First drive review: 2021 Lotus Evora GT offers a refreshingly unfiltered motoring experience
So much of what we experience these days is filtered. From social media feeds, to advertisements, to our streaming video accounts, everything runs through some sort of algorithm before making it to our eyes and ears.
The same is true of modern sports cars, which combine equal parts computer and machine. Steering inputs get sorted through electric-assist power-steering systems in most cases and translated by a computer, which also filters out feedback going in the opposite direction. Adaptive suspensions adjust in milliseconds to fight against physics so cars stay flat and balanced when they should be off kilter. Speakers pipe in fake engine noise, traction control systems prevent wheelspin, and stability control keeps cars on their intended paths despite drivers’ foolish intentions. Those advancements have made cars faster and easier to drive than ever before, but something visceral has been lost in the transition.
That’s what makes the 2021 Lotus Evora GT so refreshing. Almost of those layers have been stripped away (traction control and stability control are mandatory safety features) and what’s left is an unmatched feeling of directness. Every input has an immediate effect and that exposes you as a driver for all of your faults and foibles.
It starts with absolutely sublime steering, the best part of the Evora GT. The system is old-fashioned hydraulic and even with the big strides electric steering systems have made over the past decade, they still can’t match a finely tuned hydraulic system that connects the driver to the wheels more directly.
Flick the steering wheel even a hair in one direction and the car responds instantly, it’s a very tight steering rack that doesn’t take a lot of input to get the Evora GT flicked over into another lane or to point the nose hard into a corner. And it does this without feeling overly darty on the highway and requiring constant course corrections. The weight of the wheel also hits the sweet spot: not too hard to drive at low speeds, but heavy enough to remain stable at higher speeds.
A standard set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that come standard, with offset 19-inch wheels up front and 20-inch wheels at the rear aid the Evora GT’s handling acumen The grip level through corners is extreme. I detected nary a hint of understeer on my drive through Malibu’s canyons, which gave me an injection of confidence behind the wheel.
A mid-mounted, supercharged 3.5-liter 6-cylinder visible through the glass behind the cabin sits behind the driver. Bend the rear view mirror down slightly and you’ll spot the Evora GT’s throttle cable pulling as you hit the accelerator. This fits with the rest of the car’s essence: nothing is hidden. The steering, throttle response, and taut suspension make every input feel consequential.
The Toyota-sourced V-6 (with supercharging by Lotus) adds a smidge of power in the GT and now makes 416 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, a jump of 6 hp and 7 lb-ft over the Evora GT410 Sport for model with the 6-speed manual transmission. Opting for the 6-speed automatic bumps up torque to 332 lb-ft. Lotus says that even with the added torque, 0-60 mph times between the two transmissions are identical at 3.8 seconds, though the manual unlocks a higher top speed (188 mph vs. 174 mph).
Though its 0-60 mph time may not impress for a six-figure sports car, the Lotus feels quicker than what the instruments tell you. The engine loves to rev quickly and though maximum horsepower doesn’t hit until 7,000 rpm it’s still surprisingly easy to access the power. Maximum torque arrives earlier at 3,500 rpm and it’s right in that range where the Evora GT starts to kick very hard. Below that, the car is pretty docile for easier day-to-day driving.
This is pertinent information because even though understeer is almost nonexistent, oversteer is a constant threat. Any hint of overaggressiveness with the throttle coming out of a corner, and the rear end sees that as an invitation to get loose. In Sport or Race modes, the traction control allows more slip to the point where the Evora GT can get sideways without the system cutting power or intervening with targeted braking. A little countersteer quickly gets the car sorted, but corners must be exited with care.
Contrary to Lotus’ own ethos and an aluminum tub body design, the Evora GT isn’t actually that light, tipping the scales at 3,175 lb. It’s actually a hair heavier than its closest competitor, the Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0, which weighs 3,166 lb with the manual transmission.
It can get lighter at significant cost via a pair of options, but my $107,000 test vehicle didn’t come with either. The Extended Carbon pack subtracts 49 lb for $10,000, adding a carbon-fiber front access panel, roof panel, and one-piece tailgate, plus a titanium sport exhaust. A titanium exhaust ($8,000) shaves off another 22 lb on top of that.
I don’t think adding either would significantly change how the Evora GT behaves. It feels much lighter than its heft would suggest. Climbing out after driving it the first time, I would have guessed its weight at under 3,000 pounds with some room to spare. And the weight is distributed to make the car feel balanced in every direction.
While it might be hard to live with such a tightly wound (and tight fitting) car day-to-day, the 2021 Evora GT is so fun and engaging that I’d be tempted to forgo such things as comfort, the ability to carry cargo, or modern safety features to keep one in the garage. It lacks the practicality to be a daily driver, but it’s a great second car to remind you of the joys of driving. If you want the most pure connection to the road and don’t mind having an unforgiving mirror held up to your own driving, the Lotus will happily point out all of your flaws but with a charming British accent that makes it so much more palatable.