When the Lotus electric era arrives, the story up to that point will be a long and fascinating one. And while swathes of its history will be focused on Elises, Elans and Exiges, spare a thought for the Evora as well - it's going to need a chunky chapter all to itself.
It's been more than a decade now, after all. There was the British motor show debut in 2008, a 280hp original in 2+2 or 2+0 spec in 2009, the supercharged S, the introduction of the IPS automatic, the Sport Racer cars, the move to a 400hp V6, the Sport models, the Cup models, the GTE project... and now this, the Lotus Evora GT410. Not to be confused with the GT410 Sport, the only other new Evora currently available. Which we did, and requested at the Lotus drive event. Which meant lots of waiting for the new car. Insert eye-rolling emoji here. Still, nothing like a direct comparison for a thorough evaluation...
As a reminder, the GT410 is essentially the Evora GT that's sold in the USA. Slightly softer in approach and set up, it was tried by CEO Phil Popham over here - and enjoyed very much. So, as tends to happen when the man in charge likes it, it was decided to sell the car in the UK as a more accommodating alternative to the Sport. It'll costs buyers £82,900, or £3,000 less than the Sport, and is on sale now - there's one just like the test car available at Lotus Silverstone, in fact.
Now, in case the name and the look and the remit didn't make it clear, this GT410 is very much a mild update to the Evora range and not a more transformative overhaul. That should come in time, though for now much is as it was when Barack Obama was embarking on the first year of his presidency. And it would be remiss of us not to mention the downsides, because an Evora is not a cheap sports car. Quite frankly, a 992 interior makes this Lotus look like it was launched in 1988 and not 2008; the Alpine head unit wouldn't look great in a 17-year-old's Corsa; and even with US-spec accoutrements, it feels pretty spartan.
But, good grief, the positives still provide a formidable counterpoint to the dated bits, perhaps more so than ever in this new GT410 specification. By combining the road focus that characterised the early Evoras with the power and performance which has been delivered in recent years, Lotus might have stumbled upon a classic. Because it's superb.
It's easy to forget nowadays, but back in the late 2000s the naturally aspirated Evora was competing with the 987 Porsche Cayman as an equal. As such, today it feels small, nimble and compact on the road in a way that very few sports cars do. The width is manageable, the car is easily placed (assisted by the view of both front wings) and there's space to exploit on a road that some contemporary rivals have to do without. There's no thumping over cats eyes on one side and brushing hedgerows the other here...
Moreover, we've probably become a little blasé about the Evora's ability, because it has endured for so long. But lasting brilliance is a telling commodity - and the car has it in spades. The GT410 Sport - introduced in 2018 to combine some of the GT430's intent with the usability of a regular Sport 410 - is everything most modern sports cars aren't: vivid, engaging, exciting and joyous fun. At realistic speeds, too, because the rotten weather wouldn't permit much more; feel and feedback exist in abundance to detail exactly how the car is behaving (complemented by great traction), with expertly judged assists should you take any liberties. The steering is so richly detailed that it makes the best EPAS feel like driving with two pairs of marigolds on. And the howl of that V6 really knows no equal - it's an absorbing experience.
But here's the rub: the 'standard' GT410 might be more enjoyable again. Conditions favoured it, of course; on a dry track with its Cup 2 Michelins, the Sport would probably prove the more exhilarating drive. But with the heavens opened a lot wider than any throttle was on the Fosse Way, having a slightly softer remit and more accommodating Pilot Sport 4S tyres worked a treat. Traction was further improved, the balance nudged a little further in favour of understeer and responses perhaps a tad less immediate; the GT410 feels like a Lotus for the road, the first in a long time in fact - and none the worse for it.
The ride, notably, must be experienced to be believed. In a world obsessed with suspending cars adaptively, on air chambers or with diagonally linked dampers, it's heartening to know that such a sweetly struck compromise can be reached with conventional hardware. Because while the GT410 is noticeably more supple than the Sport, less easily deflected or disturbed, it appears to lose precious little in terms of outright control. Again, the differences would surely become more stark on track - but then again it would be bizarre to buy an Evora as a regular track Lotus when the Exige is also available. For something to enjoy Britain's roads with, one that ebbs and flows with every surface, as well as take on the odd track day, the GT410 is hard to find fault with.
Little things help, too. There's an armrest that doesn't feature in the Sport, which makes the world of difference (no, really) when not at maximum attack. The seats are less punishing, too, making the prospect of serious miles something to relish. In case the drive hadn't done enough convincing already.
A note should go to the powertrain in this missive, too. Because while the supercharged Toyota V6 is now far from the last word in efficiency or modernity (was it ever?) it remains an enthralling accompaniment to the dynamic masterclass. While there's some inertia to the way it accrues and loses revs that's probably now surpassed by the best downsized turbos, the response of a supercharged engine remains unmatched, and feeling the power build and build to 7,000rpm is a real treat against so many engines that dump their best effort in your lap at 2,000rpm. That noise as the valves open at 4,500rpm is addictive, too: guttural, authentic, raw and thrilling. If only the ratios were a tad shorter to make the most of it - get the V6 howling in third gear and the Evora is already at 70mph...
You hesitate to be overly evangelical about a Lotus in 2020, with the firm's future ethos very much in the balance - but if the role of a sports car is to raise a smile, to make every journey as entertaining as it can be and to feel as immersive on road as it will on track, then the GT410 has emphatically nailed the brief. So much so, in fact, that even an occasionally snaggy gearshift, a brake pedal that isn't the firmest and displays from a Casio watch can't spoil it. It's sports car wizardry: precise yet progressive, responsive but still relaxing, accommodating of many and still rewarding for those who seek it out. There's nothing else like it.
So the dexterity of a great Lotus sports car hasn't changed; if anything, the GT410 is the best exponent of the Evora virtues for a long time. But the fact remains (you knew this bit was coming) that the market for £80k+ sports cars is extremely competitive, and its prospective buyers very demanding. They want excellence across the board, not just in one or two key areas. And, if they are going to sacrifice, it's probably going to be on the finer points of driver satisfaction that lose out to interior ambience, badge appeal or on-demand performance.
Which is a pity, because the Lotus way of doing sports car feels more relevant than ever in a world saturated with synthetic, contrived performance cars. But the very best on offer at this money or a bit less - think Cayman GTS and GT4, Alpine A110 S, BMW M2 CS and so on - are more broadly talented packages, whatever their deficiencies against the Lotus in the minutiae of driver feedback. If superlative ride and handling is number one priority, then we commend you, because that's laudable - and an Evora is still - still - the class of the field. And you'll love it. But there are more complete sports cars out there, which makes the GT410's task tricky given that it's supposed to be a more complete iteration of Evora.
There's cause for considerable optimism, though; there are clearly some very talented engineers that work at Lotus, a fact proven unequivocally by a car that has been hastily tweaked rather than comprehensively overhauled. Imagine what they will be capable of when every waking minute of their expertise has been dedicated to new, Geely-funded platform, one fit for the 21st century and with no qualitative short cuts taken. There won't be any stopping Lotus. Will there?
SPECIFICATION | LOTUS EVORA GT410
Engine: 3,456cc supercharged V6
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 416@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@3,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 186mph
Weight: 1,361kg (unladen)
MPG: 26.7 (WLTP)
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