RAW SPEED

STRIPPED OUT AND DRIP­PING WITH CAR­BON, THE EVORA GT430 IS THE UL­TI­MATE LO­TUS ROAD RACER

Motor (Australia) - - FEATURE. LOTUS EVORA GT430 - BY SCOTT NEW­MAN + PICS ALAS­TAIR BROOK

IT’S BEEN fol­low­ing me for some time, but with a steep rock wall now hug­ging the side of the road it feels closer than ever. Only when I lower the win­dow, how­ever, does the shock­ing in­ten­sity of the noise emit­ted by the Lo­tus Evora GT430 re­ally hit home. There isn’t a lot of sound dead­en­ing in a GT430, but there’s enough to muf­fle the light­weight ti­ta­nium ex­haust. It’s like stand­ing out­side a sta­dium lis­ten­ing to the con­cert within – you sense there’s greater en­joy­ment to be had, if only you could get closer to the ac­tion.

Cue that win­dow switch. The GT430 is al­most cer­tainly the loud­est road car I’ve driven. Ric­o­chet­ing off those rock walls, the sound in the cabin is so thick and all-en­velop­ing you’d swear you could reach out and grasp it in your hand. It’s prob­a­bly not what Lo­tus was aim­ing for, but it re­minds me of a race-spec To­rana GTR XU-1. The Evora is smoother and not as grav­elly in note, but has a sim­i­larly rau­cous six-cylin­der rasp.

It’s been quite a Cin­derella story for the 2GR-FE 3.5-litre V6. Ini­tially found pow­er­ing the Toy­ota Au­rion, Lo­tus adapted the ba­sic 206kW/350Nm unit to the Evora’s mid-en­gine, rear-drive lay­out and then added su­per­charg­ing for the 257kW/400Nm Evora S. Since those early days Lo­tus has kept fid­dling, a re­vised su­per­charger and wa­ter-to-air in­ter­cooler lift­ing out­puts to 298kW/410Nm. This ul­ti­mate GT430 en­joys a fur­ther 33kW/30Nm (40Nm in au­to­matic guise) thanks to re­cal­i­brated ig­ni­tion, fuel and camshaft map­ping.

If you weren’t aware, you’d never guess the en­gine’s or­di­nary ori­gins from be­hind the wheel. Su­per­charged en­gines are great. The lin­ear na­ture of the power de­liv­ery makes it de­cep­tively quick. A short stab of throt­tle in­stantly adds 15-20km/h and you’re of­ten ac­cel­er­at­ing quicker than ex­pected. It pulls cleanly from low revs, yet power builds right to the 7000rpm cutout. An­other rea­son to chase the red­line is the bi-modal ex­haust valves only open above 4500rpm; it’d be great if they were open per­ma­nently, but I sus­pect the ADR mi­cro­phone would melt.

Lo­tus claims this up­graded pow­er­plant makes the Evora GT430 its quick­est road car ever. The wing­less Sport vari­ant man­ages an im­pres­sive 316km/h, but even with wing and split­ter fit­ted it’s ca­pa­ble of 306km/h, while Lo­tus claims 0-100km/h takes just 3.8sec, or 3.7sec as an au­to­matic. Lo­tus is ei­ther very op­ti­mistic, or it has some in­cred­i­ble test driv­ers. Per­haps there is some magic trick we’re not aware of, but launch­ing the Evora in the tra­di­tional rear-drive man­ner – not too many revs and a hint of wheel­slip – yields bests of 4.59sec to 100km/h and 0-400m in 12.64sec at 182.96km/h.

There’s al­ways an­other tenth or so to be found, but the fig­ures feel about right. The Evora GT430 is plenty quick, but doesn’t have the punch usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with sub-4.0sec ma­chines. Adding fur­ther chal­lenge to the task is a gear­box

that re­ally doesn’t like to be rushed. Early Evo­ras used the man­ual from a Corolla diesel; it was the only ’box ca­pa­ble of link­ing to the en­gine and han­dling the torque. As with the en­gine, Lo­tus has done an enor­mous amount of im­prove­ment since then, but a de­gree of pa­tience is still re­quired to com­plete clean shifts. It’s no chore to drive in traf­fic, but on the con­tin­ual twists and turns of the epic Mans­field-Whit­field Road, I end up leav­ing it in third and us­ing the en­gine’s torque.

As you’d hope, the Evora comes alive in the bends. The GT430 ben­e­fits from lessons learned by rac­ing the Evora GT4, most notably in its use of aero­dy­nam­ics and 96kg weight loss over the stan­dard Evora 400. The re­shaped edges of the front guards, which also have GT3 RS-style vents carved in

LO­TUS CLAIMS THE EVORA GT430 IS ITS QUICK­EST ROAD CAR EVER

the top, exit ports be­hind the rear wheels and that mas­sive wing com­bine to create 250kg of down­force at top speed. Ev­ery­where you look there’s car­bon fi­bre, the roof, front split­ter, rear wing, en­gine cover, front air ducts, rear aero ducts, seats, side sills and mon­ster rear dif­fuser all mak­ing use of the sexy black weave. The ti­ta­nium ex­haust sheds 10kg, the Oh­lins two-way ad­justable dampers save an­other 13kg and our test car doesn’t even have a stereo.

Those trick dampers have 20 clicks of com­pres­sion and re­bound ad­just­ment to make the most of the grip of­fered by Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres mea­sur­ing 245/35 R19 front and 295/30 R20 rear. With so much rub­ber and so lit­tle weight, the GT430’s lat­eral ad­he­sion is ab­surd; it’ll dou­ble cor­ner speed ad­vi­sory signs with­out break­ing a sweat, in some cases triple them. There’s so much grip that the lim­it­ing fac­tor be­comes your hold on the steer­ing wheel; re­lax your arms and you re­alise that what you think is the limit is ac­tu­ally the ten­sion in your mus­cles.

Bar­relling in with overt en­thu­si­asm will even­tu­ally in­sti­gate un­der­steer, but in most cor­ners the GT430 al­lows you to clear the brake, turn in and al­most im­me­di­ately get back hard on the throt­tle. With tem­per­a­ture in the tyres trac­tion is not an is­sue, though the soft­ness of the brake pedal oc­ca­sion­ally is.

The pedal setup is such that heel-toe down­shifts un­der heavy brak­ing re­quire some an­kle con­tor­tions. A firmer brake pedal – surely ap­pro­pri­ate in some­thing this fo­cused? – would im­prove con­fi­dence.

What’s truly im­pres­sive about the GT430, though, is that its cor­ner­ing prow­ess doesn’t come with a teeth-chat­ter­ing, skate­board ride, at least not with the dampers set to Lo­tus’s rec­om­mended road set­tings. Spring rates are in­creased mas­sively over even the Evora 410 (47 per cent front, 20 per cent rear) but it’s no less com­fort­able than some hot hatches and never, ever re­lin­quishes its body con­trol.

There’s no crash­ing – in fact, the com­plete ab­sence of any squeaks or rat­tles sug­gests Lo­tus’s re­cent fo­cus on build qual­ity hasn’t been in vain. There are some very cheap plas­tics in­side, but enough car­bon, leather and Al­can­tara to make the cabin feel spe­cial. Although some­where to put a phone, wal­let, keys, a drink (any­thing!) would be nice. Con­versely, stor­age space is rel­a­tively gen­er­ous, the rear seats re­placed by a flat bench in ad­di­tion to the boot lo­cated be­hind the en­gine.

There’s cer­tainly enough room for a hel­met and an overnight bag, vi­tal equip­ment for a trip to Win­ton. The Evora GT430 works bet­ter on the road that you’d imag­ine, but if it’s to jus­tify its enor­mous $259,990 ($275,867 as-tested) price tag – a $50K pre­mium over the 410 Sport – it’s go­ing to want to shine on track. At this price point it’s per­ilously close to se­ri­ous ma­chin­ery like the Porsche 911 GT3 and Nis­san GT-R Nismo.

THE RACE-SPEC TRAC­TION CON­TROL COMES INTO ITS OWN AT THE LIMIT

That the GT430 is the fastest pro­duc­tion Lo­tus around the com­pany’s Hethel test track (es­sen­tially Fio­rano with tea and scones in­stead of cof­fee and pasta) bodes well. Un­for­tu­nately, we couldn’t rope a pro driver in to set a lap time, but if I can man­age a 1min33.5sec cir­cuit of Win­ton in just five laps (none of them par­tic­u­larly clean) it seems likely there’s a cou­ple of sec­onds to be found by more ca­pa­ble hands. Track work ex­ac­er­bates the Evora’s on-road at­tributes, good and bad. Its grip re­mains stu­pen­dous; as you’d hope, its av­er­age apex speed would have topped the list at our re­cent Bang For Your Bucks test, but to out-cor­ner a Civic Type R is no mean feat.

Its 83.16km/h av­er­age would be higher, but the un­der­steer that only ap­peared oc­ca­sion­ally on the road be­comes per­sis­tent on track. It’s mild and no doubt eas­ily di­alled out via the dampers, but de­lays how quickly the throt­tle can be re-ap­plied in al­most ev­ery cor­ner. Drive to the avail­able front grip and there’s the feel­ing that there is time to be gained if you could get on the gas ear­lier. There’s cer­tainly sense in pro­vid­ing an un­der­steer bias for this road setup, but on the track more front bite would pay div­i­dends in en­joy­ment and lap time.

At the limit Lo­tus’s race-spec six-stage trac­tion con­trol comes into its own. To be hon­est, the ESP cal­i­bra­tion in Race mode is so good, so le­nient and un­ob­tru­sive in its in­ter­ven­tion, that in the dry there’s no need to turn ESP off. Nonethe­less, from there Lo­tus gives you the op­tion to grad­u­ally re­duce the trac­tion con­trol in­ter­ven­tion and al­low greater lev­els of wheel­slip, from 1 per cent to a max­i­mum of 12 per cent, with the sixth stage be­ing com­pletely off.

Be sure of your­self be­fore tak­ing that last step. The Evora has an im­mense amount of grip, but when it runs out im­me­di­ate ac­tion is re­quired; the first at­tempt at a cheeky low-speed slide re­sults in a 360-de­gree spin be­fore you could say “op­po­site lock”. The GT430 can cer­tainly hold a mean pow­er­slide, but needs se­ri­ous provo­ca­tion to do so – it would rather just keep set­ting lap times.

Sus­pen­sion setup aside, the great­est bar­rier to low­er­ing lap times is the gear­box. Just as on the road, the ’box wants to op­er­ate at its own pace and a num­ber of laps end early after a mis-shift. Pre­cious tenths dis­ap­pear on up­shifts and the GT430’s su­per-short brak­ing dis­tances make the quick down­changes re­quired a lot­tery. It’s enough of an an­noy­ance to make the op­tional six-speed au­to­matic well worth con­sid­er­ing.

If you are con­sid­er­ing an Evora GT430, then you’d bet­ter be quick. Lo­tus is mak­ing just 60 each of it and the Sport and just four of the winged war­riors are com­ing to Oz. Three are al­ready sold. At which point ob­jec­tive as­sess­ment be­comes slightly ir­rel­e­vant. It’s all too easy to say it’s not as good as a 911 GT3, but I sus­pect for those three buy­ers the fact the Evora is not a GT3 was a very good rea­son to pur­chase one. The GT430 looks awe­some, sounds in­cred­i­ble, is great to drive, ex­tremely rare and re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent.

Nonethe­less, if you’re a track junkie your needs might be bet­ter met by the lighter, quicker, sharper Ex­ige Cup 430. If road use with the oc­ca­sional track foray is more your thing, the Evora GT410 Sport of­fers most of the per­for­mance and, cru­cially, all of the noise of the GT430 with a few more crea­ture com­forts. Then again, if you’re a Lo­tus fan with a car­bon fetish who places a pre­mium on ex­clu­siv­ity, there is lit­er­ally only one car for you. Act fast.

LO­TUS IS BUILD­ING 60 GT430S AND JUST FOUR ARE COM­ING TO OZ

TOP Kerb weight of just 1299kg means mon­ster AP Rac­ing stop­pers aren’t trou­bled, eas­ily han­dling the pun­ish­ment

LEFTThe Evora might be Lo­tus’s ‘GT’ car, but in stripped­out GT430 guise it def­i­nitely de­serves to spend plenty of time at a race­track

IN­TE­RIOR Evora in­te­rior feels well screwed to­gether and there are plenty of swish ma­te­ri­als, though some­where to put odds and ends would be nice OP­PO­SITE Over­com­ing the GT430’s limpet-like grip isn’t easy and quick cor­rec­tions are re­quired to avoid a spinOP­PO­SITE, BE­LOW Gearshift is Evora’s Achilles Heel, baulk­ing at quick shifts; vents in the front guards al­low tur­bu­lent air to es­cape aid­ing aero

RIGHT Stan­dard road setup bi­ased to­wards un­der­steer, but no doubt tweak­ing the two-way ad­justable dampers would soon dial that out

OP­PO­SITE TOP Lo­tus switched to Edel­brock su­per­charg­ers for the Evora 400, in­ter­cool­ing al­low­ing for in­creased power out­puts

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