Something of a scoop for TLF this. At the time of writing there haven’t been any other track tests of the Evora Sport 410 to be seen anywhere. The media vacuum has left the most focused Evora as a bit of an unknown quantity. Exactly how much lighter than an Evora 400 is it? How much faster is it? What are the changes worth in the real world? No-one outside Lotus really knows. The promise of the Sport 410 is a bold one – faster around a track than a 200kg lighter Sport 350 Exige while retaining most of the GT ability of the Evora 400. It did look mighty quick in Lotus’s video of the 1.28.2 lap around Hethel but we can assume that this was done with the lightest possible spec – the kind of spec no-one would be likely to order or sell easily. No-aircon, no stereo, no sound deadening and probably the titanium exhaust for good measure too. As such, the 1325kg weight claim, along with that Hethel laptime, were starting to look a bit theoretical. The question remained, what would a more representative Sport 410 do in the real world? I already knew how well the Sport 410 works on the road, but will it deliver on track?
Thanks once more to Bell & Colvill, I was handed the keys and an opportunity to find out at one of their terrific track day events, around a bone-dry Castle Combe. This was effectively my first time at the lumpy, 1.85mile Wiltshire circuit. I haven’t driven here since the late 90’s and arrived without having the first clue which way it went. Watching videos on Youtube the night before didn’t help (at all!). This Sport 410’s Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres were also probably past their best, so what follows is categorically not a definitive account of the car’s ultimate track potential. What it is though, is a back to back comparison with the same driver on the same day between the Evora Sport 410 and, for reference, an Exige V6 Cup. The laptimes won’t be getting a mention in Autosport but they are closer to what a typical owner might achieve on a typical trackday.
The spec of this particular Sport 410 includes sound deadening and air con, but no stereo. Yes, it still has two front speakers in the doors, tweeters too by the look of it, but no sub-woofer or head unit. It has recently been fitted with the Bell&Colvill’s new, more track-friendly exhaust which, being made from titanium, saves 10kg and brings the noise closer to the standard ‘350’ Exige V6. This Evora measured 98db when tested and the V6 Cup made 88db. It was officially a 105db day and we had no issues with noise whatsoever. So that’s job done by B&C for those looking to access more trackdays. Naturally, some of the drama of the stock 400/410 system has been lost in the process. The twin carbon tips will please those not keen on the standard ‘pig snout’ look but those who love the shouty Lotus exhaust might say the car has been neutered, it is much quieter. I have no idea how it affects bhp either way but it sounds good inside the car when you get the revs up. Better than the V6 Cup? A little from the inside, very similar from the outside.
Ambling down the pitlane, I’m buzzing with anticipation. There are so many questions and this Starlight Black Evora Sport 410 has all the answers. The many benefits of the lower, lighter seats are immediately felt. It brings the steering wheel higher up, closer to your chest for a much improved, more Touring Car-like driving position. The gearshift is a knuckly, tactile delight and just as precise and satisfying to use when you’re in a hurry. The pedals are perfectly spaced for heel and toe too, which is rarer than you might think among full-sized sports cars. Together, these virtues allow me to feel instantly connected to the car and not once do I think about what might be on Radio 2. It feels light, agile and eager to turn – yes even straight after an Exige V6 Cup. The braking performance is stupendous. The chicane at Bobbies rushes up on you very suddenly out of Tower corner. It was the cause of many a panic brake to get the nose into the apex and away from the tyres – a serious test of the Sport 410’s anchors which it passed with complete conviction, lap after lap. The nose is pin sharp on the brakes, still keen and accurate when rolling off them too, the whole car feeling nimble and quick-witted in a way many of the alternatives just don’t. Get hard on the power for the charge to Camp corner and the 410 feels bang up for it in every way, goading you to push harder and use every last rev. You’d swear it was enjoying itself. Being larger and more grown-up, it seems slightly less appropriate to fling the Sport 410 around like it was an Elise or Exige but the car is no less playful while being more composed overall. Castle Combe is a lumpy old place, the bumps add to the sensation of speed, make braking hugely challenging and really put the Evora’s suspension to the test. The brakes never wilted, the gear linkage never failed to find the next ratio, it struck me fairly early on that this was three pedal track driving at its best.
This 410 engine is a gem among the Toyota-based V6s and was feeling in rude health. Right at the point where the ‘350’ engine starts to tail off, the chargecooled motor pulls harder than ever into the redline. It’s smoother and more musical too. It’s crying out for at least another 500rpm but thankfully the premature cut-out is soft and doesn’t upset the car, something that becomes important on track. It lacks the torque-to-weight punch of the Exige out of the slower corners and can fall a little flat if you aren’t revving it right out between gearchanges. You can use a gear higher everywhere in the Exige with very little time penalty. Put simply, if you aren’t revving your Sport 410 above 6,000rpm you aren’t pulling away from a committed Exige V6. Remarkably perhaps, the 410 feels like it has the legs over the lighter car beyond that. One thing the Evora did do, which was notable by its absence in the Exige, was squeal its tyres. An indication of the greater weight perhaps but it actually has its benefits, providing an audible warning of the approaching limit.
If light is right and you’re doing a direct comparison with an Exige, then physics is going to have its say at some point. That point comes when braking hard from 140mph where the tarmac ripples turn to sizeable waves at Avon Rise. While wrestling the car down to 70mph or so for the entry to Quarry, you do become aware of the weight behind you. This is one of the trickiest braking zones in the UK and the stuff of nightmares for a mid-engined car. As the weight rushes forward on the brakes the rear suspension lengthens, raising the V6 higher above unweighted tyres while the tarmac does the bucking bronco. At no point was the suspension unable to cope but you are made very aware of the large mass behind you. Certainly, the extra 68kg the Evora 400 carries over the back axle would not be welcome here. The Exige is more reassuring braking into Quarry. It feels like the engine is mounted lower (which it is). You don’t have such an obvious feeling of mass moving behind you (in the Elise this feeling goes completely, it feels there is no mass behind you whatsoever, just grip). The Exige also inspires more confidence on the power. Having 65 fewer bhp to worry about has its advantages. Once your foot is down, it stays down. It makes very effective use of each and every bhp.
Back in the 410 and exiting Quarry for the short squirt down to the Esses, there’s a chance to ring out that smooth, rev-hungry V6 again. Ideally the Esses are taken in 3rd but the gearbox is so satisfying to downshift on the brakes, I can’t resist the blip down to 2nd gear for a bit more engine braking and faster slingshot out towards the (trickier than it looks) Old Paddock Bend. It’s an easy flat in 4th gear on the right line but equally easy to run out of road if you turn in too early (or too late). 4th gear will get you all the way to the intimidating Tower Corner. You really feel the speed here as you pile headlong towards an unforgiving tyre wall straight ahead. The mighty brakes are quick to reassure and it’s an early turn in before getting hard on the power at the apex. I have to admit to getting it very wrong here on one lap. I was caught out by the sudden change of camber at the apex, got a bit too greedy with the power and put the left rear on the grass. No harm done fortunately and Tower corner was treated with the respect it deserves from then on. I very rarely mow the lawn on a trackday and I was completely caught out by how quickly the car got away from me. I was in Race mode too and felt nothing intervene either which was a bit concerning. Perhaps I had unknowingly turned the DPM off? I’m more disappointed with myself than anything but it was a good reminder that 410bhp – more power than a Lotus Carlton and Ferrari 288 GTO – is not something to take lightly.
I know, I know, laptimes. But before we open that can of worms you need to know something far more important. The Sport 410 is an absolute tonic on the track. Whether it’s fast or slow compared to this or that, it was massive fun to drive hard. I hope that comes across in the video. I was expecting it to feel heavier than it did, for the steering to feel wanting after the Exige, for the straight-line performance to be a step down. It just felt terrific across the board and a real natural on track. And really fast. Not ‘for a heavy car’, just outright, unconditionally quick. This car is just full of go. As quick as an Exige V6 Cup? Mulling it over on my way back into the pits, my best guess was that it was going to be very close. I really couldn’t call it.
Here’s what you need to know: It was bone dry, warm but not too hot. I was not aware of any heatsoak affecting the Exige, nor any obvious benefit from the chargecooler in the Evora. Both cars were in ‘Race’ mode with the aircon left on. The Exige’s Avon ZZRs had done 7 trackdays previously. The Evora’s Michelins, 3. Both were past their best but far from finished. I drove both cars in the morning before lunch and before any driver coaching. I have never driven the Evora Sport 410 on track before whereas I have owned my V6 Cup for 4 years now and there have been a fair few trackdays in that time. I was trying equally hard, if not 10 tenths, then between 8 and 9. The best lap I did in the Exige before lunch was a 1.19.1. The Evora Sport 410 was close. Really close. It was also slightly faster with a 1.18.8. You can see both laps in split screen here:
I don’t consider the 2-3 tenths between them to be of any significance but it looks to me like the 410 has a slight straight-line advantage. It leads all the way into Quarry but the Exige claws back some time on the brakes and is nearly level again braking into The Esses. They are closely matched on the run down to Tower but, at the turn-in point, a big lunge on the brakes puts the Exige fractionally ahead. The Evora then edges back in front, apexing slightly sooner and maintains a slender lead through to the exit of Bobbies. From there it holds its advantage through Camp corner and all the way to the start/finish line. The steering on the Evora looks slightly higher geared, it requires less steering lock to get the nose to a given apex. But it also appears to dive a bit more on the brakes. Either way, the similarities between them are stark, the differences negligible. For a 200kg heavier car with a different chassis, body, wheels, aerodynamics, suspension, tyres and steering, this is remarkable. I was just outside the 1.16’s towards the end of the day in the Exige. 15 minutes driver coaching with British GT ace David Pittard was worth another 2 seconds on its own. I suppose it’s vaguely possible that I was getting more of the potential out of the Sport 410 than the V6 Cup but I think it’s reasonable to assume that the Evora could also go another 2 seconds quicker too. The elephant in the room here is that the Evora Sport 410 is at least as quick as an Exige V6 Cup on track. My experience backs-up the 410’s Hethel laptime and the car’s bold promise of an Evora that can lap faster than an Exige. And this is no ordinary Exige. My actual car weighed 1135kg on the scales at Silverstone. It’s a Lotus Motorsport car with adjustable Nitron dampers, no stereo, no sound deadening, no alarm, no immobilizer, no airbags, no central locking, no carpets, no compromise. It’s a seriously fast track car that rarely gets passed on trackdays. This Evora Sport 410, whatever it actually weighs, just pipped it around Castle Combe – carpets, sound deadening, speakers and all!
I had my doubts about the Sport 410 but it just blew them all away. Could you really use one as a trackday car? Absolutely, providing you can foot the annual tyre bill. As a car for occasional trackday use, where running costs are less of an issue, it’s arguably an even better choice as you get some GT ability thrown in for free. Would a former Exige owner miss his old car? Always a possibility for those craving the last word in communication, agility and response. But those wanting something more substantial and civilised will discover that the Evora Sport 410 is every inch a proper Lotus and one that wears its Sport badge with some pride. As the car mags would discover if they ever get around to track testing one, it’s the real deal.