First Look

First Look: 2011 Lotus Evora S

Lotus is trying so hard to be more. To their credit competitors have taken notice. Since the troubled automaker's amazing five concept car showcase at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, Lotus wants everyone to know that they're staging a comeback. Thing is, comebacks can take time and money. While we wait for the all-new Esprit to debut in 2013, Lotus isn't prepared to let the likes of Porsche walk all over them. So their answer for now is the Evora S. Released just this year, it may actually make standard Evora owners a bit angry.

Simply put, they missed out - big time. Why? For a bit more cash, drivers are treated to a supercharged version of the Evora's standard 3.5-liter Toyota V6. Lotus had originally increased this engine's output to 276hp and 258 lb-ft of torque for the base Evora, which isn't bad at all for something that also powers the Toyota Camry. However, it's not enough when going up against one of the best mid-engine sports cars ever, the Porsche Cayman R. The Evora S is different. While the engine is the same as the standard model, it's clear that Lotus knows how to play against those perfectionist Germans.

Now producing 345hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and mated to the six-speed manual from the Euro-spec Lexus IS-F diesel, the Evora S goes from 0 to 62mph in 4.3 seconds (4.9 for the standard Evora) and has a top speed of 172mph. In 2012, a six-speed paddle-shifting automatic will also be offered. Even with the added weight of the magnesium supercharger, the Evora S comes in at only 3,168 pounds. Fortunately, its driving dynamics were already solid thanks to Lotus's benchmark suspension tuning abilities. To sum up, the Evora S is one of the world's best-handling sports cars.

On the track, it responds to literally every braking and steering input the driver commands. This is partly because Lotus has added stiffer bushings, firmer dampers, a new upper front wishbone, and a wider rear anti-roll bar. There's even an option for larger 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels that come with a set of grippy Pirelli P Zero Corsas. All told, there's a 22 percent increase in lateral stiffness up front and a 32 percent increase at the rear. There's also the optional Sport Pack that offers a black rear diffuser, engine cooler, sports-ratio gearbox, cross-drilled and vented disc brakes, and an amplified exhaust note.

The rear seats are a $1,500 option. But the question remains: Has Lotus finally built the ideal sports car? No, but that doesn't really matter. The Evora S is equally unique to the Cayman and insane in its own way. Sure it doesn't have the top-notch interior quality of the Porsche, nor is it easy to get in and out of, but it's without a doubt something special. Speaking of interiors, it's somewhat disappointing that a car of this caliber lacks the overall material refinement of its competitors. The gauges are dull and the stereo is low quality. Even the navigation system is sub-par.

Fortunately, the Recaro seats are great and the driver's position is spot-on. The latest word from Hethel is that since the Elan has been delayed until at least 2016, the Evora will be receiving a major facelift from new design director Donato Coco. When the refreshed model debuts in a year give or take its front-end design will be more in line with the upcoming Esprit. We can't wait. With a base price of $77,000, the Evora S combines everything great about the automaker's past and present into one amazing package.

Lotus is not Porsche and we're pleased to see they know to keep it like that by doing things their own way. And until the new lineup arrives, the Evora S is more than ready to carry the torch.

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