2020 Lotus Evora GT first drive: Lighter, stronger, faster

The new 2020 Lotus Evora GT is lighter, stronger and faster

The new Lotus Evora GT is optimized for downforce

Comprehensive carbon fiber components come standard on U.S. spec cars

The new Lotus Evora GT is lighter, stronger, and faster. We drive it!

Curb weight is 3,175 pounds wet

0-60 comes up in 3.8 seconds

The Lotus Evora GT has 416 hp

The Lotus Evora GT has 317 lb ft of torque

Top speed is 188 mph

It’s easier to get in and out of than an Elise

Stitching!

Seats were comfy

The new Lotus Evora GT is lighter, stronger, and faster. We drive it!

U.S. price is $98,945, which includes the destination charge

Two transmissions are offerd: a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic. 

It’s roomier inside than a Lamborghini Huracan

The chassis is aluminum, the body is lightweight composite

Chances are you’re a Lotus guy (or girl — the condition welcomes all). You saw the word “Lotus” up there in the headline and you immediately clicked on it. You are a different sort of car enthusiast. You are not an MG guy, or a Triumph or Morgan or TVR, not Porsche, Ferrari or McLaren guy. You are unique. You can recite from memory spec sheets and statistics about the Esprit, Elan, Elise, Exige, Evora and, now, Evija. You are right now saying to yourself, or to whomever your lucky spouse is, that, “Hey, he left out the Eclat! I’m going to write a sternly worded letter to the, oh, wait, it’s right here…”

Most importantly, you appreciate the lightweight magnificence of every Lotus ever made. You enjoy the pure, mechanical efficiency, the unmatched balance, the feel of a Lotus around a race track or through a series of twisting turns on your favorite road.

You don’t worry so much about all the things other car owners look for when they buy their crossover SUVs, things like ergonomics, trunk space, warranty claims…. Lotus will never make a crossover SUV. Lotus only makes cars with a single aim: to be perfectly balanced fun machines.

The latest example of this philosophy is the new Evora GT, successor to the Evora 400. The new car rides on an improved version of the 400’s extruded and bonded aluminum frame so stiff that it takes 27,000 Nm of force to twist it one degree. That is stiff. It is wrapped in composite body panels that combine to create 160 pounds of downforce at the car’s top speed of 188 mph. (For true Lotus fan boiz, the 160 pounds of downforce is distributed 60 percent on the front axle and 40 on the rear.) With numerous optional carbon fiber parts that were on my particular test car, Lotus said it weighed 3104 pounds. Lightness! That’s 71 pounds less than the old Evora 400 without the carbon fiber roof, tailgate, dash panels and seatbacks. So 3104 pounds is pretty light, especially considering that my test car was a 2+2 configuration. (I looked in the back at those seats but didn’t try getting into them. Maybe yoga would help. But the back seats looked like they might actually be functional for small children. And didn’t half of you get ferried around in your youth in the back seats of 911s anyway? The Evora GT rear seats look like they could actually work.)

The best thing about the 3104-pound curb weight is that it is pushed around by 416 horsepower Toyota-sourced V6 (in Toyota trim the engine makes 280 hp). The 3.5-liter unit is supercharged and chargecooled (not intercooled) to achieve peak power at 7000 rpm. Peak torque is 317 lb-ft. Each horsepower has 7.5 pounds of Lotus to move around, which is not exactly supercar territory but is darn close to it. Lotus says 0-60 comes up in 3.8 seconds, which is three tenths quicker than the Evora 400. Again, not supercar numbers but certainly supersportscar numbers, if there is such a category. You’ll be impressed when you drive it.

I got to spend a day driving a few Evora GTs, with both the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. Full disclosure: I liked them both. I also like the car’s predecessor. The Evora GT is way, way easier to get in and out of than an Elise or an Exige, both of which left me halfway out of the thing, upper torso flopping on the pavement next to the car like a docked tuna. So embarrassing. The Evora GT seems to have room once you open the door. Granted, it’s not room like a “normal” car, not like a Camry, you still have to consider efficiencies when making ingress or egress, but it can be done, even by those who don’t work for Cirque du Soleil.

Nonetheless, I still took my shoes off to drive the thing. This is often the case with English sports cars. What is it with the English and their feet? Are they freakishly small? Or are mine freakishly big? “The idea,” you are screaming into your laptop, “is to better heel and toe.” Okay, I accept that. But being hamfisted as well as hamfooted, I would have liked to have more pedal spacing and rev-matching during shifts. Am I a Phillistine? Perhaps. Just be sure to bring your Pilotis to the dealership when you take your test drive.

Visibility was good out the front, but seeing what’s going on behind you or next to you will require your sixth sense. If you have a seventh, bring that one, too. The rear glass has a classic Toyota Celica louvered ‘70s aftermarket look that pretty much eliminates rear vision. But as they said in that movie, “What is behind us, she does not matter.”

Out front is where the fun is. Attacking curves on one of SoCal’s best twisting mountain roads was a dream in the Evora GT. Such perfect balance, such splendid rack and pinion steering (2.86 turns lock-to-lock), such light response to everything. It’s not as crazily perfect as the first time you drove an Elise — the Evora is a bit larger and a bit heavier than that — but the feeling is similar. As is sometimes the case with these things, I enjoyed both the manual and the automatic transmissions. The automatic was quicker without being jerky, but the manual gave the sense that you are in greater control. Cars with manual transmissions get a Torsen limited-slip differential, so maybe the manual cars have an advantage. But after a day driving both I think you won’t complain about either transmission.

Likewise the 3.5-liter V6’s 416 SAE hp was well-matched to the car. It didn’t overpower it, I wasn’t spinning the rear tires out of each corner, it fit the Evora GT perfectly. I didn’t ever want for more power or torque.

Further lightening came from the forged aluminum wheels and forged aluminum wishbones, which made for very little unsprung weight. Even the steering wheel is made out of magnesium. Brakes are AP two-piece discs with steel rotors and aluminum bells.

Of the car’s four drive modes – Drive, Sport, Race and Off – I found that I liked Sport best. Sport mode switches off the delightfully named “understeer recognition” that straightens out the car before you force it to plow, and also sharpens the throttle response. Race mode opens the exhaust above 4500 rpm and further sharpens the setup. You may like Race better. I didn’t want to risk the “Off” setting.

“It’s all about the drivers,” said Ryan Watson, head of Lotus Cars USA.

Which is why we love Lotii.

If power and performance is short of supercars like McLarens and Ferraris, the pricing of the Evora GT is lower than those competitors. You can get one for less than six figures, at least in theory. Starting price with destination included is $98,945. That’s without any carbon fiber bits. The option called “Carbon Pack” is $10,000. There are other options to load up the sticker: Vivid Green paint is $5900, titanium exhaust $8000, bespoke stitching $1000, etc. That’s still less than a 570S or 488GTB.

But you might be wondering about quality.

“We expect you to drive it hard and take it to the track,” said Watson. “It’s set up so the components won’t wear.”

Watson mentioned a recent Evora GT track day at GingerMan Raceway in Michigan where an Evora GT did 150 hard laps.

“All we needed to do was replace the right front tire,” he said. “We would not have any qualms about you guys taking these and doing a track day. We are an ISO 9000 company. Lotus Engineering does work for other manufacturers. The car wants to be used. It doesn’t want to be a garage queen.”

So there you go. You at least owe the Lotus Evora GT a test drive. If you’re already a Lotus slappy you will understand and appreciate it right away. If you’re new to the brand you might be surprised to find that you like it. A lot. 

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