As the next decade looms into view, it’s time for more soul-searching in the auto industry. Change is coming. 2010 could just be the year that the electric car finally emerges as a serious player and when the hybrid goes totally mainstream. But while the consumer is finally becoming enamoured with these new innovations, manufacturers are striving to imprint their own brand qualities on efficient technology - pure refinement, or driving dynamics? Should an electric car glide silently or present itself as a snarling, sparking sports machine?
One company with a vested interest in this split between calm and chaos is Lotus, which for decades has farmed out its engineering know-how to far larger companies. Along the way, the Norwich-based manufacturer has created some of the purest driving machines of modern times, and the all-new 2+2 Evora - the first entirely new Lotus for over a decade - is up there with the best.
Readers of motoring periodicals will be more than familiar with the Evora, which managed to sweep the board in the auto press’s annual round-up of driver-focused sports cars. Right now, the Evora represents all that’s great about conventional sports cars - mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, pared down, low, swift and, in its own way, rather beautiful.
The Evora was premiered at the 2008 London Motor Show and has been on sale since late last Summer. It is powered by Toyota’s mind-blowingly reliable V6, tweaked so that it screams up to around 6800 rpm with a satisfyingly metallic roar. The cabin is a curious combination of hands-on brilliance and ergonomic no-go area, with the primary controls falling to hand intuitively, communicating every ripple and dip in the road and responding instantly to your command.
Unfortunately, everything else doesn’t quite measure up, from the hunt and peck switchgear and heating controls to the old school sci-fi graphics. Rather than the machined perfection one might find in a Porsche Cayman, for example, the blurry Alpine-branded satnav-stroke-hi-fi has been designed to baffle and infuriate (although it keeps good company as it’s similar to the intuition-deprived device fitted to Lamborghini’s Murcielago).
Tucked away behind the form-fitting front seats is an impossibly snug rear bench, a piece of packaging magic that just can’t be deduced from a quick glance at the Evora’s handsome, well-proportioned form. Our attempts at discovering the further edges of the Evora’s capabilities were rather blunted by the great British weather, although its innate lightness and manoevreability made the liberal spreads of black ice rather less daunting.
So will Lotus translate this slice of petrol-powered purity into a hybrid? The company is known to be working on such a system and the Evora was designed from the outset to take alternative power packs. As the company responsible for making the much-vaunted Tesla Roadster handle like an old school sports car, Lotus has garnered more than enough know-how in this fast emerging market sector. Right now the Evora is a piece of flawed brilliance; throw in a slice of cutting-edge propulsion technology and it’ll be a world beater.