The first all-new Lotus since the iconic Lotus Elise made its debut in 1995, Lotus Evora enters the sports car market as currently the world's only mid-engined 2+2. Powered by a Lotus-tuned 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 280 PS, and weighing just 1350 kg, the Lotus Evora promises breathtaking performance. During preliminary testing around the famous Nürburgring, the Lotus chassis engineers report that it is extremely agile and great fun to drive - even when clad with the full development disguise that hid the beautiful lines from the prying motor-industry paparazzi.
In addition to its excellent performance and exemplary handling, the Lotus Evora offers a more refined ownership experience than Lotus's existing smaller four-cylinder models. Its elegantly styled cabin is elegantly trimmed and its equipment list includes contemporary features such as an advanced touch-screen multi-media system and electric power-fold door mirrors.
Because one of the roles of the Lotus Evora is to attract new customers to the Lotus brand, much attention has been paid to its ease of use. Wider, taller door apertures and narrower sills make getting in and out of the cabin a less athletic undertaking than it is in Lotus's smaller sports cars (the Elise, Exige, Europa and 2-Eleven), while the design of the cabin itself will accommodate two 99th percentile (6ft 5in tall) American males in the front seats.
The 'convenience factor' of the Lotus Evora extends to less obvious areas of the car. For instance, beneath the skin the entire front-end structure is a high tech aluminium sacrificial modular unit, attached to the main extruded aluminium tub. This modular unit is designed to deform for maximum safety, and to reduce repair costs in the event of a frontal impact.
The Lotus Evora has been designed with global automotive regulations in mind, and future derivatives are planed, these including amongst others, a convertible.
The Lotus Evora will be hand crafted and built on a dedicated new assembly line within Lotus's advanced manufacturing facility at Hethel in the east of England; capacity limitations will restrict production to approximately 2000 cars a year, ensuring the dynamic new sports car's rarity and exclusivity.
THE LOTUS EVORA IN DETAIL
Style or function? Have both... Designed 'in-house' by Lotus Design, the sleek and athletic form uses fluid forms and crisp surfaces to communicate velocity, agility and sophistication. Low and wide with modern cab forward proportions, muscular rear haunches and function optimised hip air intakes this is clearly a serious mid engined sportscar that skilfully hides the practicality of its two plus two capability.
Ingress and egress, for example, dictated a minimal "step-over" to get into the Lotus Evora. We simply cut away the surface under the door and created a unique and dramatic piece of sculpture that enhances the stance of the car as well as its useability.
Elsewhere, aerodynamic considerations for drag, down force and cooling had significant but positive influence on the overall form and details such as air intakes. A desire to create balanced down force, that increases cornering performance, led to the adoption of, the now, "signature" top exit radiator vent, race car inspired diffuser and "floating rear wing". Drag limitation, drove the dramatic tear-dropped cabin layout and the curvaceous plan view has given the car a more muscular rear shoulder and conveys a level of sophistication appropriate to this market segment.
This inherent understanding of the relationship between the technical and the aesthetic paid dividends the first time a full-scale model of the Lotus Evora was wind-tunnel tested - only minimal adjustments were required to the car's aerodynamic package to meet the targets for downforce and stability.
The view from the rear three-quarters is just as striking and the one that many will become familiar with as the car passes them on the road. The tapered cabin, diffuser, floating wing, centrally mounted twin tailpipes and distinctive engine bay vents all combine to create a completely unique look.
Moving right inside... The design language of the interior reflects that of the exterior - simple, fluid surfaces, soft forms and crisp feature lines wrap around the cabin cosseting the occupants. Unlike recent Lotus products that use a race car inspired, technical minimalism, the Lotus Evora employs a softer approach that utilises premium quality materials and finishes to create a contemporary but luxurious ambience that is unique to Lotus products.
Focused courtesy lighting is used throughout the interior, giving a spectacular illuminated feel to the sculpture design feature of the cabin.
The extensive use of handcrafted, premium leather differentiates The Lotus Evora from other Lotus products and such is its importance to the character of the car that an entire new trim shop has been built at the Lotus Headquarters in the UK, dedicated to its production.
Even the entry level versions of the Lotus Evora will feature leather-upholstered seats, upper door trim panels and facia, but it is expected that most customers will opt for the full hide treatment. With a range of leather colours available, customers will have the opportunity to personalise their Lotus Evora.
Contemporary technology also features in the Lotus Evora's cabin. A newly developed Alpine multi-media system with a 7 inch touch-screen provides advanced audio, satellite navigation, video, Bluetooth® hands-free telephone and iPod® connectivity functions; the screen also serves as a monitor for the Lotus Evora's optional reversing camera. The satellite navigation element of the system is removable, allowing you to programme it from the comfort of your home, or take it with you to continue your journey in an unfamiliar pedestrian location.
The Alpine audio set-up is one of the most sophisticated automotive systems in the world. Called IMPRINT and using MultEQ sound enhancement technology, it is able to cancel out sound imbalances, caused by the cabin window glass, for instance, creating echoes, while carpets suppress mid-range frequencies - resulting in amazingly crisp, clear, undistorted sound reproduction wherever you are seated in the car.
A bespoke air-conditioning system developed by Bergstrom is standard on all models, and has been designed for the hottest climate or the closest humidity to help provide maximum occupant comfort. Lotus traction control and on-board tyre pressure monitoring will also be available.
One size fits all
The front seats themselves are very supportive and leather clad with a lightweight manual adjustment mechanism for fore and aft, rake and lumbar, designed to give a supported driving position.
The rear seats of 2+2 versions of the Lotus Evora are intended for children and smaller adults. There will also be a two-seater derivative with a luggage shelf in the back. To maximise comfort in the rear, there's a decent amount of foot-room under the seats in front, while both back seats feature ISOFIX mountings for secure child seat fitment.
When unoccupied, the rear seats provide a convenient stowage area, adding to the Lotus Evora's appeal as an everyday car. The 160 litre boot, which ingeniously features a fresh air cooling system to reduce the effect of any heat ingress from the engine bay, will also accommodate a full set of golf clubs.
Easy in, easy out
With the Elise and its derivatives, the no-compromise character of the car makes getting in and out across a wide sill and through a comparatively narrow door/window aperture part of the charm of ownership. For the Lotus Evora and its remit for the serious daily driver, and to attract newcomers to the Lotus brand, greater convenience and practicality is provided.
As a consequence the sill is now lower and slimmer (80mm wide compared with 100mm in the Elise), and the whole door aperture taller. The doors open wider than on the Elise and its siblings, while the height of the front seat is raised by 65mm.
But while the Lotus Evora is undeniably more 'lifestyle' in respect of its everyday practicality, once you're seated behind its flat-bottomed steering wheel, it feels every bit as exotic and sporting as you would expect a Lotus to be.
Safely does it
In common with the Elise and its derivatives, The Lotus Evora's bonded extruded aluminium chassis tub has incredible inherent strength, particularly in regard to side impacts. Additional torsional strength is given to the whole structure by the tubular steel seatbelt anchorage frame that also acts as a rollover structure.
Deformable sacrificial aluminium front and steel rear subframe modules are attached to the tub using joints which are designed to minimise damage to the tub, protecting the main passenger cell in the event of an accident.
Driver and passenger airbags are standard. The airbag on the passenger side is cleverly engineered to deploy vertically and then be deflected rearwards by the windscreen, to provide protection for children as well as adults.
Anti-lock brakes are standard on all models, as is Lotus Traction Control (LTC); these systems have been specially developed in co-operation with Bosch and enable up and coming drivers to consistently exploit the braking and acceleration capabilities of the Lotus Evora, whilst allowing skilled enthusiasts the freedom to enjoy the full Lotus driving experience.
The chassis: Production Low Volume Versatile Vehicle Architecture
The Lotus Evora's chassis is an evolution of the Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) from the Lotus APX concept vehicle previously showcased at the Geneva Motorshow, and allows for the development of a range of vehicles up to a gross vehicle weight of 1,900 kg. This architecture has been designed to be more applicable to mid-volume applications by utilising our low capital investment manufacturing processes. The Lotus Evora structure progresses the Lotus 'bonded and riveted' technology used in the Elise family of vehicles with unique extrusions and folded panels, whilst providing contemporary ease of ingress/egress, build modularity and improved, lower cost repairs.
The Low Volume VVA architecture has been designed so that it can be extended in width, length and height. The strength and stiffness of the low volume VVA chassis can be modified cost effectively by varying the wall thickness of the extrusions, without altering the exterior dimensions. The ability to lengthen or shorten extrusions with the option to tailor the chassis stiffness, vastly increases the number of vehicles that can be developed from this vehicle architecture. Front and mid engine installations have been considered, as well as hybrid and Electric Vehicle (EV) applications.
The Lotus Evora employs a composite roof as a stressed structural member to give an exceptional vehicle stiffness of 26,000 Nm per degree, thanks in part to the seatbelt anchorage frame's secondary function as a roll over structure, and partly because the high-tech composite body panels are stressed items. However, despite this high stiffness, the complete chassis and modules weight just 200 kg (prototype weight), helping to keep the weight of the whole car to just 1350 kg (prototype weight).
To deliver this high performance structure, bonded and riveted high grade aluminium extrusions and simple and elegant folded sheet elements are used in the lower structure, building upon award winning research projects in this field. Lotus pioneered the technology of bonded aluminium extrusions for use in road vehicles and has successfully developed high performance cars for other car companies around the world.
The central tub is attached to an extruded aluminium subframe at the front and a lightweight welded steel subframe at the rear. These subframe modules also offer advantages in terms of convenience and low cost of repair, and during manufacturing can be brought to the production line fully assembled, ready to be attached.
The high technology Lotus Evora chassis will be manufactured at the new Lotus Lightweight Structures facility in Worcester, UK. LLS employs 120 skilled engineers, technicians and sales staff and will manufacture all the Lotus aluminium structures, including those for the Elise, Exige, 2-Eleven and Europa and aluminium and composite structures and components for Lotus's extensive global client base.
Suspended & animated
The Lotus Evora suspension wishbones are forged from aluminium to reduce the unsprung mass. These are similar in weight, and stiffer than the steel items found on the much smaller Elise, Exige and Europa vehicles, and have a far higher vehicle weight capacity. They are attached to the front and rear modules via bespoke bushes. The Lotus Evora will use Bilstein high performance dampers and Eibach springs with unique dual path top mounts for optimised vehicle refinement. Hydraulically assisted power steering is provided by a Lotus tuned TRW steering rack.
All in all, the Lotus Evora delivers. It has incredible Lotus handling and provides unsurpassable driving pleasure. In fact, word from the ride and handling team is that the new car is likely to become a class standard-setter for speed and agility.
Stop right now... Vented and cross-drilled brake discs - massive 350mm items on the front and 332mm at the rear - and high performance bespoke Lotus AP Racing 4 pot callipers ensure impressive stopping power.
Everyone connected with the brake testing programme, conducted on the punishing corners, climbs and descents of the Nürburgring, has described the brakes as 'phenomenal' with excellent thermal performance and outstanding feel even after extended sessions of extreme use.
Part of that testing programme was to finalise settings for the ABS system being developed in conjunction with Bosch. The system is set to very high thresholds and operates so progressively that drivers are often unaware that they have actually triggered the ABS.
Safe. Fun. Lotus Traction Control
The Switchable Lotus Traction Control (LTC) system has been developed simultaneously with the ABS and works through the engine management system to reduce power when required to maintain traction. Unlike many traction control systems, LTC has been tuned to complement the skills of the driver without taking over. The Lotus LTC is active above 5 mph (8 km/h) and operates much more quickly than many brake based systems. The system can be deactivated completely, giving no traction control intervention.
Keeping a grip - 18 inch at the front, 19 inch at the rear
Tyre choice is a vital component in the handling performance of every Lotus and for the Lotus Evora, Yokohama was chosen as development partner.
Lotus's long-term relationship with Yokohama was swiftly rewarded during development when initially the front tyre size did not generate the Lotus required lateral grip, the Japanese grip gurus went away and developed bespoke tyres especially for the Lotus Evora - a 225/40 ZR18 at the front and larger diameter; 255/35 ZR19 at the rear. Both have carcass construction and a rubber compound unique to Lotus and are identified by the letters 'LTS' on the sidewalls.
The V6 Engine - dual VVT-i ('intelligent' variable valve timing)
The exceptional working relationship that Lotus has enjoyed with Toyota over several decades, combined with the overwhelmingly enthusiastic reception for the company's four-cylinder power units in the Elise and Exige, guaranteed the Japanese giant's inclusion on the shortlist for the Lotus Evora engine supplier.
The final choice was Toyota's all-alloy 2GR-FE 3.5-litre V6 DOHC, with dual VVT-i ('intelligent' variable valve timing). Lotus has painstakingly developed its own T6e engine management software for this engine to optimise its compatibility with the unique requirements of the Lotus Evora to give a peak power output to 280 PS at 6400 rpm, while boosting its maximum torque to 342 Nm at 4700 rpm (prototype figures).
Changes to the engine management and exhaust systems also allow the V6 to rev more freely and provide rapid throttle response; feedback from the development team suggests that the strength of the engine's mid-range torque means that gutsy performance will be easily accessible without having to thunder through to the redline. This makes the Lotus Evora a thoroughly satisfying car for everyday road use and a rewarding one when you just want to drive.
The 2GR-FE V6 engine is mated to a manual six-speed gearbox, again Toyota-sourced. A close-ratio version of this gearbox is also currently under development for the even more sport-focussed driver.
Many Lotus owners enjoy the blend of unique performance and efficiency that the brand's cars offer. True to the Lotus value of "performance through light weight" CO2 emissions are expected to be a class leading sub-225 g/km (prototype figures) while testers report fuel consumption in the region of 30+ mpg (pending formal homologation testing).
What'll she do?
At the time of its unveiling, full performance figures have yet to be compiled on a production specification Lotus Evora, Lotus has another 6 months development to conduct.
While for Lotus top speed is of less importance than stability at speed, early indications suggest a maximum speed of 160 mph; the 0-60 mph sprint from standstill is estimated at sub 5 seconds (prototype figures).
Test. Test. Then test some more
It's a global car, so the Lotus Evora has been tested around the world. From the icy wastes of the arctic to the heat of the desert, the high altitude of the Alps as well as the country roads around the Hethel factory.
It has spent hours howling around the Nürburgring and endlessly lapped Lotus's test track at Hethel. By the time the Lotus Evora enters production, prototypes will have travelled for hundreds of thousands of miles along some of the worst public roads in the world and been tortured for as many miles on some of the toughest proving grounds the motor industry has to offer including extreme pave tests, to Australia and even the Arizona outback.
It has been flung into barriers at low and high speeds, at a multitude of angles, including head-on; it has even had its roof compressed!
By the time the Lotus Evora reaches the Lotus showrooms from Spring 2009 onwards, it will be the most thoroughly tested Lotus car in the history of Lotus. It will also be one of the company's great milestones.
Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive of Group Lotus plc sums up, "This year Lotus celebrates its 60th anniversary and it is fitting that 2008 is also the birth of the Lotus Evora, a fantastic addition to the Lotus range. The Lotus Evora represents Group Lotus, a company that is at the forefront of the automotive industry, in a changing world where priorities of efficiency, economy and environmental impact go hand in hand with performance, design and individuality. I think Colin Chapman would have approved."