I’ll cut straight to it. I absolutely love the Evora Sport 410, probably more than I should. Driving it leaves a deep impression that lingers on for days afterwards. A week later, it remains a clear and vivid memory. The roar, the rush, the pulses through the steering wheel, the precision of the gearbox. But it’s also a car that puts my head in conflict with my heart. A vigourous debate has been raging between them ever since.

First of all, our sincere thanks to Sport 410 owner and TLF member RJB for making this drive possible. At the time of writing there were no Evora 410s available to test drive thanks to a stalemate between Lotus and the dealers, so I was entirely reliant on the generosity of one of our members. On behalf of everyone here, many thanks again Richard for stepping up.

There is a lot of interest in the Evora Sport 410 right now but Lotus do not appear to be doing much to help it succeed. Either they are supremely confident of selling 150 examples this year or they are being somewhat short sighted to have launched it on such a whimper. Recent issues surrounding parts supply, cost cutting and closures have been enough to test the loyalty of their most dedicated supporters. But somehow, out of the turmoil comes another car to remind you of everything that they do so well.

The Evora Sport 410 is reassuringly great to drive. The 70kg weight loss is significant, especially considering the Evora 400 was itself some 22kg lighter than its predecessor. The single biggest weight saving comes from the carbon race seats – a full 18kg lighter than the Evora 400’s infamous Sparco seats which have already proved problematic for some owners. While some might see them as ‘Exige seats’, they look wonderfully out of place in an Evora to me, very motorsport and very inviting. They open up the cabin a bit too, creating a slightly more airy feel inside. There were no issues with comfort for me but those who prefer a more reclined driving position might find them a bit too upright. I believe it’s possible to have them mounted in a more reclined position but I think there might be issues with stowing things in the +0 area behind. Being fixed-back, you have to push the seat forward on its runners to squeeze your things into a pretty restricted gap. Reclining the seats would only narrow this gap further. A minor practical detail perhaps, but something to be aware of that might not be obvious during a test drive.

The carbon roof and tailgate save 14kg, all from the top of the car. Surprisingly perhaps, most of that is from the carbon tailgate. Lotus claim the carbon roof saves just 2kg. But these panels bring compound benefits. Aside from looking good enough to hang on your wall, they lower the car’s centre of gravity and have been sculpted to double the car’s downforce without any increase in drag. Claimed downforce is now 64kg at maximum speed, up from the Evora 400’s 32kg. This is not a huge amount, the Elise 250 Cup makes 155kg at its top speed, but it should make the Sport 410 more stable on the autobahn. Lotus are rightly proud of the improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, you don’t normally get downforce without drag, but the 410 is actually slightly more slippery than the Evora 400. The rakish, sinuous lines now flow into a positive up-tick at the rear, kicking the air flow (and your eye) towards the sky. It is a hellish handsome thing with incredible road presence. Another nice touch I noticed was that the 11.3kg lighter lithium-ion battery was mounted flat rather than upright helping to lower CofG that little bit more. Once a race team, always a race team. The net effect is a CofG that’s 12mm lower. Impressive when the ride height accounts for just 5mm of that.

Speccing a Sport 410 will be a bit of a headache though. The sound deadening is said to be worth 5.5kg but unless you can try a car without it, you’ll just have to take a gamble. Either it doesn’t make much difference and it’s an easy weight saving, or the car becomes an NVH nightmare and you’ll end up stuffing 5kg of sound deadening in your ears. I’d have to admire anyone who specs a 410 without air con, stereo and sound deadening but, in reality, most Sport 410s will have those fitted. Air con is pretty much essential in a fixed roof car, one that you might want to sell at some point anyway. The stereo is a good idea for daily use, if only for the reversing camera. I wouldn’t be using a Sport 410 every day so I would be happy to save the £2000 and circa 10kg. The thing is, the car’s Exige Sport 350-beating 309bhp per ton is based on its lightest possible spec. With the options that most will go for, the car weighs somewhere around 1355kg, dropping the power to weight to 302bhp per ton. Still very impressive for an Evora (the Exige V6S was 293bhp per ton) but speccing that 10kg lighter titanium exhaust looks suddenly more tempting. It’s worth another 2bhp per ton all on its own.

Of course what really matters is, can you feel the weight loss? You only need a fairly slender passenger in your 410 before you’re back up to the same weight as a solo-driven Evora 400, but I believe you can. The suspension is largely the same, the dampers have been re-valved, the ride height has been dropped 5mm and the geo has been altered. It’s hard to know which of the changes is most responsible, but together they add up to a car which feels considerably lighter and more responsive. You’d swear the steering was higher geared (it isn’t). There is no slack whatsoever from dead ahead. It’s a very alert car. Not to the point of being hyper or edgy, it just feels alive and eager to turn. The famously serene ride has sufferred a little but I like the tougher, more hardcore feel, it’s a bit more more athletic, it corners with a bit more bite. Overall, the Sport 410 is what I’d hoped it would be – greater than the sum of its parts and unequivocally driver focused. By paring the car back, Lotus have been able to concentrate on the things that they do best. As such, it’s a car that plays to their strengths. 

The process of getting going is refreshingly swift for a 2017 car. Jump in. Fire-up. Bugger off. No fiddling with driver modes, nothing to configure, no menus to navigate. The dampers are fixed in one beautifully judged setting by renouned masters of the art, not software programmers. And what joy is this? A mechanical lever to operate the parking brake! It’s so simple to operate. You pull the lever up to apply, lower it to release. This really could catch on! For anyone who likes their connectivity and interior tech, the car will seem very basic and primitive, from another era. One that was more concerned with high speed driving dynamics than photo bombing your BFFs on Snapchat. It will, I believe, age more gracefully as a result. It is also very covered in Alcantara too which I happen to like.

Once away there’s a satisfying, consistent weight and smoothness to all the controls. The gearbox is absolutely beyond reproach. This must the best linkage I’ve used in any Lotus to date, yes, including the Exige Sport 350. I actually like it better than Lotus do. They say that the shorter cables and more direct mounting makes the Exige linkage even better but if this car is anything to go by, we’ll have to agree to differ. The Evora’s shift is mounted higher but uses a shorter gearstick, giving it an even shorter throw. I had a Honda S2000 for a while, that was very good. This is even better. One reviewer wasn’t so impressed and stated that he was ‘continually worried about wrong slotting a ratio.’ I find this genuinely mystifying.

I’m sure these thin carbon seats place you lower in the car but I get the impression that you might want harnesses to secure you properly on track. The view ahead through the extravagantly curved windscreen is panoramic. The rear view, less so. It’s a bit like sitting in a huge, two-seat crash helmet and feels just as strong and safe. There’s more room around your legs and you sit further away from the sills than you do in an Exige. Rear visibility has never been an Evora strong point, so putting slats across the letterbox has done nothing to improve it. It doesn’t make any practical difference really but it’s an opening that would be familiar to a knight from the medieval age or a supercar owner from the 1970’s. The Evora has always had more than a hint of Lancia Stratos about it, that’s even more the case with a louvred rear engine cover.

The Sport 410 shares the Exige’s voracious appetite for corners. Of course, not even this steering can compare with the Exige’s unassisted system, the front axle is a layer removed in ultimate feel but it’s in a different league to almost every other power steering system on sale. It remains a towering achievement, a precise, oily delight that lets you read the road like a blind man reads braille. I didn’t corner very hard out of respect to Richard’s car but it feels hugely grippy and composed, like there would be a whole other box of dynamic delights waiting to be discovered on track. If it’s capable of lapping Hethel even quicker than the mighty Exige Sport 350, then that sort of pace is going to feel seriously fast and impressive in a larger, more substantial car.

In terms of straight-line performance, I can only compare it with the Evora 400 from memory, but it feels sharper and more urgent over the last 2000 revs. It’s exponentially rapid, you can actually see the tacho needle accelerating around the dial. Plant your foot at 4,000rpm in second gear and the car surges forward with intent. Stay on the throttle past 5,000rpm and it erupts, ripping towards the 7,000rpm cut out with ever-increasing urge. The Evora 400 is obviously no slouch either, I would need to drive them back-to-back to confirm that it does feel noticeably faster in a straight line, but I don’t remember the 400 being quite this eager at high rpm. I was expecting the lighter Sport 410 to feel more torquey – again, back-to-back, maybe it does. In isolation it feels like an Evora S with properly lumpy cams. Combined with the hard-edged, snarling soundtrack, it makes revving this car out a very addictive experience – one I’d like to repeat at the earliest available opportunity. The cut-out does feel premature though, the chargecooled V6s are so smooth they feel good for another 1000rpm or more. If only for the noise, I’d love to see Lotus reverse the trend towards lower rpm limits. The Sport 380 is even more intensely accelerative, as you might expect with over 330bhp per ton. The power is concentrated into a narrower rev range and a similar amount of torque feels like a decent amount more due to the 200+kg weight difference. I’d say up to 6,000rpm the 380 is definitely ahead but the Sport 410 will claw something back over the last 1000rpm. I also think the more slippery Evora will start to walk away from an Exige 380 at higher speeds. The 380 I drove sounded even louder and more ferocious than the 410 (which sounds identical to my memory of the Evora 400). I’d like to hear the titanium exhaust for comparison but either way, the Exiges tend to sound more angry than the equivalent Evora for whatever reason.

Across the board, the Sport 410 raises the bar for the Evora platform. It’s a very pure, focused drivers car that really lets the core dynamic excellence of the chassis shine through. It makes 410 bhp feel like the most natural thing in the world, like it could easily handle a lot more. But all this dynamic brilliance comes at a price. Starting at £82k means that £90k is only a few options away. When you consider what else you could be climbing into for that sort of money, the Sport 410 starts looking like a harder sell, on paper at least. The alternatives have a nasty habit of getting a lot more tempting when you get nearer £100k. It’s a hard car to catagorize, sitting somewhere between the super coupes and the lower level supercars. As such, it looks expensive next to cars like the BMW M4 and 500bhp Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio but almost like a bargain next to the McLaren Sport series, the Audi R8 and new Honda NSX. 

Yin to the Evora’s Yan, the Nissan GTR is an obvious alternative. Both cars have followed a similarly steep price trajectory. It has become a classic rivalry with neither camp understanding quite what all the fuss is about regarding the other. I happen to rate the GTR very highly. The world needs fast, hi-tech Japanese cars that can flick the V-Spec towards the european establishment. It was also heavily developed by Lotus too, don’t forget. For £80k, Nissan will give you a fascinating, deeply capable, highly technical car with cutting-edge DCT paddleshift, sophisticated 4WD and a stupendous twin-turbo V6. On paper, the Sport 410 doesn’t stand a chance. GTR fans must find it highly amusing that Lotus named their fastest Evora after such a small amount of horsepower and then saw fit to stick ‘410’ decals down the side. The GTR had 478bhp back in 2007 and now packs nearly 570bhp. The Evora counters with purity, simplicity and kerbweight that is nearly a whole Caterham lighter. As a result, their power to weight ratios are only 10bhp per ton apart. The weight of the GTR is superbly managed but there’s no hiding it completely. It’s capable of lapping a circuit very quickly but it can’t do it for long. The Evora 400 was happy to lap Goodwood hard all day without complaint. I’m not comfortable knowing that I could have a 2017 GTR and save some money but after driving the Sport 410, I would choose the Evora. Mainly because it was wonderful, inspiring and memorable to drive on lumpy british B-roads at legal speeds. The GTR experience is barely happening until you’re going banzai. It’s actually pretty quiet and ordinary at slow speed. The Evora 410 begs to be driven hard too but there’s enough engagement and enjoyment to be had within the legal limit to make every trip feel worthwhile. I’m all for ridiculous straight-line go, but communication at all speeds comes first.

The heart says brand new Evora Sport 410 but the head says used V12 Vantage. This is a financially driven move which comes with a 5.9 litre, normally aspirated V12, manual gearbox and 510bhp. Your £85k should be fairly safe with one of these and you might even see some modest appreciation. DBS values have already started rising. There is much to enjoy in a V12 Vantage, I have done a few thousand miles in one. It’s a similar sized car to the Evora and the V12 has an abundance of torque as you might expect. However, once over 5000rpm I don’t think the Sport 410 is giving much away. That may sound unlikely with a deficiency of 100bhp, 6 cylinders and 2500cc, but the power to weight ratios put the Evora at a 2bhp/ton advantage. Looks like there’s something to this ‘performance through lightweight’ business after all. The Vantage is a lovely place to spend time and has some stunning carbon work of its own but I can tell you right away that the Evora pulls its trousers down dynamically. Driving them back-to-back would be an emphatic demonstration of the benefits of a mid-engined layout. Before you turn the Vantage you have to turn that 5.9 litre V12. The Evora’s front tyres have something like 500kg to contend with, the Aston’s have to wrestle over 800kg. The Vantage is huge fun to drive, has nicely weighted hydraulic steering too but the Evora just feels masterful into and out of corners.

The heart says I’ve got it the wrong way around: ‘The Sport 410 is a brand new, bespoke car that’s just as quick, just as striking, with much better handling, traction and steering, for the price of someone else’s old Aston.

Head says: ‘OK, but have you seen that low mileage Evora SR in the classifieds? That’s gotta be at least 70% of a Sport 410, plus £40k in the bank!

Heart says: ‘Yes, lovely car, but take your 410 to the Alps, it’s only going to take one tunnel to justify itself. And just look at the carbon weave, where are you going to find that for under £100k?

And so it continues.

The Evora is not an obvious choice at any price. It never has been. But it does my head and my heart good to know that there are still people out there who can see beyond the obvious. People that prioritize communication, steering feel and cornering ability over straight-line speed. Suspension quality over interior quality. Bhp per ton over tons of bhp. People that have the confidence to buy the car they want, regardless of what anyone else thinks. There’s nothing ordinary about the Evora Sport 410. And nothing ordinary about the people that buy them.

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