Driven: 2012 M/Y Lotus Evora

Anyone else remember 'doors that close with a satisfying thunk'? They came from the same lexicon of motoring clichés as 'controls that fall readily to hand', a tome that helped to feed many a freelance motoring hack paid by the word in the 1980s, and possibly well before.

I'd love to know who coined the phrases, but they were fresh and original a long time ago. So I'd also like to know which dentist's waiting room in Norfolk still has an ancient copy of What Car? buried amongst the yellowing Woman's Weeklies and Readers Digests on the coffee table - and who from Hethel has just been to have their tartar scraped.

Yes, news sometimes travels slowly through the fens, which is why I find myself writing about a 2012 model-year Lotus Evora distinguished - in part at least - by doors modified to 'close with a satisfying thunk'. It's also distinguished by a much improved gearshift action, significantly upgraded interior trim, and (wait for it...) some properly sporty engine noise. Amongst all that good news, it would seem churlish to point out that some of the minor controls still don't 'fall readily to hand', but give it time!

Yes, Lotus has listened to those customers, dealers and reviewers who've lined up since launch day to say "it's brilliant, but..." about the Evora. Sadly, received wisdom about a car that might have sold like hot cakes is that it handles and rides exactly like a Lotus should, but the interior looks crappy for a £50k+ motor, the gearchange is horrid, and the engine sounds like... well, why can't you hear the engine?

They've not only listened, they've acted. And the result is (I think) an entirely credible package of upgrades that bring the Evora much more closely into line with competitors it aspires to rival. (You know, the ones who've had whole departments working on door 'thunk' since 1975.)

It's the new door action you'll appreciate first, unless you're very good. In which case you might spot the new seamless (and much tidier) door-seals through the window glass on your approach. Open the door, and the new weightier, 'quality' sound and feel is immediately obvious, achieved by renewing the entire 1960s-style latch mechanism with an up-to-date system.

Then the interior trim upgrades will hit you. That horrible plastic interior door-handle has not been binned, but it has been trimmed with attractive foam-backed leather, and suddenly it's both good to look at and nice to touch. In fact, all the leather trimmed parts have been worked over - starting with higher grade and more expensive cows, and ending with much finer detailing for stitching and the like. Coupled with a new range of leather colours and textures, the result is to give the Evora cabin the 'bespoke' feel it always deserved.

OK, it's not yet up to the standard of Porsche or Mercedes ergonomically, and some of the details still grate. But the key difference is that those details are now relatively minor ones - the electric window switches and interior door releases could be nice aluminium instead of cheap plastic, for instance - but the Lotus guys promise they'll get around to those too in due course. Meanwhile, they've swapped in a new steering wheel that's anatomically designed to move your hands from ten-to-two to a 'racier' quarter-to-three, and changed the gear knob from an aluminium barrel to something that looks 'designed'.

From a driving perspective, one of the big news items is that the gearshift action has been significantly improved with lower friction cables and some other tweaks - including a lightened flywheel that reduces inertia and helps swift shifting. As a result the change is suddenly more positive, smoother and 'mechanical'. It still requires a firm hand, but finding the right slot is a lot easier and faster - and if a ten minute 'back-to-back' drive with the old car is enough to draw conclusions from, entirely more rewarding.

The Norfolk roads were the slipperiest they've been since Noah and the Flood when I went for the briefest of spins in the 2012 Evora IPS auto and S, alongside a 2011 S earlier this week. But while the drive was a little on the tentative side, the new car still felt rewardingly sporty in ways the old one didn't - and a new exhaust set-up gets the credit for that.

There's some new pipework, and the 'noise' butterfly valve now opens from 1500rpm in Sport mode. The result is a pleasing growl that develops into a proper howl at high revs - it really adds character and colour to the Evora experience, although I reckon the car is still only 70 percent as noisy as it should be. (When I mentioned this to our hosts, I got one of those winks that implies 'watch this space'...)

All in all, it's a great start to an evolution programme that now looks like being carried on until at least 2014 as part of a strategy that - with the help of new model derivatives like the GTE and others in the pipeline - should help bridge the gap until that famous 'Lotus 5 year plan' is fulfilled.

And at the very least, the 2012 changes definitely make the Evora worth another look, especially as although the modifications have added something like 3 percent to the Bill of Materials, Lotus has very decently decided to 'split the difference'. So expect to pay an average of 1.5 percent on top of 2011 model-year prices, if you're newly tempted.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (122) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Richair 08 Sep 2011

    So could it actually be that the 'new' lotus isn't just all theatricals and they are serious...

    It looks promicing from where I'm sitting, but I hope they don't lose focus with the Elise.

  • Oddball RS 08 Sep 2011

    Looks better, i thought there were to be some styling changes to the outside as well?

  • TheOrangePeril 08 Sep 2011

    Interior finally seems to befit the rest of the car (and critically, its price tag) - good to see Lotus! Still unsure about your rapping friend but at least the cars are being updated more sensibly towards the company's aspirations.

  • Bill Carr 08 Sep 2011

    I like that.

  • GroundEffect 08 Sep 2011

    Would love an Evora. Maybe in a couple of years.

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