More speed, more power, more expense â€“Â but also more talent
Remember when the Lotus Evora came out? To say it was greeted by a wave of indifference might be putting it a bit strong, but itâ€™s certainly true that the Evora didn’t add much fuel to the sales fire started by the Elise and then the Exige.
Since he took over as head of Lotus in 2014, Jean-Marc Gales has been quietly moving the Evora up from its starting point as a ho-hum sports carÂ to what he hopes will be a fully-recognised new status as a genuine supercar. The new Lotus Evora GT430 shows us that heâ€™s gone quite a way forward in that quest.
As you might guess from the name, the GT430 trumps the current Sport 410 by 20bhp, but itâ€™s the GT bit of that name that carries real meaning. This is basically a road-going GT4 race car, as developed by Lotus chief engineer Gav Kershaw. Heâ€™s given the GT430 an all-new aero package, adjustable Ohlins suspension taken directly from the race car, and that iconic Lotus ingredient, lightness.
Lotus Evora GT430
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, supercharged petrol
Torque: 325lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Top speed: 190mph
Fuel economy: n/a
CO2 rating: 234g/km
The new car is 36kg lighter than the Sport 410. In this context, thatâ€™s a lot. Now, more of the bodywork is made of carbonfibre than composites. The massive rear wing delivers a mighty 250kg of downforce, and the whole package is very focused. So much so in fact that stealthier customers can order a more subdued â€˜Sportâ€™ version without the wing.
The manually-adjustable suspensionâ€™s spring rates are up byÂ 47 per cent at the front and 20 per cent at the rear, with two settings â€“Â road and track â€“Â available. The rest of the running gear includes new lightweight alloys, a Torsen limited-slip differential, fatter Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and enhanced AP Racing brakes. The GT4â€™s traction control systemÂ and the six-speed manual gearboxÂ from the Exige 380Â complete the transformation.
Whatâ€™s it like? The first corner answers that one. Shedding weight is one thing: shedding it in the right places is what makes the real difference. By taking out the fat ahead of the rear axle and behind the back one, Lotus has invested the GT430 with astonishingly immediate and addictive steering precision. Thereâ€™s no intimidation, just super-friendly road manners that make it just as suitable for a B-road as a racetrack. Youâ€™ll feel more of that B-road, bumps and all, so other Evoras will seem luxuriously comfortable by comparison. You could say that this is the 911 GT3Â of the Lotus range, rather than the GT3 RS.
Itâ€™s hard to believe the speeds that have been made possible around Lotusâ€™s Hethel test trackÂ by the enormous mechanical grip. Itâ€™s not only the quickest Lotus ever around that circuit, itâ€™s also the fastest autobahn Lotus ever at 190mph. Even on the twiddly Hethel track we saw 140mph, and there were no qualms about high-speed stability at those speeds either. Thanks here must also go to the tremendous brakes.
The 3.5-litre V6 is fantastically urgent and responsive, the gearshiftÂ is greatly improved, and it sings a chart-topping tune through its titanium exhaust once it gets past the 4500rpm mark.
You may have noticed the Â£112,500 price. This GT430 is a big jump over the Â£82,000 Sport 410 in more ways that one. Itâ€™s another record-breaker in that respect, as the dearest Lotus ever.
Cost doesnâ€™t seem to be killing demand, though. Quite the opposite. Lotus planned to build just 30 GT430s, but theyâ€™ve had to multiply that figure by eight to satisfy interest in Europe and North America. Which goes to show (a) that customers are also willing to pay for excellence, andÂ (b) that they would almost certainly not be making a choice between this and a Porsche 911 â€“Â they would be buying both. Thatâ€™s the wonder of the supercar market: thereâ€™s plenty of money in it.
In the case of this Evora theyâ€™re getting something very special, not just in the star-studded history of Lotus but also in the panoply of truly great driverâ€™s cars, irrespective of marque.