Finally, having bought my Evora back in May, I found time to take it to Wales last week for a little road trip. I used to enjoy these a couple of times a year in my Maserati GranSport, but I had very high expectations for the Lotus. Did it live up to those? Well, I can say that I had a very eventful trip...
On Thursday I put the kids to bed at home in South London and headed out to the car at 8pm. It hadn't been used for 3 weeks and I discovered a smear on the windscreen and some fragments of shell... neighbours had complained of things being egged on Halloween and it seemed my car had fallen victim to that! But on the positive side, it meant I could justify a trip to the jet wash to make sure the car was looking reasonably clean for photos. (And in case you're wondering, I park the car round the corner from my house, so I shoot it longing glances as I drive past in the family wagon, but can't give it a detailed inspection every day or a kiss and a cuddle at bedtime each night...)
Anyway, about 20 minutes and five pound coins later, I was on my way towards the M25 and M4. But something was amiss. The sport button wasn't working, and neither was the cruise control. Not ideal if you're doing a journey that combines about seven hours on motorways with runs over multiple great driving roads. But I didn't let it bother me. My Maser would frequently throw wobblies that could be fixed by disconnecting the battery for a few minutes, like some ageing Windows PC that needed regular restarts. So I figured I'd Google the problem later and hopefully find a DIY fix.
The journey west was given a little added spice by the lightning flashes from a speed camera on the M25. It's possible that I was exceeding the limit by a small margin (ahem), but there was a Peugeot 308 passing me at the time who must have been doing at least 95 so I'm hoping he gets something unpleasant through his letterbox in the next couple of weeks while I just get the usual bills and takeaway menus.
I arrived at the Merthyr Tydfil Premier Inn around midnight. Before turning in for the night I did the aforementioned Googling and discovered that I probably had the well known brake light switch failure. So on top of headlamps that started peeling in the summer, I had experienced another one of those things that JayEmm described in his Evora's farewell video as Lots Of Trouble Usually Stupid. But there was nothing I could do so I just went to sleep.
The next day started early, thanks to plenty of early risers around me. I opted for the continental breakfast (sausages and beans are not good for power to weight ratios or cabin ambience) and hit the road. First target destination was the Black Mountain road, which I've never tried before. I was rather dismayed to discover that it's limited to 40mph the whole way, although it's pretty narrow and twisty in sections. I tend to prefer faster, sweeping roads too. But it's a very scenic route and I managed to get some good photos when the sun came out.
After that I travelled along the top of the Beacons to one of my favourite roads, the rollercoaster from Builth Wells to Brecon. As expected, the Evora was epic here, the combination of power, damping and brakes allowing me to make seriously rapid progress. It was a reminder that this car is ridiculously capable. You have to be taking some serious risks to get close to its limits on a road like that. And the damping really is sublime - it's what makes the Evora perfect for a road trip like this. It's comfortable when you need it to be (helped by the great seats), but awesome when things get twisty.
Next was the journey to Aberystwyth, taking in the fantastic A44, but it was Friday lunchtime so I had to keep stopping to find gaps in the traffic. I'd also taken in a few muddy country lanes, including a hairy moment on a leaf-covered uphill hairpin, so the car was dirty again. Luckily there's a Texaco on the outskirts of town with an excellent jet wash. And each pound coin buys a lot more time than my local BP station in London. Just three coins and a few minutes later I was on my way towards Snowdonia in a more photogenic Lotus.
On these trips, I always do a great deal of planning when it comes to the route. But the same can't be said for my pit stop strategy. Heading north, I started to feel hungry. I'll find a decent pub soon, I thought. An armchair and some scampi will do nicely. Unfortunately what I ended up with was beef fajitas and a really uncomfortable stool (stop sniggering)... Nevermind, I thought, this is a road trip, not a gastronomic tour. And the Evo triangle beckoned.
I often find that the best drives aren't always on the famous roads, though. The Llanberis and Snake Passes were too heavily trafficked when I visited last year, for example. A good road with no traffic is more fun than a great one clogged with trucks and OAPs. And some of the best moments this time round were on the run up past Bala, where I could keep the V6 on the boil and really get into a rhythm. Then I turned on to the A5.
For me, what makes the Evo triangle great, especially on a weekday, is that there's almost no traffic, there's the perfect combination of elevation changes and corner types and in many sections, especially on the eastern side, you can see a long way into the distance. If you can't enjoy yourself in a road car here, you need to swap the car for another or find a new hobby - adult colouring books or thimble collecting perhaps.
Did the Evora cut the mustard? Well, the missing sport mode did rob the engine of sharpness and a little excitement. I suppose it's like engaging in another recreational activity while wearing protection. It can be very pleasant, but not quite as good as without. Luckily, though, the Evora isn't a muscle car or an old school supercar, totally relying on the motor for thrills. The steering that makes it possible to hit an apex like threading a needle at high speed, the handling and traction that let you rag it like a hot hatch, those brakes that deliver when you need them - all these things encouraged me to go up and down that road, generating plenty of excitement from the way the Evora monstered an awesome stretch of tarmac. And anyway, I can go back next year with a fully functioning sport button to get that [insert your own combination of attractive celebrity, smutty euphemism and class A drug here] adrenaline hit. Then it was time for home, although I was tempted to turn around and chase the 991 GT3 and 650 Spider that arrived as I was leaving. But, you know, I didn't want to embarrass them...
And actually, the five hour Friday evening slog home delivered its own little bit of excitement. I was bombing down an A road and saw, too late, a couple of pheasants in the road. Cue zombie movie-like thump, explosion and splatter. I was convinced that the daft bird must have done some serious damage to the Evora's snout. But a quick stop showed the only evidence of the impact was feathers in various grills, a bit of ketchup and a very small chip in the bumper near the number plate which can hopefully be remedied with a bit of filler.
I also got to experience one of the other positives of Evora ownership. When stopping for petrol, the station attendant asked what the car was and said it was "so nice", then someone else filling up his car came over to ask about it and tell me about renting a Mustang in the South of France. Because not only is my car great to drive - with the dark paint and big black wheels, it looks part mid-engined exotic, part stealth fighter (although the R&D budget for Project Eagle was probably about one biliionth that of the F-117).
So I set off for home with enough techno and hip hop albums to get me to the moon and back, arriving home 25 hours, 650 miles, 2 1/2 tanks of super unleaded, 4 cups of tea, 2 jet washes and 1 dead pheasant after departure.