It is the day the UK voted to divorce Europe, but above the Lotus Evora 400 and NSW’s Wakefield Park Raceway the very British weather - 3.0°C, cloudy, raining - is not prepared to part ways.
The two-thirds-reengineered coupe should feel right at home, then. The Evora 400 costs $184,990 with a six-speed manual or $194,990 for the optional six-speed automatic, respectively $4400 and $7400 pricier than the previous Evora.
Mention the Porsche Cayman GT4 and Lotus executives will politely remind you the Evora 400 is a 2+2 offering, like a 911. Then they will point out the Evora Sport 410 drops another 70kg over the Evora 400 to weigh just 1325kg and in the process ducks 15kg beneath that German two seater.
Today we are not driving that $199,990 flagship but rather the manual Evora 400 on country roads and the automatic on racetrack.
Lotus is not renowned for producing high-quality cabins, but the latest Evora is my some margin its most convincing effort. Stitched leather and real aluminium trim is placed liberally around the redesigned dashboard and the steering wheel is one of the greats to hold.
The Evora 400 is easier to get into (and out of) thanks to a redesigned aluminium tub (sills lowered by 56mm, width reduced by 43mm) and the seats feel broader and yet they’re still supportive. Lotus should never have allowed its new flagship out of the factory with an aftermarket Alpine sat-nav/audio unit, though.
On the soaked, bumpy country roads surrounding the Wakefield circuit, the Evora 400 displays unsurpassed absorption qualities from its Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers that sit at each end of the forged-aluminium double wishbone suspension.
This Lotus feels light on its feet, expectedly, but it also feels engaging, with road ripples trembling through the deliciously smooth steering.
The Toyota-derived 3.5-litre V6 scores a new Edelbrock supercharger to raise outputs by 40kW/10Nm to 298kW at 7000rpm and 410Nm at 3500rpm. The aluminium-levered manual’s action is of the delightful snickety-snick variety.
The Evora 400 feels very fast but perhaps not quite as brisk as the 4.2-second 0-100km/h claim indicates. Blame the linearity of the supercharger, but it in turn delivers throttle response crisper than today’s wintry air. The whine and bark coming from behind does warm the ears, however.
The 235mm 19-inch front/285mm 20-inch rear Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are perhaps not the first choice for a wet racetrack. The lack of grip exacerbates the slightly snappy characteristics of the Evora 400 if the driver is not perfectly patient and smooth.
But the top of the track is drying and filtering through Drive, Sport and Race traction control modes reveal that all help rather than hinder proceedings. Even in Sport, the Evora 400 can be thrown into dry corners with amazing conviction. The auto is sometimes brutal, but it’s no Porsche PDK dual-clutch for shift speed.
More time is required with the Evora 400 to make a definitive verdict, but what’s immediately clear is that this latest Lotus has become faster and lighter, while providing a massive lift in cabin quality and retaining its superb steering and ride quality characteristics.
The segment underdog has broadened its scope of appeal, but the British will in this instance still have a tough time trying to pull clear of Europe’s best.
Like: Improved interior, stellar steering and ride
Dislike: Awful infotainment system, optional cruise
Engine: 3456cc V6, dohc, 24v
Power: 298kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 410Nm @ 3500-6500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.2sec (claimed)
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