It had been thirteen years since Lotus developed a truly new car on a totally new chassis, so in early 2009 I was skeptical when the time finally arrived to try the Evora. But after five minutes around the famous test circuit in the Lotus backyard, I was in love.
It was all very civilized. I was one of just two car writers present and there was also a rather cheeky commemorative edition Evora on hand to celebrate Lotus' 50 years in film, this one done up like the Esprit Turbo from the 1981 Bond film For Your Eyes Only, in ugly metallic brown with gold wheels and a ski rack on back. (I laughed hard the next day, too, when they told me that they'd put the brown Bond car through an automated car wash and the ski rack had gotten torn off the back.)
The sat-nav system offered for the Evora Lotus is an aftermarket Alpine EQ Imprint pop-up unit, and it's crap compared to most any other factory system. Not only did she get me lost three times, sending me directly into mountain passes that had been closed for weeks due to snow, but she refused to change her intended path whenever I had to change mine.
Regardless, the driving experience was just as cool and fantastic as I remember from last year. I had a right-hand-drive car, but that was okay because I wanted this Laser Blue color more than anything. In the snow and ice, the color is intense.
Even though this was mostly for winter excitement, it was no joke out there. Just getting to the ice driving circuit driving south and east from Geneva was an adventure since all of Europe had a real winter this year. Every curve could prove fatal.
The standard Yokohama Advan Sport tires-18s front and 19s rear-were winter versions mounted on the optional lightweight forged wheels. On these tires the Evora was superb, honestly. I was amazed how sure-footed it was even on the slipperiest snow-caked mountain road in the cold, cold shade.
Part of the amazing-ness is natural to smaller mid-engine-style cars like the Evora or Cayman; the physical orientation of everything is completely tuned in to my inner ear and everything the car does under any condition is exactly what it's supposed to do. No surprises, even though you could look at the Evora's weight distribution of 39 percent front and 61 percent rear as risky, especially in ice and snow like this, but it's totally secure.
Driving on the dynamic side roads up and down mountain passes in the Alps in winter is a pain. There's never-ending traffic and it always moves slowly, in direct contrast to how fast I and the Evora should be going.
But when we finally did break loose from the maddening crowds, once again the Lotus Evora's simple Bilstein/Eibach suspension setup with well-tuned antiroll bars and double wishbone architecture surprises. The solution is not that sophisticated in itself, but dynamics boss at Lotus, Matt Becker, told me he and his team worked obsessively with every supplier on this chassis strategy to make the solution work as well as it does. Several bits and pieces of the various parts have been invented especially for this car. The hard work pays off.
Whenever I had to gun it to overtake minivans filled with skiers and their boots, the Evora is like a bullet, even out here. No body sway, no lurching forward or back, no unexpected ugly surprises. Only good ones.
Lotus doesn't even offer mechanical LSDs on its cars. And is it a coincidence that Porsche only offers one as an option on the Cayman? I asked Becker myself why Lotus doesn't make one at least available, he being my constant companion as I drove.
"We tested a higher performance Toyota TRD differential," Becker tells me. "But it corrupted the steering and so we decided to go without." A brilliant decision.