JAMES MARTIN: Lotus Evora a blast on a twisty road

Time of article published May 26, 2010

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That's it. The final straw. I stopped thinking of myself as young a while ago but, after shouting at a group of teenagers on the radio, I now realise I'm officially in the Grumpy Old Man demographic.

I think most of you would have done the same though, because it was N-Dubz - three of the most annoying kids I've ever heard. Have you come across this lot?

The front man is a nasty piece of work called Dappy who's been caught spitting in a girl's face, taking 'meow-meow' and sending a girl death threats by text. As I listened, this charming man took over the airwaves to explain how tough his upbringing had been, in a language that might be understandable to some but not to me.

He said: "We from da maddest, for-realest place It's da toughest hood evvah in da world."

As I couldn't place his accent, I was thinking, where's that then? Detroit? Durban? Bogota? Nope. Apparently they think Camden - home of upmarket pubs, canal boats and Georgian townhouses - is the roughest neighbourhood on Earth.

It gave me an idea for a TV show. How about N-Dubz Tour Da Earf, where north London's toughest rappers get airlifted to Sierra Leone for a quick education, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia? I'm sure they'll be able to handle it after negotiating the landmines and AK-47's of Mornington Crescent all their lives.

As you can see, I'm not in touch with the kids of today. But I didn't actually think I was old - until I tried to get behind the wheel of this car.

Now, I love Lotuses, but there's never been one that's easy to get in and out of, not since the Esprit. They're designed for speed and handling and you have to adapt yourself to that. But I thought this one might be different.

It's based on a bigger, more modern platform for a new generation of Lotuses - this is the first, and a reborn Esprit is set to follow. When it was launched in 2009 the Evora was a four-seater but they've replaced the tiny rear seats with a luggage shelf so it should be my ideal car.

In a lot of ways, it is. Take the shape. Since Colin Chapman first put pen to paper Lotuses have looked good and the Evora is no exception. From the rear it's little different from the Elise but the front three-quarter view is in a different league, to my eyes very similar to the forthcoming Ferrari 458 Italia.

That's a brilliant start because it makes the Evora stand out from the Porsche Cayman S and BMW M3, its R800 000 competitors.


Detail has always let the Lotus boys down, though, and sadly the Evora follows suit. The ignition key looks like it's from a Chery. Glancing in through the window it looked impressively upmarket but, once I'd eased myself into the low driver's seat I looked around and sighed with disappointment.

Yes, it's better than the Elise, but the uneven stitching, folds and creases on the leather seats really shouldn't be there on a car of this price. The Germans are absolutely faultless at this stuff.

But with a Lotus it's all about what you can't see.

"First, add lightness," was Chapman's brilliant catchphrase - and on the road in the Evora you truly see what that means. To use an athletics comparison (which is not like me at all), this is like running in shorts instead of running in a duffel coat.

The new chassis is at least twice as stiff as the one on the Elise and may well be the best on the market. The suspension and steering are masterpieces, soaking up potholes but transmitting the exact feel of the road to your fingertips and thighs.


The engine and transmission may be out of a Toyota, but Lotus's men in brown coats have given them a completely unique throttle response, gear change and engine note.

This is a brilliant car on twisting country roads, with huge grip from the back tyres, zero body roll and such sensitive steering and acceleration that it's almost a shame to drive it in a straight line on a freeway. I had to, though, and it was on the two-hour round trip to London that I started to feel old.

For a start, I noticed how nice and quiet it was in the cabin (aged 20 I wouldn't have cared) and how economical it was - 9.5 litres/100km isn't bad for a car that wants to be pushed. But more importantly, my backside started to go numb.

Now, that means I was reacting to every wrinkle in the road. But what that says to me is this. The Evora is big and posh, yet it's still a precision tool best used for joyrides and quick blasts - a classic Lotus, in other words. And if that's what I want, I can get an Elise for R500 000.

So as I pulled into my drive, still grinning from the last 10km of twisty stuff, I was thinking two things at once: "I really, really love this car," and, "Who out there is going to buy one?"

Read more James Martin stories.

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