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November 12, 2016

2017 Lotus Evora 400 review – Roadshow

by John_A

The Good With 400 horsepower and 186 mph top speed, the Evora 400 is the fastest Lotus street car to date. Midengine balance is a ball on a race track. Ride quality is suitable for daily driving.

The Bad The Evora 400’s backseats are laughably small. Infotainment interface features poor navigation system, while the technology offerings are slim in general.

The Bottom Line Lotus picks up where it left off with the Evora 400 by catering to hardcore driving enthusiasts.

I like feel-good stories, and the 2017 Lotus Evora 400 I’m driving on Western Michigan’s country roads has all the makings of a good one for auto enthusiasts. The car I’m at the wheel of marks the return of the British sports car company to the US. It’s essentially been gone since 2014, back when it had to stop selling the Evora S here because it could no longer meet federal regulations.

Recent history has been tough for the plucky automaker, with numerous leadership changes and failed plans to launch a slew of new models, but the resilient little company is still standing. Returning to the States should be a key step towards better days, since we’ve accounted for roughly half of company’s sales in the past.

Even without the resources of performance-car juggernauts like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren or Porsche, Lotus has always managed to engineer and build special automobiles by keeping them simple, lightweight and involving. It doesn’t take much time behind the wheel on the roads around South Haven to get a sense that Lotus has stuck with the same blueprint for the Evora 400, but it’s clearly made a lot of meaningful improvements since the Evora S. This is not just an Evora with a more powerful engine.

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Back with the Evora 400 after a two-year break.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Punchy and road-worthy

A more powerful engine, however, is a major element in the Evora 400 equation, with the Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter V6 now getting a new intercooler and engine management tuning to go along with an Edelbrock supercharger. This results in 400 horsepower — a 55-pony jump over the S — and 302 pound-feet of torque between 3,500 and 6,500 rpm.

Like all Evora 400s, the six-speed manual transmission in my yellow tester has also been upgraded with a new clutch and flywheel. According to Lotus, with the standard gearbox, the car gets to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and boasts a top speed of 186 mph, making it the fastest street car the company has ever built.

For those wondering about fuel economy, the EPA gives the 400 a rating of 16 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway.

If for some reason you don’t want to have three pedals in your 400, Lotus offers a six-speed automatic for an additional $2,700. With the slushbox, top speed is only 174 mph, but you do enjoy a slightly better city fuel economy rating of 17 mpg.

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The Evora 400’s supercharged V6 heart.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

This car is very quick from dead stops, with pull particularly strong at the top half of the engine’s rev range. Rowing through the manual gearbox is pleasant, with fairly crisp gear engagement, and the light clutch pedal is easy to work with. Unlike most newer models, steering remains hydraulically assisted, affording great response and feel.

What’s the most surprising thing of all about the Lotus’ street performance? Ride quality isn’t half bad over broken Midwest pavement. The Evora 400’s passive suspension, with Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs offers some give to take the edge off impacts. That’s more impressive when you consider that the car rides on staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch rear low-profile Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

Nip and tuck

Visually, there are no earth-shattering exterior changes to the 400. It remains instantly recognizable as an Evora, but eagle-eyed Lotus aficionados can probably pick up the redesigned front bumper with larger lower air dam, along with revised daytime running lights, door mirrors, wheels and a new rear bumper with diffuser.

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The Evora 400’s new three-element rear spoiler.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

The most noticeable alteration to the design is the three-element wing, which not only looks sharp, it joins forces with the new front end and rear diffuser to raise downforce to 71 pounds at 150 mph — a big upgrade for high-speed stability over the Evora S’ 35.2 pounds.

Improvements are more substantial in the cabin with better ingress and egress thanks to a revised aluminum chassis featuring skinnier and lower side sills. Thinner interior door panels give more front elbow room, while the rear seats are 11 inches wider than before. The latter doesn’t really matter, however, because the backseats have so little headroom and legroom that only the very young have a shot at fitting back there.

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