When the Evora was launched in 2009 it received a raft of ‘Car of the Year’ awards from the like of Autocar and Evo. Lotus have since updated the car with 130 improvements for the MY2012 model which saw the car mature into a better equipped, more refined version. Now, with the Evora 400, over 70% of components are changed completely or redesigned, this is much more than just a new front and rear bumper!
The headline is that the engine now produces 400bhp (up 16% on the Evora S’s 345bhp) and 410nm of torque using a supercharger unit with integral chargecooler mounted neatly on top of the engine. To aid the chargecooler circuit’s operation, this is where that new front bumper comes into action with increased airflow to the chargecooler radiator which joins twin oil coolers, water and aircon radiators in the front of the car. The torque is now delivered from a flat torque curve from 3,500rpm to 6,500rpm and overall 0-60 is reduced to 4.1 seconds and top speed up to 186mph, making this the fastest ever Lotus road car. Another benefit is that emissions are reduced 229g/km to 225g/km which makes your car tax band drop from ‘L’ which is £490pa in the UK to ‘K’, which is £290pa, a nice saving.
True to Lotus’s core philosophy of ‘Performance through Lightweight’, Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales set up a ‘Lightweight Lab’ in November 2014 with all the Evora’s components laid out, labelled with weight and price and invited over 800 members of the Lotus staff to suggest improvements with some 1,140 ideas coming forward. Translate this into the Evora 400 and 42kgs have been saved even after adding 15-20kgs for the chargecooler and its associated elements kerb weight is now 1,395kgs wet and fuelled. In detail, the lowering and thinning of the sills (53mm lower, 46mm thinner each side) has saved 8kgs but not in any way compromised the chassis torsional rigidity, the new Sparco seats (with side airbags for US compliance) are 3kgs lighter each than the outgoing Recaros, 6kgs has been shaved from the A-Pillars which now being thinner aid visibility and each wheel is 1kg lighter with each brake disc/rotor now being 2 piece unit saves 1kg per corner too.
This, along with the increase in engine output leads to a car which is more agile and quicker to respond to driver inputs. In terms of the suspension, the only component carried over from the Evora S is the anti-roll bar, other than that, it’s a full revision. With 20% stiffer rear springs and revised dampers all round, the car is a lot flatter through demanding corners and a reduction of bumpsteer allows for a more compliant car on the road, reducing tramlining and improving response characteristics and road manners. Increased camber both front and rear gives a sharper turn in and reduces the steady rate roll angle, all this aided by a new Quaife TORSEN type Limited Slip Diff fitted to the manual cars which eliminates power bleed through a lifted inside rear wheel on hard cornering. With the new Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres this all adds up to a sharper, easier to control Evora which in durability testing with Michelin saw up to 40,000 miles from the rears, a huge improvement on the Evora S where if you were very careful, you may see over 8,000 miles from the rear set of Pirelli P-Zero tyres. As previously mentioned, the brakes have been revised with the fitment of 2 piece discs with 370mm x 32mm up front and 350mm x 32mm on the rear and (now AP Racing branded) 4 pot calipers. The car is overbraked if anything to allow for future-proofing, watch this space!
The Lotus DPM (Dynamic Performance Management) has been revised into a Bosch Intelligent ESP system with 4 modes: Drive, Sport, Race and Off. Now with a much a clear physical and performance distinction between each mode the manual version is also equipped with Launch Control. The modes are as you’d expect with Drive being full stability as outlined in our previous article here. Sport mode gives you a little more leeway on the track to move the car around under you, reducing the DPM’s help but offering a higher RPM red line, sharper throttle and a touch more rear slip. It also means that the Engine Protection Value on the exhaust is opened throughout the rev range rather than just under high back pressure from approx 4,500 rpm upwards. Race takes this mode further and gives you more flexibility with the dynamics of the car, larger slip angles from the rear axle, an even more raucous exhaust note and of course, you can switch it all off if desired, leaving just ABS but none of the other assistance, pure driving.
What this means on track for me was a much, much closer connection between the car and driver. While lapping the wonderfully smooth Lotus handling circuit at Hethel, while not as quick at Gavan Kershaw’s 1′ 31″ laps (7 seconds faster than the Evora S and 1 second faster than the Exige S!) it meant that we were quicker on the straights, later on the brakes, a faster speed at turn-in and leading to higher corner speed and earlier on the power at the apex, power which was abundantly more available. While in ‘Drive’, the ESP was perceivable post-apex as you came on the throttle, especially if you took a little kerb but in ‘Race’ mode the car really came alive. Confidence inspiring as more laps were covered, I managed to knock 12 seconds off my first few laps after just a half hour in the car. The confidence instilled meant that initial braking zones were pushed back despite arriving at a higher speed and the car would always pull up (more often than not with space to spare) and not once, even when under pressure did the turn in lead to any perceivable understeer. As you left the corner and feed in power the amount of grip is staggering and leads you to get on the throttle sooner and harder in the corner next time around, leading to big reductions in your lap times. While the outgoing Evora S felt similar under braking, the turn-in is now much sharper and power delivery and power availability during corner exit is very noticeably different, no doubt thanks to the LSD. The 400 is without doubt in my mind, an amazing track car and one which benefits from using as much of the performance as I was brave enough to explore, and then using a little more knowing the car will always be that bit better than I am no matter how hard I think I’m pushing.
Externally, the Evora 400 now looks more suited to its new performance. As well as the more aggressively styled front and rear bumpers, the rear wing is now split into 3 elements and a redesigned rear diffuser aids in producing a total of 32kgs of downforce at 150mph. A redesigned undertray aids engine bay cooling with more NACA ducting adding to airflow in the area and for the first time, daytime LED running lights are fitted to the front of the car. The air intakes on the rear haunches have had the grills set back right into the aperture, no more struggling to clean underneath them after parking under a tree! The new plastic mesh grills on the front bumper and bonnet air vents are wider gauge and stronger, although the front bumper grills do allow more leaf litter through which will be hard work to remove from the radiators within. New power fold side mirrors are featured on the Evora 400, with the offside mirror a touch obscured by the A-pillar from my driving position. Fortunately on my drive up to Hethel, I did spot a 400 out on an earlier road test and the road presence is a massive step up when viewed from another car. The Evora 400 looks lower, sleeker, much more ‘supercar’ and menacing on the road, a big step forward in this department.
Internally the changes are very significant. The first thing noticeable are the lower and thinner sills which along with a wider pedal area and deletion of some material from below the dash in the A pillar area mean getting in and out is much easier, there’s a lot more room down there. No more hitting the speaker grills as you exit each time or scraping your feet on the sills, a problem we found if not careful in the Long Term Evora’s we’ve had in the past. Another huge difference is the much thinner door cards which naturally are also much lighter. This was necessitated by the need for side airbag deployment but while driving means you’re not restricted in the car for elbow room, it feels much less confined especially when working the steering on track. The side mirror adjustment switch is no longer hidden behind the door pull but on the dash and boot/fuel filler opening buttons are relocated to the doors. The new Sparco seats are available in 3 trim options, Standard or either the Leather Pack or the Alcantara Pack options. The leather pack has more padding in the bottom of the seat and felt like quite a high driving position which really didn’t help with instrument viewing, the top of the dials and alternate digital speedo was obscured by the wheel but alcantara seats with their lower seating position negated this entirely. Switchgear has been removed from it’s hidden locations behind the steering wheel in the Evora S to a new, centre dash location and there’s a new ‘Exhaust Valve’ button added to the central control cluster. The function of this was a little confusing as when in ‘Drive’ mode, pressing the button would illuminate it red and the valve would be open all the time leading to a wonderfully powerful sounding exhaust note but when in ‘Sport’ or ‘Race’ and the button was pressed and illuminated this meant that the valve is closed lower down in the rev range, handy for noise restricted track days but the opposite of the previous function which caused it to illuminate. It’s worth noting that even with this on, the valve will still open of course under higher back pressure creating more noise.
In the rear of the car, the rear seats on the 2+2 (Lotus sell 85% of Evora’s with rear seats rather than 2+0 option) are now 280mm wider and a big difference is that there is now room for rear passengers feet to fit under the front seats. While still not suitable for a 4-up journey from Norfolk to Italy, their usability is increased with this change making it a little more comfortable for those in the rear.
An important update is an entirely revised NVH package. Using new materials, the Noise, Vibration and Harshness are all reduced with the added benefit of the new materials used being lighter too. The 400 is noticeably quieter inside, increasing its usability as a GT car, albeit for just 2 people for long journeys. The entire HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system is also completely new. The ergonomics of the HVAC controls are much improved with the dials now being textured and with prominent protrusions meaning you can tell where they are set from feel as well as sight. New dashboard air vents which look much more suited to a car at this price point are fed by a higher airflow from the revised system and heat is more easily adjustable than on the Evora S which often seemed just to have cold, not quite as cold and then very hot as the only adjustments. The airflow from the HVAC is also quieter at lower fan speeds (as is the wiper, which is now thankfully hard to hear at all when in use), a welcome upgrade. Sadly, the RPM gauge’s shift lights are gone having been replaced with a legislative requirement of a GSI (Gear Selection Indicator) on one of the instrument cluster side panels, telling you to change gear at very low revs. Thanks government! Lotus are working on adding an extra feature to this as a replacement to the shift lights but it remains to be seen how useful this would be due to its size and position. You’ll be pleased to know the new instruments are big, bold and easy to read and no more are the side panels washed out by sunlight, a common complaint of the earlier Evora’s but you’ll be less pleased that the LOTUS lettering on the dash is still there, a feature universally unliked by TLF members.
On the famously bumpy country roads around the Lotus HQ, I had the chance to first try the Automatic Evora 400, a rebranding from the IPS of old. If you’ve read the Long Term Reviews, you’ll know I’m an IPS fan and the biggest improvement here is the shift time, from actually pulling the paddle to being in the next gear. Lotus have pulled this out of the hat, dropping the time taken from 1.4 seconds to 0.4 seconds which must be industry leading for a torque converter paddle shift box. The lovely, satisfy crack from the exhaust seems more pronounced as you shift up higher through the range and there’s a decent auto-blip on the way down, leading to well matched downshifts keeping the car smooth and a very satisfying burble and crackle from the exhaust during the over run. This isn’t just a mandatory blip that just occurs, the car will consider a few factors including RPM, speed and brake pedal pressure so if you’re just coasting up to some traffic lights or a junction rather than screaming into a hairpin on track, it’ll not happen.
Next up was the manual car. With again a completely revised gearshift from stick to box, Lotus have clearly put a lot of effort into what was a common criticism on the earlier Evora. The shift now feels a lot more mechanical, feeling more like a more direct connection to the ‘box rather than via cable with each gear being a fairly short throw but very positive in its selection. Reverse took a decent amount of pressure to engage but this is no bad thing, it’s better than feeling like it was in gear before only to lift the clutch to discover you’d only made it halfway there! This new and improved gear shift now swings my opinion back to the manual from the Auto, it really is that much better.
On the road, the revised suspension clearly doesn’t disappoint. Steering is as communicative as ever and the harshness of the road surface is dealt with for you, leaving just the sensations of grip, the cars dynamics and ‘some’ of the speed you’re carrying coming through making their way to your senses. You don’t feel every lump and bump knocking you and the car around, they’re translated into subtle responses through the steering wheel and seat to you, allowing you to carry huge amounts of speed, deceptively huge amounts. The car is quick, mighty quick on the A and B roads where we’ll be spending so many weekends and really does carry on the Evora’s tradition of class leading road holding, a real pleasure to push on with.
While these roads and the test circuit at Hethel have always proved to be suitable locations for Lotus to fine tune their cars, it’s also worth noting that the 400 has been tested over the last few months in many locations. The car has been to the Nurburgring, Nardo Technical Centre in Italy, Bosch Test Centre in Sweden, ATP Technical Centre in Germany, Michelin Tyres Test Centre in France, Idiada Test Centre in Spain and Glossglockner Mountain Pass in Austria. There are also Evora 400’s currently in Arizona preparing the car for hot environments, ready for it’s USA launch and Middle Eastern HVAC requirements.
This is not a casual facelift with 2 new bumpers, it’s not far off an entirely new car with proper thought, design, engineering and testing in place and in truth firmly puts the Evora 400 into the realms of the ‘Junior’ Supercar by today’s standards.
- Base Price:£72,000 inc VAT + OTR costs
- 2+0 seating – No Cost Option
- Automatic Gearbox: £2,000
- Black Pack (Black roof, sills, side mirror caps, dark headlining): £1,500
- Alcantara Pack* : £2,500
- Leather Pack** : £2,500
- Metallic and Signature Paint: £900
- Cruise Control: £300
- Yellow/Black brake calipers: £300
- Gloss black, forged 10 spoke (19″ front and 20″ rear) alloy wheels: £2,000
- Speaker upgrade: No Cost Option
- Air con delete: No Cost Option
*Black or red Interior colour options, Alcantara IP fascia and black Alcantara binnacle top with silver twin stitching, Leather and Alcantara® trimmed seat (colour matched), Alcantara door insert (colour matched), Alcantara upper centre console (colour matched), Black leather gear lever gaiter with silver stitching, Black leather hand brake sleeve with silver stitching, Steering wheel trimmed in black leather/black Alcantara, with silver stitching with red Alcantara position stripe)
**Black, red or tan Interior colour options, Leather IP fascia and black leather binnacle top with contrast twin stitching, Leather trimmed seats (colour matched), Leather door insert (colour matched), Leather upper centre console (colour matched), Black leather gear lever gaiter with contrast stitching, Black leather hand brake sleeve with contrast stitching, Steering wheel trimmed in black leather, with black stitching with red leather position stripe.