By on June 1, 2018

When I wrote my review of the Lotus Evora 400 for our friends over at Jalopnik a couple of summers ago, I submitted it with the headline “The Lotus Evora 400 is the Best Dual-Purpose Car I Have Ever Driven.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t deemed to be a sexy enough headline, so it was switched to “Best Track Car.” Such is the life of a freelance contributor.

While there’s no doubt the Evora 400 shines on the racing line, its true genius is revealed on the highways and byways of these United States. It’s rare to find a car that can both quicken the pulse and comfort the soul as well as the Lotus does. To that end, when Lotus sent the Evora to my Old Kentucky Home for a week for some extended testing, I decided to revisit my original premise: Is the Lotus Evora 400 really the best dual-purpose car I’ve ever driven?

To find out, I decided to drive from Winchester, Kentucky to Dawsonville, Georgia and back in the same day, a round trip of 700 miles. Oh, and I figured that I might as well go to the SCCA’s Track Night in America at Atlanta Motorsports Park while I was at it. Dual-purpose? You bet.

The day started around 9:00 am on a humid Tuesday. My route was going to be a combination of interstates and country roads, and the first few hours were going to be of the highway variety as I set out down I-75 South toward Tennessee. Unfortunately, I was stopped by Kentucky’s finest before I even made it to the entrance ramp.

“Where are you going in such a hurry?” the officer asked me as I rolled down the passenger window.

“Hurry? Was I speeding?” I offered meekly.

“I clocked you at 74 in a 55.” Thanks to the Evora’s $10,000 carbon fiber package, I hadn’t even seen the brown Explorer behind me until his lights went on.

“Oh, wow, I’m sorry. I certainly wasn’t meaning to speed. This thing can get away from you.” And it was true. The Evora was already demonstrating its comfort level at cruising speeds on KY-627 South. If you keep the revs under 4,500, the exhaust will keep sound levels nice and Camry-ish, which isn’t terribly surprising, considering that the Lotus and the Toyota share the same 3.5 liter V6 motor.

“Do you have any tickets on your record?”

“No, sir.” That was very nearly a true statement, considering that I only had one … in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“All right, well … slow it down. What year is this thing?”

“2018. Brand new.”

The trooper whistled in appreciation. “It’s nice, man. Have a great day.”

And so it was that I continued on my way down through the Bluegrass into Tennessee, careful to set the cruise control at 78 mph as I attracted the attention of every single driver and passenger on the road. In the South, we don’t see many wedge-shaped supercars — our big money vehicles tend to be of the King Ranch, Denali, and Raptor variety. Even a Navigator or Escalade is too ostentatious for southern gents and ladies. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in the Evora — far from it.

Lotus Evora 400

In fact, every stop at a drive thru or gas station was extended by the amount of time necessary to discuss the Lotus with fellow patrons and employees. My first gas stop was in Lenoir City, TN, outside of Knoxville, where I was pleased to see that the Evora was delivering about 26 mpg on average.

Combine that fuel economy with the highway manners of an English gentleman, and you start to see how Hethel’s creation really does make sense as a daily driver. The Alpine stereo, which shockingly features Apple CarPlay, does a more than adequate job of playing everything from Kenny Garrett to Sublime with reasonable range of tone and quality. Michelin provides the rubber here, with Pilot Super Sports, and they’re quite good on the road, able to whisk away water at a moment’s notice while keeping road noise to a minimum.

The seating position delivered by the alcantara-wrapped Sparco seats was nearly perfect for this 5’9″ driver — I would have liked to have been able to raise the seats up a bit, but that’s a minor complaint. And on this brutally hot May afternoon, the air conditioning was more than up to the task of cooling me down, a job that previous Lotuses seen on our shores might have struggled with a bit.

My only real complaint about my lengthy drive to Georgia was a lack of cupholders. Ugh, I hate even typing that, as it’s the most journosauristic complaint possible, but one does wish for somewhere to store his large Chick-Fil-A tea (unsweetened, which is a felony in some Georgia counties) other than between one’s legs.

My arrival at Atlanta Motorsports Park was surprisingly anticlimactic. Normally, after a drive of 300-plus miles in a sporting car, you have to unfold yourself out of it in a somewhat painful manner — especially at the age of 40. Not the Evora. Just swing your legs to the side and hop out, and neither your back nor your extremities will be any the worse for having made the journey.

lotus evora 400 mode selector

AMP is a fun, easy track for newbies to negotiate, and that’s why it makes for a perfect Track Night in America. It drives somewhat like a big autocross, and there are only a couple of spots where you’ll get yourself in any trouble — although those spots are big trouble when you find them. Since my Evora was equipped with the aforementioned Super Sports rather than something like a Pilot Sport Cup 2, or even the new Pilot Sport 4 S, I decided before I even went on track that I wouldn’t be trying to set any lap records on that day.

Upon entering the pit lane for the first Advanced session, the SCCA’s Dustin Stevenson asked me to show him my point-by signals. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I won’t need to use them.” And I was very nearly right — only a GM Performance SEMA Camaro had any pace for me out on track.

The Evora 400 had more than enough juice to slide by everybody else, including C7 Vettes, F30 and E92 M3s, and even an Exocet — they all had to practice their own point-by signals when the Evora came up behind them. The straight line acceleration is no joke, and the Evora showed its ability to make up time on my Track Night teammates between the turns.

In the turns, I had much less confidence. The car showed a tendency to oversteer in the carousel and in the sharp hairpins of turns 1 and 6, and I had no desire to end up backwards in the wall in 14, 15, and 16 — 16, in particular, is notorious for helping drivers find the wall with the back of their cars.

But even with taking the final three turns incredibly conservatively, I was still able to turn consistent 1:36 laps, which was just about what I was able to coax out of the Honda Civic Type R last summer, and only a couple of seconds slower than the NSX I had there the year before. If I were driving my own Evora on a set of tires that I trusted a little bit more, quicker times would be more than possible.

After each session, the Lotus was surrounded by fans. “Nice car” became such a common refrain that I quickly tired of explaining that it wasn’t mine and just said “Thanks” in response.

The next most frequently spoken words were, “How is it?” Well, it’s not supercar fast. It’s fast enough, though. While the Evora 410 Sport is probably the car you’d want if being a trackday bro was your goal in life, the Evora 400 is a fine compromise for a car that you’ll drive every day. And because the brakes and tires showed little to no wear after three 20-minute track sessions, the Evora 400 owner will feel completely safe being able to drive his car to and from the track day.

Ah, yes, that reminds me. I still had a 300 mile drive home, and it was past 8:00 pm. Time to get a move on.

With the sun making its way beyond the horizon, and with no option to stop for a motel overnight along the way (my daughter was performing the very next morning in a school play at 9:00 a.m.), I realized my best option was to grab a couple of Rockstar fruit punches from the local gas station and make my run for home.

Just as I expected, there was no sponginess or fade in the brakes after the sessions. In fact, if I had parachuted into the car for the drive home, I never would have guessed it had just completed an hour of fairly hard track driving. Apple CarPlay and my maps application conspired to give me a rather indirect route home, with nary a mile of freeway driving until well after I had entered the Volunteer State.

The Evora was up for it — even with a Rockstar balanced precariously between my legs. As I came up on a Ram quad cab pickup doing about 30 mph with a dog in the bed and seemingly an entire county of drunks in the cab on a two-lane road, I looked for an opportunity to pass. Immediately after I did, the Ram came to life, kicking its Hemi into gear and attempting to chase me down. Thoughts of banjos and canoes entered my mind, and I quickly conducted an Evora vs. Ram performance test on the back roads of Tennessee in the near pitch black darkness.

After quickly losing them in the side mirrors (because I couldn’t see a damn thing out of the rearview), I realized that I needed to stop for gas. The track session had caused the Evora’s total MPG for the trip to dip slightly below 20 MPG, a figure that was still outstanding, all things considered. The quick consumption of the two Rockstars meant that trip to the restroom was necessary as the Lotus gobbled up a tank of premium at the dimly lit gas station.

Upon returning to the car, I found the Ram waiting for me. Fuck. There I was, ready to face the worst of the South, fearing that I’d be on the wrong end of a shotgun.

“Hey, buddy,” the driver called out. “Is that a Ferrari?”

“No, man, it’s a Lotus!”

He nodded approvingly. “Man, was that you that blew by us a few miles back? We was trying to catch up to you so we could see the car! It’s beautiful, dude!” And like that, they were gone, the sounds of Florida Georgia Line trailing behind them as they disappeared into the darkness.

I, too, had to complete my journey into the dark, and there were police everywhere along the way.

Luckily, I had driven through the South before, and I knew that small town cops liked nothing better than to snag big fish coming through 35 mph zones. I carefully observed the speed limit icon on CarPlay and adhered to it religiously.

At almost 3:00 am, I rolled back into my driveway, the trip odometer reading 699.9 miles. I was tired, but happy to have been able to prove my original hypothesis from many moons prior. The Lotus Evora 400 is the best dual-purpose car I’ve ever driven. Given the reality of my life, there’s not another car in its class that would fit me better — it truly is a 911 killer. It’s more comfortable to drive every day, and it’s better on track, too. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

[Images: Mark “Bark M.” Baruth/TTAC]

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28 Comments on “700 Miles and Running: To Track Night and Back With the Lotus Evora 400...”

  • avatar

    Nice piece.

    Damn though I still can’t afford these.

    MY17 Evora 400

    3/21/18 $72,250* 1,796 5.0 6G/A Yellow Regular Southeast Palm Beach
    7/25/17 $76,000* 1,555 5.0 6G/A Red Regular Southeast Orlando

    MY12 Evora 2+2

    4/9/18 $39,000* 22,380 – – 6CY/- – Gray Regular Northeast NY Metro Skyline
    7/25/17 $40,100* 11,885 4.4 6G/6 White Regular Southeast Orlando

    MY11 Evora 2+2

    5/3/18 $33,250* 18,710 2.6 6G/6 WhiteLeaseMidwestChicago
    5/2/18 $39,000 12,690 4.4 6G/6 BlueRegularWest CoastCalifornia
    4/19/18 $38,000 9,450 4.2 6G/6 BlueRegularWest CoastRiverside
    3/1/18 $37,000 33,951 4.5 6G/6 SilverRegularMidwestSt Louis
    1/26/18 $44,750* 8,923 5.0 6G/6 Gray RegularNortheastPennsylvania
    1/5/18 $42,500 5,968 4.6 6G/6 BlackRegularNortheastPennsylvania

    • 0 avatar

      Mid 30s? Hmmmm… in another 3 years the price might fall into the possible category.

      What type of traction control settings do these things have? All or nothing, or can you fine tune things?

      • 0 avatar

        No idea on Lotus features, I’m just quoting valuations. Depending on recon costs, there may be an opportunity here with the Lotus Evora in say five MYs.

        • 0 avatar

          Remember the evora and the evora 400 are two totally different cars.

          I for example am overly comfortable in the evora 400, but the evora is too small inside to drive at all.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks for the clarification. I can count on one hand how many times I have seen a Lotus in the wild, and they were always the Elise, so these are rare indeed,

        • 0 avatar

          There is supposed to be an open air version coming out this year, so start saving now.

  • avatar

    Nice review – just goes to show that lightness offers so many advantages in fuel economy and wear items – my only concern would be the old Lotus problem of also being fragile and unreliable.

  • avatar

    As the owner of a 2008 Cayman S, this is interesting to me. As for daily driving, I have a few questions:
    * how big is the frunk and does it have a usable hatch in the back (I often use both features in my car)
    * how badly does it scrape when transitioning from downhill to flat road (i.e.: driving forward out of my driveway onto the street)
    * what’s the engine speed at 80 MPH in top gear (my Cayman’s is about 3100 — I’d prefer 2500 for long trips)

    • 0 avatar

      You’ll use the trunk, not the frunk. Its pretty massive.

      There’s no room under the front hood unless you want to like stash a First Aid Kit or your wallet or something.

      I got zero scrapeage when I was driving it, despite my Ferrari 360 scraping.

      Your speed question is a trick question because there are 3 gearboxes available on the evora. The manual transmission will run at 1,951 RPM at 80 MPH. The Close Ratio will run at 2,882 RPM at 80 MPH, and the IPS will run 2,473 RPM.

      Since I believe the manual is the way to go, you are right under 2000 RPMs. Otherwise, with the IPS you are close to what you desire.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the details. This sounds like an upgrade from the Cayman in every way. I don’t mind low RPMs in top gear. Lower is better so long as there’s enough torque to handle most situations without downshifting. Heck, it sounds like 5th would still be lower than the Cayman’s 6th. Sounds like the standard gearing on the manual would be great for street driving.

    • 0 avatar

      I was impressed with the frunk in my brothers ’15 Boxster GTS. It was decent sized, like two jerrycans for track day fit up there. The trunk isn’t as big but it easily seemed good enough for an overnight type bag (weekend getaway). Does the Lotus really have that much space back there?

  • avatar

    Here found you a cup holder, now the car is perfect. Well except for the price.

  • avatar

    Add Lightness and Simplify.

    Good for them. Nice car.

  • avatar

    Please take down this post!

    I am going to buy one of these as soon as it depreciates below my Ferrari. You talking it up like this is just going to increase demand for this car!!!!

    Seriously though, I’m ready to buy one but they are holding their value too darn well. I’m about to buy one new. I think they are a heck of a bargain even at new car prices

    Good writeup. This car needs more love, because its everything everyone dreams of in a mid-engine Corvette… including the fit and price… just no one knows the thing exists!

  • avatar
    John R

    “…I quickly conducted an Evora vs. Ram performance test on the back roads of Tennessee in the near pitch black darkness.”

    [E U R O B E A T I N T E N S I F I E S]

  • avatar

    Very nice write-up; enjoyed reading it a lot. What shone through was the author’s bond with the car. Wasn’t stated, didn’t have to be. Must be a very well-judged car – 700 miles, track night, in one day, the return on two-laners. Nice. I probably want one sight unseen.

  • avatar

    Were those actual analog gauges for the speedo and tach?

    I thought as a brand you’re nothing without a cheap LED for a dashpod /s.

  • avatar

    …hey mark, what are they doing for a dead pedal in the newer enlarged footwell?..i had a lot of seat time in the original model and that little strip of aluminum angle behind the clutch pedal was one of its only substantial negatives to my mind, well, alongside the nearly-useless rear window and those ridiculous dummy oil cooler intakes…

  • avatar

    “…especially at the age of 40…”

    Wait, like…40? As in, the 40 that comes right after your late 30s?

    So now driving a car for 300 miles is too strenuous for a modern American 40-year-old?

    • 0 avatar

      I know you’re just a troll, but try driving for five hours in any of the modern sports cars for sale today and tell me how your back feels when you’re done.

      (Who just finished Week 8 of P90X3)

      • 0 avatar

        I’m in my ’30s and I’ve driven a Triumph TR6 for 5+ hours, as well as the owner who’s in his ’60s. I’d say a modern sports car would be like butter. Also has to be smoother than my S10 with the ‘firm ride, extra capacity’ suspension and polyurathane body mounts.

    • 0 avatar

      Curious, so are you an old man without back problems or a punk who doesn’t know sh!t about sh!t in life?

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