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2010 Lotus Evora: More room, plenty of fun

Knees splayed, head cocked and elbows tucked in tight, we wouldn’t call the seats particularly spacious, but the fact that we fit at all was impressive. They would certainly work in a pinch. We’re talking Lotus seats, after all--the rear ones.

The 2010 Evora moves the brand into long-abandoned territory, throwing in a two-plus-two ride where tiny sports cars have held sole reign for years. A bigger reason to celebrate is that the Evora maintains most of the go-kart thrill championed by its dedicated sports-car stablemates.

Significantly larger than an Elise, the Evora has a wheelbase nearly 11 inches longer, with almost two feet more of overall length. The stiffness of the chassis, made up of a central aluminum tub to which the front and rear subframes attach, surpasses that of the two-place Elise and Exige models. (In a collision, the subframes act as sort of sacrificial elements, absorbing almost all impact forces while ensuring that the passenger compartment remains unscathed.)

On the road, you quickly appreciate that stiffness, the Evora feeling ever planted as the car hustles from corner to corner, hunkering down even as you push it harder. But the extra-rigid chassis also means that the suspension--forged wishbones and Bilstein dampers all around--could be tuned to deliver as much performance as the Elise offers, with a whole lot more compliance. In other words, the Evora’s ride is never harsh; even over broken pavement, it never crashes or just plain hurts, as can happen in the smaller Lotus. The chassis feels perfectly balanced, too; the mid-engine layout gives the car that wonderful pivot-at-will character.

The steering, unlike in the Elise, is hydraulically assisted but feels almost as direct as the Elise’s. The wheels deliver the same tactile data to the hands, the small, flat-bottomed steering wheel alive with information.

For power, Lotus tapped its long-standing relationship with Toyota, using the familiar 3.5-liter V6 found in a host of Toyota products. Tweaks by Lotus include bolting on a unique exhaust system, which helps bump output (compared with a Camry) to 276 hp at 6,400 rpm, with 252 lb-ft of torque on tap at 4,700 rpm.

But if you think the Evora recalls the Camry at all, rest assured. When you roll on the throttle, the power jumps at you, moving the 2,976-pound Lotus down the road with an authority nothing in Toyota’s lineup can claim. It’s not overwhelming power, but with a six-speed manual--which doesn’t exist in Toyota’s lineup--getting to and wielding that power is effortless. Shifts click off with ease, while the ratios allow for rowing through the gears as you please or simply leaving it in third or fourth and letting the torque pull you along. If anyone cares, Lotus says an optional paddle-shifting six-speed automatic will join the lineup in 2011.

And while the Elise sticks with a pure sports-car formula, the Evora positions itself more in the luxury ranks, with an interior swathed in hand-stitched leather and featuring brushed-aluminum trim and controls. There’s even a touch-screen navigation system mounted in the center of the dash, plus a backup camera and premium audio with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity. For convenience’s sake, the Evora also sports cupholders, an actual glovebox and usable trunk space of 5.7 cubic feet.

Lotus plans to produce just 2,000 Evoras a year, with sales in the States beginning in January 2010. And while U.S. pricing has yet to be set, we expect stickers to start at about $75,000.

2010 Lotus Evora

ON SALE: January 2010

BASE PRICE: $75,000 (est)

DRIVETRAIN: 3.5-liter, 276-hp, 252-lb-ft V6; RWD, six-speed manual

CURB WEIGHT: 2,976 lb

0-60 MPH: 5.0 sec (est)

FUEL ECONOMY: 25 mpg (est)

2010 Lotus Evora: More room, plenty of fun: AutoWeek Magazine
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