 19,000 ft-lbs of force to wrench the Lotus’ chassis even a single degree. At the time when Lotus brought the Evora S out, that was 50% more rigid than the Ferrari F430 (source).

I’ve yet to drive a car that I couldn’t exceed the limits of on a mountain or back road. Screw around too much and you’ll find the limit is when you’re hauling ass off the road. The Evora S has so much agility that I’m not sure it’s possible to put a foot wrong. You drive, it makes you better at it. Simple as that. In my mind the Acura NSX has always been the pinnacle of driving passion. It’s always felt better than anything else, but this Lotus Evora S was like driving a video game where the controls are actually attached to my mind, and where I thought I wanted the car, it went. When I felt something, it was giving me that exact feeling. You feel as if you’re a kid again, because the smile the Evora puts on your face is child-like.

Each time I launched the Evora S off a traffic light, stop sign and the like, I never once had an issue with traction, whether it was on or off. Better yet, with it on, it never gets in the way. Most of the time I’d forget that I’d left it on, because it never walks in and turns down the fun when the party’s just getting started. Leaving the traction on during a launch is almost like having actual launch control in this car. Feather the throttle, drop the clutch, and there you go; No fuss, no worries. Lotus claim a 4.3-second 0-to-60 mph run. Honestly, I think that’s true on any given day, but I believe a driver knowing of the Evora S could squeeze out a 4.1-second sprint.

And it’s easily the most comfortable exotic car I’ve ever driven. The leather wrapped Recaro seats -all-new leather has been used for 2012- are just sublime. The feel is perfect, the long distance driving is above any sports car with a bigger cabin, and the bolstering makes you feel loved. The interior sills and door panels have also been lined with new leather for 2012. A very short, maybe an inch wide dead pedal has been added to the left of the clutch. This was for all the whiners who complained they had no where to put their foot. Uh, it’s called a clutch pedal, people… I have my left foot lightly touching the clutch pedal most of the time that I’m driving, honestly. It’s never actually pushing the pedal in, but just resting enough on it to be comfy.

With that all said, the Evora S is pretty obsessive compulsive. Before leaving the vehicle, you must make sure that the headlights and parking lights are both turned off (two buttons to the left of the steering wheel that you can’t see flashing in the daytime), otherwise they’ll stay on and the car will beep at you until you close the door… Wanna use the high beams? Even though the headlights are automatically on, you need to push the headlight button in order for the high beams to engage. Very, very odd. It’s as if the Evora is OCD in the sense that you have to push everything a number of times the exact same way, or else you’ll need to wash your hands and try all over again.

All of this is okay, though, because the 2012 Lotus Evora S makes you feel like a child again. I remember being a kid and being astonished the first time I saw the 993 Porsche 911 in my church’s parking lot on a Sunday morning. The owner looked at me and asked, “What do you think?” I couldn’t reply with anything less than, “Wow…” at which point he said, “Yeah”, with a smile and got into his 911 and left. That’s just how I felt being in the presence of the Evora. Seeing all the smiling faces, waves, thumbs up; hearing all the, “Whoa, what is that?” coming from peoples’ mouths, it’s just breathtaking to know a car can still do that in this world. Kids gawked, elderly people wanted to know what I did to be so blessed. And everyone in between acted like they were seeing E.T. in a bicycle basket. There was only one weird instance when I was fiddling in the car after lunch one day, and my buddy was walking out of the restaurant from going to the bathroom. On the way over to the car he heard one elderly woman say to another in front of him, “I wonder what kind of person drives that car?” The other woman’s reply? “A jerk…” pointing directly at me. Needless to say, I drove by their car waving and smiling. I’m such a douche…

On a side note: The whole week I had the Evora S I was under the impression it had no cupholders. No worries, as I came to enjoy life without them. However, on the final day of driving the car I realized the opening in the doors, where I thought you’d just store a cell phone, actually doubled as a cupholder. I put a medium Coca-Cola from Subway in it, and a water bottle in the passenger’s. I drove around town, taking some back roads, and neither fell out or even moved. So a Lotus is more useful than ever before.

[Photos by Corey Privette, Josh Lewis, and Fernando Cruz]

A big thank you goes to Fernando Cruz, of FCX Photography, for taking such provocative and beautiful shots of the 2012 Lotus Evora S in his makeshift garage studio he made for this car.

2012 Lotus Evora S MSRP: $77,600

Price with options: $89,745

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: Supercharged 3.5-liter DOHC V6

Horsepower: 345 @ 7000 rpm

Torque: 295 @ 4500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Curb Weight: 3,168 lbs.

0 – 60 mph: 4.3 seconds

Max Speed: 178 mph

Fuel Economy: 17 City/26 Highway

Options list:

6-Speed Manual Transmission Standard

Premium Package – Sport – $3,250

Sport Package Standard

Technology Package – $3,100

Reversing Camera – $550

Gunmetal Forged Design Wheels – $2,750

Metallic Paint – $1,200

Destination Charge – $1,295

The Good: Performance; Exotic-ness; People think it’s a spaceship; No one can hate you driving it; Comfort on the highway is better than you’d imagine; There’s plenty of power in 6th gear; People think you spent near-200 grand for a $90,000 car.
The Bad: Sat-nav screen is too dim during the day with no adjustment; iPod connectivity is a breeze, but it’s hard to know what to push when trying to change artists, playlists, etc.; Obsessive compulsive button pushing.
The Ugly: The executive who’s above you will probably fire you for believing your Lotus cost you more than his Ferrari.
The Truth: If you’re looking for performance for the dollar, look away, my friend. This car is meant for the guy who enjoys what really matters: driving pleasure with good bits of comfort added in. You learn to care less about cup holders, gizmos and gadgets, and just enjoy the sound of the motor, feel of the transmission and clutch, and that perfect launch off the line every time. In the end, it’ll probably be the greatest car you ever drive and possibly own. Get it now before it actually costs $250,000 at Mecum or Barrett-Jackson.

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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