Terrific handling, a Toyota-sourced V6 and space for four. What's not to love?
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, March 28, 2021 / Loading comments
- Available for £45,000
- 3.5-litre V6 24-valve supercharged, rear-wheel drive
- GT430 will see off most things
- Better if not perfect build quality
- Back seats mean you can scare the little 'uns
- Good value retention
Search for a used Lotus Evora here
Exciting times at Lotus right now. The construction of a new sub-assembly base in Norwich has been confirmed, and it’s go go go for the new Type 131-based range including the 2,000hp Evija – billed as the world’s most potent electric car – and a Macan-sized Lotus SUV, so they say. Woo.
What’s happening to all the existing Lotus models though? Well, as Matt noted in his recent Exige/Cayman comparo piece it's most definitely a case of ‘in with the new, and out with the old’. The two versions of the aluminium chassis underpinning the three cars currently appearing on the Lotus website won't be built after this year, so 2021 will be 'sayonara’ year for all of the old guard.
It says something about the rightness of what is now a two-and-a-half decades old design that the Exige and the aforementioned Elise still command so much interest as new cars and retain so much value as used ones. The third name on the Lotus website might not have quite the same trouser-rattling impact as those two, but the equally strong used values tell you that the Evora is at least as worthy of our respect.
Launched at the Birmingham show in 2008 to kick off phase two of the ‘modern Lotus’ plan, the Evora was designed to appeal to a wider market, namely owners who completely understood why the Elise had compromises but who didn’t want (or weren’t physically able) to have those compromises in their lives. People, in other words, who were prepared to exchange some of the thrill of the Lotus experience for a little more practicality.
The Evora was much less Spartan than the Elise/Exige. Its comprehensive standard spec included air con, electric windows, a decent sound system with sat nav, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, and motorsport-credible Sparco seats that were also heated. It was a ‘proper car’ if you like, but under the skin the Evora was just as pure as the Elise. It had a three-section VVA version of the original one-section lightweight bonded tub, to which were added front and rear subframes, hydraulic steering, forged aluminium double wishbones, Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, AP Racing brakes and a limited-slip differential on the manuals.
The beauty of Lotus has always been its ability to skip round the ‘one size fits all’ philosophy to which bigger firms must adhere, and to answer the sometimes exceptional needs of real people without endangering the must-have Lotus feature of exquisite handling. The Evora chassis was, literally, more grown-up than the Elise’s, its extra 275mm of length added not just to provide space for two rear seats (a 2 + 0 version was available as a £1,500 cheaper entry-level Evora) but also to add 75mm to the driver’s seat travel. That reflected the fact that Lotus’s CEO Mike Kimberley was 6ft 5in tall. Enough fore and aft adjustment was built into the Evora not just to accommodate him but also those specimens who were even taller than him.
There was another reason for the bigger chassis, and that was to take bigger engines. The ex-Toyota Camry 3.5-litre V6 produced 276hp and 252lb ft in the first 1,350kg Evoras, enough for a 0-62 time of 5.1 secs and a top speed of 162mph. The Sport version delivered the same 0-62 time despite having a closer-ratio gearbox because the first two gears were the same as those in the non-Sport.
That Sport gearbox was standard in 2010’s supercharged Evora S version which had 345hp and 295lb ft, lowering the Evora’s 0-62 time to 4.8 secs. In 2011, an IPS (Intelligent Precision Shift) torque converter automatic version of the Aisin 6-speed box was released, adding half a second to the 0-62 time (5.3 sec). Mainly for the US market, this £51,000 IPS was a little dearer than the Porsche Cayman S with its rather snappier PDK twin-clutcher.
Also in that year, 2011, came the announcement of the 1,277kg GTE ‘Road Car Concept’. Developed by Lotus Motorsport as a homologation vehicle to allow the firm to go GTE endurance racing, the road legal GTE was meant to have a 438hp motor and a sequential gearbox. Around 25 of them were made, but they sat around unsold while Lotus was going through some takeover stuff. Twenty of these GTEs were repurposed into roadgoing GT350s in 2014/15 with the original Evora S drivetrains put back in. China having been identified as a potential market, sixteen of these GTE/GT350s were left-hand drive, and thirteen of those were automatics. The Solar Yellow LHD auto press car AU12 DCV (which supposedly had a 410hp engine) was due for its first MOT in February 2015 but never turned up for it, presumably having gone abroad. R20 GTE, a Motorsport Green LHD IPS with 3,000 miles on the clock was sold online in the UK recently for £69,000. There’s another one in PH Classifieds which we’ll tell you about later.
In 2015 the original model was superseded by the Evora 400. Faster, 42kg lighter (despite its bigger, heavier brakes) and easier to get into thanks to its cut-down sills, the 400 is the car we’re looking at here. For your £72,000, which was quite a bit more than the Cayman GT4 at the time, the 400 didn’t appear to be that different to its predecessor but its lightly refreshed look inside and out belied the number of changes that had been wrought over the gen-one car. The new Evora weighed 65kg more than its predecessor, but power was up by 55hp to 400hp (with a relatively small 7lb ft increase in torque) thanks to a new charge cooler and higher blower pressure. That dropped the 0-62 time to 4.2 secs and hoisted the top speed to a heady 186mph.
The 400’s replacement, the Sport 410, was revealed at the 2016 Geneva show. It was a lot more focused and ‘Lotus-y’. Out went the audio/satnav/reversing camera package and the aircon (though you could get them both back in for £2,000 and £1,500 respectively), and in came more Alcantara plus lots of carbon fibre for the roof, rear quarter lights and an engine cover that no longer needed gas struts to lift it. One of the two layers of glass in the rear bulkhead was binned, and super-skinny homebrewed bucket seats weighing just 6kg each were floated in to replace the not exactly lardy 15kg Sparcos. Spidery alloys trimmed off another 7kg.
Altogether it added up to a 70kg weight chop over the 400 (or 80kg if you went for the titanium exhaust), delivering a 12mm lower centre of gravity and an aero doubling of the downforce at top speed to 64kg. A damper reset, a 5mm drop in ride height and a 10hp remap creating a power-to-weight ratio of 323hp per tonne were the final ingredients. The result was a Hethel lap time that was an impressive three seconds under the 400’s. The Sport 410 was faster around Lotus’s track than the madder-looking Exige Sport 350. A hundred and fifty 410s were to be built per year, at a price of £82,000.
In 2017, the fastest and most powerful road-legal Lotus ever (and the lightest Evora ever) was revealed: the GT430. With a new titanium exhaust and recalibrated ignition, fuelling and cam timing, power was up to 430hp and torque to 325lb ft, or 332lb ft in the automatic. Weight was down to 1,299kg (m) or 1,310kg (a), courtesy of carbon body panels and polycarb replacing the glass at the back. The 0-62 and 0-100 times were the same in both manual and auto at 3.7 secs and 8.0 secs, but the manual’s top speed was 16mph higher than the auto’s at 190mph. In fact it could be as high as 196mph as there were two versions of the 430, one with a monster rear wing and road-scraping front splitter, and the Sport, which you would think would be the one with the extreme aero but wasn’t. The non-wing Sport had 100kg of downforce and the 196mph top speed, whereas the winged car would ‘only’ do 190mph, but at that speed it was generating a huge 250kg of downforce. Compare that to 64kg in the 410 and 32kg in the 400. It was the nearest thing yet to a roadgoing GT racer.
Both 430s had all-carbon front and rear bumpers, plus new front ducts and rear outlets and repositioned front numberplates for more efficient airflow. The Ohlins/Eibach suspension was fully adjustable, and was largely the same setup as that used by Lotus engineer Gavan Kershaw in the British GT Championship. 295/30 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s on those spindly 10-spoke wheels shrouding huge ‘J-hook’ brake discs were the biggest tyres Lotus could fit to the Evora. 285/30s were standard on the Sport but could be upsized.
There was a race-developed five-stage traction control system and a baffled sump to deal with the 1.5kg cornering forces Kershaw was generating at the Hethel circuit, where it held the title of fastest production Lotus ever. Sixty examples each of the GT430 and the GT430 Sport – daringly priced at £112,500 and £104,500 respectively, compared to £82k for the 2017 Sport 410 – were slated for production in all markets bar the US, which was to receive its own limited allocation. We’re not sure how many 430s were actually built and sold, but no doubt at least one well-informed reader will know and pass on the info.
What we do know is that right now the Evora is still part of the Lotus offering. Manufacturer prices for a new GT410 now start at £85,675 and £88,675 for the Sport, technically at least, but the supply/demand curve and the car’s impending disappearance from the showrooms are already being reflected in the premiums that are being asked, with nearly new 410s being advertised at close to £90k. However, a used 400 can be yours for under £45,000. Still not cheap, but with only 700 or so Evoras on British roads this could be a classic in the making.
Talking of making, don’t go running off with the idea that it’s a Lotus so it must have awful build quality. That Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious thing is a bit old hat nowadays, don’t ye know. Having said that… well, just read on.
SPECIFICATION | LOTUS EVORA 400 (2015-on)
Engine: 3,456cc V6 24v supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual (or automatic), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500-6,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.2 secs (man)
Top speed: 186mph
MPG (official combined): 25.8
Wheels: 19in (f), 20in (r)
Tyres: 235/35 (f), 285/30 (r)
On sale: 2015 – 2019
Price new: £73,000
Price now: from £45,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
With considerably less in the way of soundproofing around it than would have been the case in the Camry, the V6 with its switchable exhaust makes a bloodcurdling din that will take you straight to the racetrack in your mind even when you’re not there in person.
The core engine is as reliable as you’d expect a Toyota unit to be but there have been odd supercharger failures on 400s. These were Edelbrock rather than Lotus-built items, but that wasn’t much of a consolation if you were one of the unlucky owners. At the end of the day you were sitting at the side of the road in a Lotus. Most of the blower dodginess seems to have affected an early batch of US cars, but at least one UK owner had the problem on a two-year old car. That one was rebuilt by Lotus, but the owner (a well-known YouTuber) wasn’t impressed by the level of support he received from either company or dealership during that process.
The gearchange quality on early Evora manuals was a bit baggy but the tightened-up cabling of the 400s and the 410 improved matters considerably, turning it into an excellent shift, although the heavy clutch meant it still wasn’t world-beating. The torque-converter six-speed IPS automatic got around that civility issue to some extent, albeit at the cost of a 54kg addition to the car’s weight. In the default D mode it was like any other auto albeit with sensors to stop it changing gear embarrassingly in the middle of a corner. Tapping the flappy paddle gave you manual mode for ten seconds. Putting it into Sport mode extended that indefinitely and inhibited change-ups even when the limiter was reached. Sport mode also sharpened up the 400’s drivetrain responses generally (with throttle blips on downchanges) and relaxed the traction and stability controls. You didn’t get a limited-slip diff on an IPS.
Some owners found that their Evora 400s would die if left undriven for more than a week or so. Using a trickle charger requires the boot lid to be open (obvs) which is fine except there’s a light in the boot and (equally obvs) that will be illuminated when the car is being charged. That shouldn't be a problem in itself but if you buy a used 400 and there doesn’t appear to be a light in the boot that could be because the previous owner took it out.
In March 2020 Lotus introduced a new servicing initiative which cut the cost of the first service on the Evora as well as the Elise and Exige by an average of 37 percent. On an Elise Sport it went down from £554 to £270, and fifty of the regular Lotus service items like filters, plugs, drive belts and fluids were reduced in price too. Their press release didn’t quote the new Evora servicing price but you should expect to pay between £400 and £650 for a major, depending on whether the spark plugs were changed or not. They’re on a 54,000-mile replacement schedule and would be around £200 a set from Lotus but could be bought for under £100 from Toyota if you were going to an independent for your servicing.
Lotus’s description of the 430 as ‘a momentum car providing effortless driving flow as speed builds’ could be applied perfectly fairly to all Evoras. In regular 400s you had Sport and Race modes as well as the normal mode but the latter will provide all the laughs you could reasonably want.
The lighter and more unyieldingly damped 410 Sport had a pretty firm ride on B roads, and the GT430 is 47 percent stiffer than the 410 at the front and 20 percent stiffer at the rear, so you should make sure you can put up with this type of setup before you take the plunge and buy one.
Standard tyres on the 400 were Michelin Pilot Super Sports, with high-tack Cup 2s on to the Sport 410. As with the Elise, lightweight suspension components don’t need a big whack for the geometry to go squiffy. Uneven tyre wear is a good potential signal for problems in that area. Lacquer peel was an issue on Evora alloys but the factory has been generally good about resolving that.
A lot of thought went into the design of the Evora to give it a good blend of everyday usability. Composite body panel materials and separate, more easily repaired front and rear sections underlined that philosophy.
Checking the panel gaps on any car is important but you can learn a lot from that kind of inspection on an Evora. This is a 400 buyer’s guide but it’s worth mentioning that door handle components weren’t that robust on earlier cars and their tailgate panels could get dented by the rubber stops as a result of over-enthusiastic shutting.
Boot lids, especially the light carbon ones but the glass ones too, don’t always respond to the boot release button on the dash. Petrol filler caps sometimes don’t want to relatch when you’ve opened them. The only bit of the front of the car that pops up is the small carbon central cover that splits the radiator exit vents next to the screen. Under that are the hydraulic and brake fluid master cylinders, pollen filler and washer filler. Having the pollen filler so accessible makes it an easy maintenance item and you’ll feel the benefit of a clean one in the efficient operation of the ventilation system. You might need that too because window motors are known to fail. Central locking systems could go wrong too but these are by no means Evora-unique problems. Aircon drain pipes could block, letting water into the cabin, but most if not all cars should have been sorted by now.
Lighter paint colours contrast especially well with the darker scalloped lower side areas to really bring out that distinctive pouncing stance, while the ‘Becker points’ (named after the late Lotus ride and handling guru Roger Becker) atop the wings are good positioning aids on the track.
In areas like infotainment the Evora 400’s sometimes temperamental Alpine double-DIN wasn’t as nicely integrated as the factory installation on a Cayman GT4, but in terms of interior finish and general ambience relative to the Elise/Exige it was considerably more civilised and could be stroked along just like a ‘normal’ car until such time as you wanted to unleash that V6 snarl. Which was most of the time.
Evora 400 leather was tough and resistant to scuffage but the fasteners for the leather under the bolsters could come adrift. The material for the airbag cover on the dashtop could bubble in warmer weather, and some owners have seen one corner of that cover lifting, which looked unsightly and was a pain to put right as big lumps of dash had to come out first. Rubbishing rear Evora seats is a popular sport but in fact they were surprisingly usable. Obviously you wouldn't be the first person on the call list for taking basketball players to a game, but child seats were definitely on the agenda.
According to legend the Evora 160-litre boot was big enough to swallow a golf bag. It was conventionally situated at the very back of the car so loading was easy. Some Evora glovebox doors have needed a hearty slam to close them. There’s a USB connection in there. There were no cupholders but drinks did fit nicely into the spacious door pockets.
Credit must go to the Evora for having parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard, unlike the GT4. However, the Evora was not entirely free of reminders of Lotus’s past reputation. That reversing camera wasn’t 100 percent reliable on early cars, and leaking window or door seals and wonkily installed switches weren’t really what you expected to find in a £70,000-plus car, but you might well find them in an Evora. Air con condensers on early Evoras could get punctured by stones, but we haven’t heard that about 400s so maybe Lotus fitted the mesh protectors that some owners put on for their own peace of mind.
The Evora had a lot going for it. As a left-field alternative to big-name exotica it was a great introduction to the Lotus brand and indeed to the Lotus community, where you would find loads of excellent people. It had more power and less weight to shift than a similarly priced basic Porsche 911 and was a lot scarcer on the roads. You didn't need to tick many equipment option boxes on an Evora either. It was well specced from the start. You could hop straight into it and have a fabulous drive to Cannes. It was a lithe, athletic car that also sounded amazing.
Many took the view that the straight 400 was at least as good to drive as the Cayman GT4. If you wanted Lotus’s equivalent of the 911 GT3 RS, the GT430 was that car, but there are fewer than 25 of those in UK ownership and they very rarely come up for sale. The GT410 Sport is a neat halfway house. It provided (and will still provide as new, for the time being anyway) most of the 430’s thrills. A typical finance deal on a 410 with £15k up front would cost you maybe £900 a month.
What Evora 400s are available to buy on PH Classifieds, then? A healthy selection, is the answer. The most affordable one is this 31,000 mile 2016 auto in silver with red leather at £44,950. At the other end of the scale here’s a delivery mileage 2020 GT410 Sport in silver with black Alcantara at £80,995, to include a cupholder would you believe.
Lotus put out quite a few special editions of the Evora, so the ones that are out there are not crazily expensive and you’ll have something to chat about if you’re asked. This is one of the Hethel Editions that are on PH at the moment. Released in 2016 at £75,500 a pop (a £2,500 premium on regular models) to celebrate 50 years of operations at the Norfolk plant they were cosmetic upgrades with forged aluminium alloys and contrasting brake calipers. The private owner of this one reckons it’s the only one in Essex Blue and it looks a picture with the red leather. You don't get the nice reg plate but the sub-£50k price price is attractive for a 15,000 mile car. They were £75,500 new.
Special editions aren't the same as limited editions. If you fancy one of the twenty GTEs we mentioned at the start, here’s car no 14. It’s the only Metallic White one they made (the other three white ones were in Aspen White). With 6,000 miles covered it’s £87,500. For something even more limited how about this ‘Stratton GT No 2’, one of five cars built from the overs of the GTE programme but featuring a heavily reworked 438hp manual drivetrain. Top money for a 2017 left-hooker at £84,950 but it’s effectively a new car with only 100 miles covered.
Search for a used Lotus Evora here
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