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2st July

Drove down towards Goodwood around 3pm today, heading for our B&B. We were very lucky to find one with a room so close at such short notice and probably paid over the odds because of it. Good trip down though and a fantastic dinner in the Three Horseshoes at ElstedRemote site. I love this part of the world. Having studied for my degree at Portsmouth, I spent a lot of time mountain biking around this area.

3rd July

Early start at breakfast at 7:15am. We arrived at Gate 4 / Car Park P around 8:00am, having come across virtually no traffic. There were a fair few people walking down the hill to the entrance above the Formula 1 paddock though.

If you were following me on TwitterRemote site you would have been able to track my progress through the day :-) Despite the appalling 3G coverage and complete lack of WiFi (they really need to sort this out) I managed to upload quite a few pics. Well, at least until my iPhone 4's battery gave out at around 2pm.

Goodwood House and artwork A lot of people get stuck at this first attraction but we went straight on and came back later. As you can see the lawn in front of the house was quite empty at this time.
Lotus Eprit We pretty much made a bee-line for the Lotus stand to see the new Esprit amongst others.
Lotus Eprit back Really like this car, looks like a super car should look.

The manufacturers area was really interesting and further down the hill were other stands. I was surprised to see RAW there with a beautifully finished Pheonix. don't remember this from last year and there were many small manufacturers and more kit suppliers too.

Supercar Paddock

I don't know of any other place that you can go to get so close to such exotica. I was standing between a Koenigsegg CCX and a Bugatti Veyron Supersports thinking this is not the real world.

Ferrari 458 I was with a McLaren employee so we were not allowed to mention the 'F' word :-) I'm sorry to say though, that the Ferrari 458 is just more visually spectactular than the McLaren. I'd happily own either but, I just know that the McLaren is the better designed and put together car and the Ferrari is the one that would make me smile the most.
Ferrari 458 This picture doesn't really do it justice but the way they have made the whole car flow and also be functional at the same time is just stunning. The detail is exquisite. One day I hope I get to drive one, or even just have a ride in one.

I've got to say this, the Lotus Evora S in the super car paddock totally looked the part. Even my friend who had not seen one up close before was impressed and he's driven a lot of cars. The build quality was fantastic and the design detail was close to that on the Ferrari 458. If you compared the paint finish to a similarly coloured McLaren MP4-12C across the aisle, you could see where some of your extra money was going though. The paintwork on the McLaren was totally flawless.

On the subject of finish, I have to mention the Noble and Ginetta. I'm sure these are great drivers cars but they have a long way to go in terms of build quality. Distorted and ill fitting door seals, sealant oozing out around the headlight covers. You don't expect to see this on cars costing that much money.

Lotus Eprit back I was asked by Facebook friends what car I'd choose if I could take just one home. Given all the cars at the show the answer surprised me a little but, this Alfa Romeo 8C fills a gap in my life right now and is just simply gorgeous. I've never owned an Alfa before either.

Second place would be the Ferrari 458 (much to the annoyance of my friend that works at McLaren) and the McLaren MP4-12C came a close third.

I'm still writing this up and sorting through the hundreds of photos!

In the mean time I've stuck a load of photos up on Google+Remote site. Send me an email if you want a Google+ invite and I'll add you to my Lotus circle :-)

4th July

Got a call from Lotus this evening. About my entry to win a Lotus Evora S for a yearRemote site. It's a competition by Lotus Cars and EVO Magazine.

5th July

I've taken steps to ensure my iPhone 4 never runs out of juice at motorsport events again: built a solar USB chargerRemote site and bought a USB battery bankRemote site :-)

12th July

Got a phone call from Stratton Motor CompanyRemote site this evening. I've made it through to the next round of the competition and now have a 'Lotus Champion test drive' boooked up.

14th July

Got a confirmation letter from Stratton Motor CompanyRemote site today confirming my test drive booking. The rules are a little clearer to me now.

16th July

Today I got to test drive the Lotus Evora S. It was going to have to be very good to make a lasting impression. I know they are very different cars but, comparison of the headline numbers with my Fury R1 helps put the performance of the Evora S into context. The Evora's 0 to 62mph time is down by about half a second at 4.5s and the 0-100mph time in the mid 11's represents a deficit of around 2 seconds. At 1430Kg, the Evora S also has a whopping 980Kg weight disadvantage. That's like having a new Lotus Elise in the passenger seat of my Fury R1! It's not really a valid comparison though, I'm comparing apples with oranges. My stripped-out road and track-day toy has little in common with a proper super car but, like I said, it does provide some context.

The reason I was keen to test drive the Evora S, is because of these numbers though: 345bhp @ 7000rpm, 295lb-ft @ 4500rpm and a 172mph top speed. The Evora S really does have the presence and numbers to sit comfortably with the supercar title and it totally looked and sounded the part at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month. My wife made me promise not to put down a deposit on one before I left. Last time I was up at the Stratton Motor CompanyRemote site with her, I persuaded her to let me put down a deposit on my Elise :-)

The drive up to the Long Stratton Motor Company is something I've done many times in my old Lotus Elise and it used to be an enjoyable experience. In the Elise it was easy to pop in and out of the lines of traffic, passing one, two, maybe three and occasionally four cars at a time. These days the whole road is pretty much limited to 50, 40 and in many places 30mph, and peppered with speed cameras. This has turned what was once an enjoyable road into a slow and monotonous convoy, with very few chances to overtake the numerous lorries that travel this way up to Norwich.

Evora S in Old English White I was welcomed at the Stratton Motor CompanyRemote site by Guy Munday (who I know well from my Elise ownership days) and Malcolm Venning, who is a more recent addition to the team there. The showroom was full of Elises, Exiges and Evoras (6 Evoras in total), including this one-off model in 'Old English White' :-) There was a rather nice Caparo T1 in the showroom too.

It was with a stomach full of butterflies that I approached the Evora S, a mix of excitement and trepidation. I was justifiably wary of driving a 172mph supercar in the torrential rain. On the quieter B-roads around Long Stratton there was a lot of standing water, ready to catch out the unwary (as you can see from the video clip below). But these are my favoured roads in my own car and I'm well versed in the art of eking out grip from cold A048's in our wet winter months.

Evora S in Old English White Entry to the Evora is easier than an Elise, which is in turn a lot easier than my Fury R1. You still need a strategy and a bit of practice to do it with grace and style though.

The seats are brilliant. Comfortable for very long journeys but, also well bolstered and supportive enough to work on track. I don't remember the standard cloth seats in my Elise being this supportive.

The Evora S I test drove had both the 'Premium Pack' and the 'Tech Pack'. The former includes accent lighting, more leather on the inside and heated seats. The latter includes a very nice hi-fi upgrade, DVD player, touch screen display, Bluetooth integration for your phone, MP3 player connectivity, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control and rear parking camera. The 'Sports Pack' is standard fitment on the S and an option on the standard Evora. In fact the car I drove had all of the options apart from the power-fold mirrors.

Malcolm was kind enough to let me stick my Contour HD to my side window but, this was done in a hurried fashion so my video of the test drive is far from perfect. The fact that the speedo is out of sight was just luck on my part :-) The following YouTube clip is a bunch of edited highlights:

The view through the rear-view mirror is a letterbox through a letterbox. The 'tech pack' and its rear view camera is an essential accessory if you need to reverse park your Evora on a regular basis. Jumping out to check clearance at the rear is not something you can do easily and the long, wide opening doors don't help either.

The pedals are not particularly close (certainly not as close as in my Fury R1) but they are closer than my other cars. I felt more comfortable changing into a pair of narrow Puma Speedcats, to improve the connection with the car. I'm really glad I did, these decent driving shoes enable you better feel what's going on and provide more confidence. I simply can't drive my Fury R1 in anything else.

Evora S dash The interior is a very pleasant place to be, not least because I really liked the colour of the leather and the mix of silver and black. You know that underneath all that leather is the raw aluminium chassis that is exposed in the Elise but, this is the best interior I've seen in any Lotus and it has a quality and luxury feel to it. The instrument layout is very good too. The dials are lovely and you have a clear and unobstructed view of them. Some of the buttons are out of sight, behind the steering wheel but, greater familiarity would negate this initial issue. There is a wealth of information available if required and I particularly like the active tyre pressure monitor but, I'm a little paranoid about the things that keep me in contact with the road.

We set off and the thing that initally hits you is just how quiet the Evora S when driven normally. Once on to some quieter, straighter roads I could start to explore the full throttle range though and the supercharged V6 sounds glorious. Initially, I struggled with the 6-speed gear lever layout but after about 10 minutes it all just seemed to work for me and I really liked the feel and gate of the gear shifts. This car had the standard ratios but, there is also a close ratio version. The ratios on this car seemed about right to me though. I could see the tall 6th gear being good for relaxed cruising on longer journeys. I've read some criticism on the gear shift but, it is certainly not due if this car is representative of the model. The only criticism that I could level at the gearbox in this car was a slight chatter of gear wheels in a couple of the gears. This is a minor point though and to be expected when your head is so close to it.

The super-charged V6 really is just creamy smooth. It is one of those very addictive engine noises and more importantly it stays sonorous right up to the 7200rpm red-line. I just know that any Elise owner would kill to have that over their shoulder. Press the sport button and it just gets better, adding burbles and pops on the over-run. The engine is not intrusive or noisy though. I think Lotus have got the balance just right. Whilst on the subject of the sport button, pressing it noticeably sharpens up the throttle response, the engine blips slightly as it is engaged. It also fully enables the super-charger and opens up a bypass valve in the exhaust, improving the sound and altering the exhaust backflow pressure. It also raises the red-line from 7000rpm to 7,200rpm.

After about 15 minutes I was exploring the performance envelope of the Evora a little bit further and I got the opportunity to experience the full torque curve from the V6 engine, up through a few more gears. It provides an impressive kick in the back. This is a seriously quick car and I honestly think it is very close to my Fury R1, this side of 100mph. Because they deliver in such different ways, only a side by side comparison would reveal the truth. Above 100mph there's no contest, the Evora S is just so much quicker and it's easy to believe that it can reach its 172mph top speed.

As you would normally expect, it is on the twisty bits that most Lotus cars really excell but, given its 1430Kg mass I wasn't expecting it to feel this good. The steering feedback is really good and the steering weight excellent. It really does feel like you are driving a much smaller car and it is truly Elise-like in the way it feels. This is enhanced by the view through the windscreen, the bonnet dropping rapidly away, providing a wonderful feeling of closeness to the road. More importantly this makes it feel fast too. I hate cars that go fast but just don't feel like they are doing so. I sold my Subaru Impreza Turbo because of this. Cars like that are less fun and result in more points on your license.

Twenty minutes in to the test drive, I was really starting to push harder into the corners and test the limits of traction on the exits. The Evora has traction control but there is no indication of its intervention. I was powering out of damp corners, that I just knew would have any car struggling for traction but, it's wonderfully subtle and only once could I feel it intervene. I would really like to do the same journey in the dry some day.

It was around this point in my test drive that a bond was made with this car. It had only taken me 25 minutes to realise that I was having proper B-road fun. The way Lotus have made the Evora S feel like a light-weight, B-road precision machine is just astounding. With each corner my confidence in the car grew and not once was there a hint of understeer, the Evora just turned in and hunkered down. It would take a lot longer for me to have the confidence to enter corners like I would in the Fury but, the fact that I got so far in such a short period of time is amazing.

The Evora has amazing ride too. The way it soaked up the bumps on these rough B-roads is very impressive. I've driven these same roads in other cars myself before and I despite the S having the 'sports' suspension the compliance and absorption over these kind of bumps is better than I remember in my Elise. It is certainly less skittish on rough surfaces. It somehow does this trick whilst having minimal body roll through corners or pitching under hard acceleration and braking. It reallt is some achievement.

As I drove back down the A140 at a traffic enforced 50mph, the sun broke cover. Despite the weather it was still a memorable and fantastic experience. I half thought I would be disappointed with the Evora but, I've come away from the test drive full of admiration for what Lotus has managed to do wit the Evora. The Lotus Elise was a benchmark car, the perfect balance between everyday usable and fun track-day machine. With the Evora S, I think Lotus have done it again. It is a great GT car and yet it is more fun on twisty B-roads than I thought possible.

I now NEED to spend some more time with this car, to better appreciate just what it can do. I think I've also found the ideal car to drive down to Le Mans next year. I really don't know why Lotus have not sold more of them.

If you want to help me get through to the next round, you can rate my 200 word reviewRemote site, which is my attempt to compress the above down to something meaningful and only 200 words long.

And a few more geeky bits ...

Evora S in Old English White The Evora is a 2+2. In practice you could just about fit two small children in the back, so long as the driver doesn't need his seat too far back. In my ideal driving position there was only about 4" of legroom for any back seat passenger.

The footwell is very long. I could stretch my left leg right out and only just touch the back of it. The left foot rest is set over to the left and could be easily missed if you didn't know it was there.

Evora S boot The Evora has a decent sized boot. If you used the back seats as well, you have got a car with a lot of luggage space and certainly enough for two people to travel across Europe.
Evora S supercharger You need one of these under the boot lid!

It was worth the visit and test drive just to get the hardback brochure! It now sits on my 'car' shelf along with all my other Lotus memorabilia.

17th July

Went out for a drive in the Fury R1 this morning to remind me what my 'benchmark' car feels like. On twisty B-roads the Fury is like the Evora S turned up to 12. You don't drive it, you wear it. You can feel what every wheel is doing and you are swamped with feedback. The minimal momentum of a 450Kg car lets you throw it into corners with so much more confidence. Changes in direction are far from effortless but they are instant. The unassisted 2.4 ratio quick steering rack is quite heavy in comparison and the Fury makes no real attempt to smooth out the road but, simply reports it back in detail. The suspension is much firmer and much less compliant. If the bumps are big enough it will take to the air. The steering doesn't just let you feel the road, it tugs at you and you have to concentrate 100% all the time just to stay on the road. It's incredibly involving and ultimately tiring but, it shows what is possible when you don't have to compromise and walk a line between two automotive functions. In short doses, it's still the biggest automotive high I've yet to experience. Would I drive across the UK in it? Not a chance!

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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 18 Jul 2011