I’ve noticed something peculiar about Lotus.
Whenever I am at a fuel station in a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, or a Porsche, everyone around seems to pull up their phone and admire the car from a distance - like I’ve got a huge sticker of an African man's sausage on the doors. In the Lotus Evora, people not only pulled out their smartphones, but they approached me and to have a little chat. There must've been a topless photo of Kate Upton stuck to the doors. It's the same with the Exige S Roadster. Without a roof, cars beside us, especially those with children stuck their heads out like giraffes just to get a glimpse of the topless sports car.
Much to their disappointment, they didn’t find a supermodel with brown windblown golden locks, but a fat sweaty man whose straight long straight black hair was whipping his eye constantly. That explained the car's temporary top speed of 80 km/h. There were other problems too, getting in and out of the cabin is like going into labor. I have never experienced giving birth before, but I assume that it is just the same. You need to put one foot in and spread your legs for about 15 minutes, and that’s not even half of it. Never has getting into a car felt like a full workout, but really it was.
Then you’d get inside and realize that there’s only enough space for two leprechauns. The cabin was burning hot and the aircondition system, at its very best, was like a little child blowing through a paper windmill she made at her art class. And then you fire up the engine, and you think to yourself - “Ooohh yes, that’s the sound of a supercar”. You look at the aluminium gear lever in the middle and you start to get carried away thinking, “this is the great equalizer”. You step on what is supposed to be a clutch pedal, but is actually a piece of rock stuck into the chassis.
Had I known that the clutch was designed for Conor McGregor, I wouldn’t have signed up for this at all. Twenty minutes into the drive, I was panting like I was having the best sex of my life, but in truth, I was just changing gears with two hands on the lever and two legs on the clutch. By this time, the whole experience had taken a steeper turn for the worst. The child behind the aircon vents decided to stop blowing, the buttons on the dash decided to jump out, and the sun decided to shine bright like a diamond. In other words, I was f*cked. Nonetheless, it made a great noise and everyone around me seemed rather entertained.
A dream and a nightmare.
The Exige was a dream when going fast, but a nightmare in everything else. When Lotus Cars Manila told me that I could have the - supposedly more luxurious and more street-friendly - Evora 400, I jumped at the opportunity. However, if I’m honest, I had no expectations on this one.
I couldn’t be fooled by its McLaren and Ferrari design cues. The notorious Lotus build quality should prevail and the experience will go downhill from there. It won’t take five minutes, I said to myself. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, The Evora is absolutely brilliant in ways I never expected.
"What in heaven's name is an automatic for when it stalls without merit?"
This reminded me so much of a man I had the utmost pleasure of working with, our former-graphic designer, Homer Sabaot. He barely said a word in the office, barely made eye-contact, and could barely raise his hand to say, “Hello!”. I have never met anyone more timid and shy. In his team, he made the least impact as far conversations went, simply because he had nothing to say. Someone must’ve hit the mute button, for even his laughter was inaudible. The spotlight was on everyone else but him, until he turned in his work. It was in this particular medium that he spoke and expressed himself louder than anyone else through excellence in his craft. Homer had the ability to turn abstract ideas into tangible works of art. In this lifetime, I may never have the pleasure of working with anyone who has the ability to create magic and over-deliver day in and day out, but gladly I get to drive one, the immensely addicting Evora.
Thank you, Homer!
Speaking of magic, 400 horsepower used to sound like a lot, but in a world where your grandfather’s luxury barge can be pushing 600 - it barely raises any eyebrows. The key is in the car’s weight. The Evora weighs in at 1,422 kg, which is a passenger away from a Ferrari 458 Italia. However, it doesn’t have 562 horses to propel the car forward, making it feel ordinary. To put that in perspective, the Exige S Roadster which had 20 horses less at 380 felt much more rapid, simply because it only needed to push 1166 kg - which is a lot. In car language, that’s like removing Yokozuna and a backpack full of burgers and fries from the roof of the car. It’s still fast, don’t get me wrong. It can do 0-100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds, but it doesn’t feel as rapid as it should.
All of that is fine, but what sticks like a fishbone stuck in my throat is the automatic gearbox. I get why people would spec the car with this option. It’s more civilized in traffic and it, theoretically, is supposed to shift quicker than you can if you had a stick. The latter is false. The automatic transmission is lethargic and has a mind of its own. It shifts whenever it feels like it or even worse, it doesn’t at all. At one point, I was stuck in 3rd gear for 20 minutes. I had to pull over, much to the delight of bystanders. Even worse than being stuck in 3rd gear is the fact that this car likes to stall on its own. As a matter of fact, I’ve stalled four times, successfully making me look like a bearded man with a student's permit. What in heaven's name is an automatic for when it stalls without merit?
"It is also the first button I wouldn't mind destroying."
That aside, the car is great. The build quality of the interior closer to its more exotic compatriots. The air-conditioning system actually works, and for that, they deserve a standing ovation. The car is equipped with xenon lights, finally. Welcome to 2017, there’s already LED technology. Nonetheless, it’s very much appreciated. The seats are wonderful too. They’re mega supportive and the car is planted as f*ck, thanks to the masterful chassis and the sticky summer tires.
In some corners that could easily flip a car over, this one took half asleep. The approach speed didn’t even matter because the brakes are so ridiculously good, you'd have to plug your eyes back to its sockets. Just be mindful that not everyone behind you can shed speed as quickly. How about that sound? I have never driven a car that sounded like it was tearing up its surroundings and shattering the glass of establishments nearby. I imagine that the group of skaters at the Fort had their ears bleed and whipped as I shifted from third to second. It’s a violent noise that you can turn off at the push of a button. When you do, you’ll remember that it has the engine of a Toyota Camry. It is silent. It is also the first button I wouldn't mind destroying.
Deafening and visceral.
Let’s just put it this way. If you’ve longed for the legendary Lotus handling and balance but aren’t willing to sacrifice slaving it away in the heat in the uncompromising nature of an Exige, the Evora is for you. The ride isn’t harsh, the cabin has all the necessities you’ll ever really need from a sports car, and it isn’t at all intimidating to drive. I cannot express how docile and easy it is to drive.
It is a thing of beauty. Everyone pulls out their smartphones when you arrive and you truly make their day. It not only makes your heart expand when you fire out of corners in ways you didn’t think was possible, but it spreads happiness and joy to the mundane routinely schedule of people, and on that alone, you should get one. When you do, ask for a manual gearbox. Oh, and don't forget your ear plugs.