“No man is an island” claimed the 16th century English poet John Donne and now, in the 21st century, neither is a Norfolk based sports car manufacturer. With only 2000 Evoras sold in the UK since its 2009 launch, clearly something needed to change, so sights were set further afield than these fair English shores. With the global sale of automatics for the first time surpassing those of manuals, plus the US and Asian markets having a very clear preference for stick-less automobiles, now would seem to be an excellent time to bring out an automatic version of your car.
Step forward (or should that be roll forward?) the Evora IPS – Lotus’s first automatic for over 20 years. IPS stands for Intelligent Precision Shift and to a larger degree; it does what it says on the tin. The 6-speed unit in question here, like the 3.5 litre V6 engine, is from Toyota. In this version however, those clever boffins at Hethel have totally rewritten the control systems to give it a much sportier feel, replacing the usual “slushy” change associated with torque converter ‘boxes to the more “thumping” positive feel of a dual clutch unit.
There is no shift lever in the car. Gearbox modes are
selected from buttons located on the centre console (Drive, Neutral, Reverse and Park). A “Sport” button is also present and transforms the car from its default “fun to drive” mode in to full on “bitch“ mode as my wife likes to call it. Superbly designed “paddles” mounted either side of the steering wheel switch the car into full manual which will revert back to automatic if you make no further changes within 10 seconds. In “Sport” mode you get 30 seconds
before it switches back.
So, how does it drive? Well, in full automatic with your hands off the paddles, it is a very well behaved yet fun ride. We drove almost the entire width of the UK from Norwich to the Welsh coast in one sitting. Neither of us required chiropractic treatment upon arrival nor did we consume our own body weight in Ibuprofen during the trip. As around 90% of the drive was on A roads, the automatic box proved its worth. There was plenty of
immediate power when required for quick overtakes and no unnecessary gear changing while cruising along.
As you would expect from Lotus, the chassis is superb providing ride and handling right out of the top drawer. It has a taut
precision that feeds back to the driver all he needs to know about the road through the hugely tactile steering. This car loves corners like a fat kid likes cake and I’m sure it could climb vertical walls in the wet.
Put it in “Sport” mode and gear changes get longer, the straits shorter and the grins wider. The throttle becomes more responsive and when using the paddles, you can bounce the revs off the engine limiter without a gear change.
The only negative to this is the down changes. With “bitch
mode” engaged and paddles flapping, you hurtle into a corner, brake hard and the engine blips the throttle to match the engine revs to the gear below. However, you can often find yourself at or past the apex by the time the next gear engages. Given the number of times it’s actually possible (or legal) to drive like this on our roads, this is a minor irritation and takes little away
from the overall quality of the driving experience.
Inside the cabin it’s all finely stitched leather and shiny bits, though I did get the impression that some of the switch placements were more to do with aesthetics than ergonomics. Visibility to the front and sides is excellent, the door mirrors providing a particularly sumptuous view of the Evora’s curvaceous hips which I never tired of looking at. The rear view is mainly of the cover to the gently burbling V6 engine but a thoughtfully placed rear view camera ensures that you don’t kill too many children when reversing into your parking spot at the gym. The Recaro seats hold you in all the right places and the driving position is so pleasurable it should be in the Karma Sutra.
What Lotus always do well, they have done very well with this car. To this they have added luxury and refinement to create a car that can do the long trips in comfort and the short ones in ecstasy!