The Lotus Evora is a really important car for the British performance brand. Unlike the Elise of Exige, it is designed to sway those who would be considering something like a Cayman S over to the Lotus way of doing things.
Here is a sports car that you can live with, drive daily, yet still get that legendary Lotus handling feel around every bend. It isn't as raw and stripped back as what the Exige or Elise offer, but those concessions for vastly improved comfort are so minor that we think the Evora is extremely special.
The looks of the Evora are more than sufficient to turn heads - much more than any other affordable two-seater sports car could hope to manage. With the Sports Racer, you also get a set of black sills, splitter, rims and roof to further add to those exquisite looks. We know it's a matter of opinion, but we think nothing looks anywhere near as special in this price bracket.
So what exactly is the Sports Racer? Don't think of it as a different car from the Evora or supercharged Evora S, more a treatment that you can apply, which piles on plenty of options while giving you a big saving. It can be applied to both models of the Evora: the 276bhp normally aspirated offering and the 345bhp supercharged version. If you opt for the Evora S Sports Racer, you can save more than £7,000 in options.
These aren't little details either, the options the Sports Racer adds are boxes you would normally be ticking with the Evora anyway. The SR treatment throws in both the sports pack and the tech pack, which translates to a set of parking sensors, Pioneer stereo system and Bluetooth. It also adds a sports button, which will sharpen up the throttle, more aggressive traction control and cross drilled brake discs.
In reality, if you are thinking about buying an Evora, the Sports Racer really is the model to go for. It can be bought in Aspen White, Carbon Grey, Nightfall Blue and Ardent Red. Go for the red, it looks fantastic.
The Evora itself is a very special car. Inside the Evora S Sports Racer we reviewed sat a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 Toyota engine. The engine's power peaks at 7,000rpm and is coupled with a Harrop HTV 1320 supercharger, which results in the sort of sound and performance you would normally expect from a supercar.
The Evora S can be raw and aggressive when you want it to be, as well as plenty noisy if you put your foot down, yet is so refined and manageable, that daily driving the car is never going to be an issue. In fact, we really can't emphasise enough how smooth and slick the Evora S can be. It offers a highly adaptable drive that means you can zip about town, or hit the sport button, kick your foot down and dig the thing into corners on country roads.
Being so low down, you would expect the Evora to cause issue in terms of blind spots and general visibility. It simply doesn't. We managed to park the thing in an extremely tight space at a supermarket car park, which while stressful, wasn't particularly challenging. You do have to factor in that ride height when making manoeuvres, as other drivers can easily miss the Evora in their mirrors.
Getting in and out isn't quite as ridiculous as the yoga-like move required for a Caterham, but does present a slight challenge thanks to the big kick plates on the Evora and the thick sided tub.
Comfortable, in the front
The 2+2 seating in the Sports Racer is handy for added luggage space but back seats should be reserved for transporting young ones about and nobody else. Behind the driver's seat at least, most adults are going to find things rather uncomfortable in the back.
In the front however, the Evora is as comfy as you could possibly want. It has big, thick-sided leather seats that hug your backside rather brilliantly, letting you sit back and relax on the motorway or throw the thing about on the B roads without getting friction burns on your rear end from sliding about.
The dash is upholstered nicely, with a premium soft-feel material that follows the interior around through to the gear stick. On either side of the driver focused interior is the Evora's tech. To the left of the driver you find a decent Pioneer hi-fi which, while not as slick as something that Audi or BMW offers, is more than adequate.
The right of the wheel has all the Evora's traction control and sport buttons, which have a nicely machined sports car feel and further contribute to the distinctive looks of the interior. It all reminds us of something McLaren might offer, being nicely refined yet high-tech enough for the Evora to feel really modern. Top all this off with the red backlit screens on either side of the speedo and rev counter and you have a premium interior with the Evora that will please most.
The whole driving experience is rounded off with the Evora's handling. You get Lotus's signature approach to speed, which is to make the car light and fast, combined with a incredibly stiff aluminium tub. The car sticks to the road with such a refined feel that the Evora takes on the character of a two-seater saloon, yet one that you can throw into every bend.
None of this smooth and supple approach to handling has an impact on the car's driving feel, which is just as connected as any other Lotus, despite being a touch less tight due in part to the power steering. Really, though, it is a necessary concession to make the Evora an easy daily drive.
As for the clutch and shift, we found the Evora's gearbox easier to manage than the rest of Lotus's line-up. The short throw of the box, coupled with a light clutch, despite the car's power, really means even low-speed driving isn't an issue. You aren't shifting gear all the time either, as the Evora S has more than enough torque to pull you through traffic even if you do accidentally leave it in third gear.
The Evora Sports Racer represents an interesting proposition for those looking for an easily manageable performance car. The Toyota engine shouldn't present many practicality problems and its light clutch and superb power steering mean zipping about the city is easy.
The 2+2 seats give you space for luggage and the stereo and air conditioning mean comfort boxes are very much ticked. It doesn't quite have the finish quality of a Cayman, but is far more exciting to look at, both inside and out. It also sounds a lot better.
If you are a Porsche fan, we can understand how much sense the new Cayman makes, but before you commit to making a purchase, take the Evora for a spin. The Sports Racer in particular has a special-edition feel, which will put a grin on your face and have others asking questions, much more than any other similarly priced sports car could ever managed.
Its ride and handling is class leading, while the performance is more than enough for road and also plenty to keep track days exciting. Throw in the added value that the Sports Racer treatment allows and you have a winning combination. A Lotus for the modern age, with all value, finesse and fun that its more stripped back predecessors have presented.