We head to California to test the 345-hp 2012 Lotus Evora S rocket

CONS:

  • The price
  • The cramped interior
  • The transmission


Monterey, CA
— On the occasion of my first-ever drive of a Lotus, which took place a scant 13 months ago, I hoped for the chance to one day drive the car in question, the Evora, on a track. Reason being, this sports car offered such an immediate and direct connection to the road, it was impossible to drive it at the posted speed limit and get anywhere near its significant capabilities.

2012 Lotus Evora S Review ReviewFast forward those 13 months and the chance presented itself during the launch of the 2012 Lotus Evora S, a more powerful version of the original. The plan was to drive the car south from San Jose to Monterey and one of the most daunting racetracks in the world—Laguna Seca. Once there, the agenda was straightforward: Take turns behind the wheel of the Evora and the Evora S until you’d had enough.

Under the hood

Evora vs Evora S

For those following along at home, there are significant differences between the two Lotuses. The base Evora is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 sourced from Toyota that produces 276 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This is sufficient power to propel the lightweight Evora (tipping the scales at a slim 1,382 kg) to 100 km/h from a standing start in around five seconds flat. So: fast but not super-fast.

In the other corner, we have the new Evora S—essentially, the same car with a supercharger bolted onto the same Toyota engine. The result: 345 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Despite the fact that the S is bulkier than the base model by some 54 kg, this extra oomph cuts the 0-100 km/h sprint time to just 4.4 seconds—in other words, serious sports car territory.

The Evora S comes standard with something called the Sport Pack, which includes more potent brakes, a sportier exhaust system, a racier 6-speed manual transmission and a very cool rear diffuser that helps create more grip in the corners.

2012 Lotus Evora S Review Review2012 Lotus Evora S Review Review

2012 Lotus Evora S Driving Impressions

There are other differences between the two models. The Evora S comes standard with something called the Sport Pack, which includes more potent brakes, a sportier exhaust system, a racier 6-speed manual transmission and a very cool rear diffuser that helps create more grip in the corners. The suspension system has also been tweaked to provide a ride that is very conducive to performance driving (read: firmer) and handling that is even more precise.

2012 Lotus Evora S Review ReviewMake no mistake: The base Evora was already a track-worthy car, as a handful of laps in the older version immediately prove. But with greater power comes greater responsibility—in other words, the more speed you attempt to carry into and through a given corner, the more your car needs to be in contact with the road. Or the better your airbags need to be.

On the surface of it, Laguna Seca seems like it shouldn’t be that challenging; there are only 11 turns, after all, and the approaches to all of them—the notorious Corkscrew being the notable exception—are relatively easy to see from a distance. Yet, this undulating ribbon of tarmac is very quick and the aforementioned Corkscrew is, like, only the fourth-scariest corner on the track.

Although the engineers at Lotus have recalibrated the transmission for the Evora S, it’s the mechanical linkage that seems to be the guilty party.

Under these circumstances, it’s a wonderful experience to drive the Lotus Evora S, a car that doesn’t overpower its brakes or steering or suspension—a car that feels fully composed at all times, even when the various driver aid systems (all five of them!) such as stability control are completely disabled.

2012 Lotus Evora S Review ReviewIf the handling of the Lotus is a clear strength, other aspects of the car are not quite as successful. One in particular, the manual transmission, is its glaring weak spot. The 6-speed (also sourced from Toyota and used on a diesel crossover in Europe only) is as recalcitrant a gear-swapper as you’ll find on a 21st-century sports car.

Although the engineers at Lotus have recalibrated the transmission for the Evora S, it’s the mechanical linkage that seems to be the guilty party. Part of the problem also stems from the fact that interior space in the Evora S is scarce; this characteristic extends all the way to the driver’s footwell, where three pedals are jammed into an area barely big enough for two. With so little room for fancy footwork, rev-matching the engine on downshifts is not (pun intended) automatic at all.

All things considered, though, the 2012 Lotus Evora S is a very dynamic sports car and one that deserves a look from anyone who takes their driving seriously. Although the use of a Toyota engine and transmission detract from an exclusivity standpoint, the Lotus is less about the show and more concerned with the go.

The car is certainly quick, the mid-mounted engine creates a mild rasp behind your ears when the windows are rolled down and the handling package is as good as it gets. Of course, being a true sports car, there’s not a lot of breathing space for larger drivers and passengers—the optional “back seat” is better used as a purse or package holder—but this is the price you pay to drive something as entertaining as the Evora S. The other price you pay: $93,500 (to start).

2012 Lotus Evora S Gallery:

 

Mark Hacking is an award-winning car, motorcycle and motorsports journalist whose work has appeared in Azure, enRoute, Intersection, NUVO and Toro, among many others. He is the former editor of Performance Racing News, the former managing editor of DRIVEN, and a member of both the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and the Motor Press Guild of California. An avid racer, Mark is a three-time podium finisher at Targa Newfoundland and, this past season, raced in the VLN Series at the Nürburgring with the factory Aston Martin team. His motto in life: Drive fast, take chances.