Soon, no one will want to buy a car. The automobile as we know it is on its last hurrah before they turn into soulless autonomous driving pods, but before they fade out like the romance of a midsummer fling, they will first burn just as bright.
The problem is simple. Apart from a few unorthodox teenage boys, today’s younger generation aren’t the slightest bit interested in cars. When I turned 17, I spent my birthday in LTO from 9am to 6pm until my driver’s license was released. This is probably true for you too. I had been consumed with the need to drive out since I was feasting on Gerber. I wanted a car, not just for the freedom that it would afford, but for the intoxicating joy of piloting a machine at 200 kilometres per hour.
My nephew is very different. He’s 19 and has not bothered to take his driving test. His argument is a simple one. Traffic is horrible, parking is a hassle, and driving just doesn’t look interesting at all. There’s also something called a ‘driver’, and if that isn’t available there’s another called Uber or Grab — which he says is no more than a click away. He can move around without worrying about his level of intoxication and can’t be bothered by any driving fines. He therefore thinks he’s free, simply because he doesn’t have to drive himself.
And there’s no point going on about a convertible and having a bed of stars as your roof while listening to the howl of a V12 engine because he just doesn’t see cars this way — and with good reason. When he was little he spent two hours a day on a school run with his siblings strapped into the backseat of a Ford Escape, trapped in an endless jam. There’s no way this was going to allure him into anything car related. He wasn’t sitting there in complete awe of his driver, thinking, “Hmm, when I grow up I’d like to do this as well”.
When I’m alone in my thoughts, I still see the automobile as a Rosso Corsa 1960 Ferrari 250 California on the Amalfi coast with Porfirio Rubirosa at the wheel and Ingrid Bergman in a headscarf seated poshly at the passenger seat — perhaps in search of the next whiff of Neroli fragrance. La dolce vita. Nowadays, the new generation see the car as an eco hatchback, stuck on the Skyway, without RFID on a rainy Wednesday, while their nanny is happily flirting on one of her thirty dating apps.
The tragedy is that car makers don’t seem to have any plans of changing this. Instead of hiring artists like Pininfarina to pen cars that will cause you to pick up your jaw from the floor when you see them, they’ve gone on to make an SUV — because that is the only thing the world wants if they haven’t opted for an appalling eco box from Tesla. It’s a premise that there’s no one — absolutely no one — out there selling a car as one’s realization of a very wet childhood dream. There is, however, one carmaker who has ignored the ever changing times in the automotive world and has carried on building cars under the same ethos as when they were first founded 80 years ago. I can only be talking about Colin Chapman’s greatest legacy, Lotus.
You see, unlike Ferrari — Lotus has not gone on with the times. You will never see them make an SUV, because they haven’t figured out yet how to make people fit in the cars they currently make. And usually, car makers only move on to a new project once they’ve perfected the product that is the reason for their existence — like Porsche with the 911 to the Cayenne. Lotus isn’t there yet and they never will be. The very core of Lotus is built on Colin’s philosophy, “Simplify, and then add lightness”. An SUV is never simple and it will never be light. The beautiful thing about Lotus is that you feel their founder’s spirit radiate through the cabin the moment you start the engine. It is pure motorsport.
Simplify, and then add lightness.
Most of the supercars now are turbocharged or electrified and therefore sound like your mom’s kitchen blender. This Evora on full chat, is harmful to the ears. I kid you, not. When I accelerated in Madrigal avenue, Stefano called me from inside a restaurant at the back of Molito to ask if I had just passed by. It is also the only car I’ve gotten stopped in by the security guards in my village, because the neighbours were complaining. The reason the guards couldn’t articulate what they wanted to say was because the noise I was making was already from outside the village. It is by far the loudest Toyota Camry engine in the world. If you are hiding from people, this isn’t the car for you.
The build quality is typical Lotus. It is significantly softer and more plush than the hardcore Exige, but that’s like saying you’ll rail two lines of blow instead of four. You are still going to get wired. The upside is that this actually has an air-conditioning system that works, unlike the Exige which cools the cabin only when it feels like it — mostly on cold evenings only. The ride is a lot smoother than you’d expect and you do feel how lean it is. It makes the Porsche Cayman feel like Butterbean. The car comes standard with rattles and has an uncanny similarity to the noise inside a Philippine Airlines economy cabin when it touches down the runway — like the bags on the overhead bins are going to topple over.
The upside is that when you activate the ‘Sport’ or exhaust button, you no longer hear anything other than the violent exhaust that rips the ozone layer in half. The steering is precise and the chassis is predictable. The real achilles heel of this car is its flappy paddle gearbox. There’s a scientific term for it… Ah, it’s shit.
It’s fine when you’re not pushing it hard, but when you are, it just doesn’t bite into gear with as much conviction as I’d like. When you give it the full beans from first to second, the shifts never feel the same when you do it again. It’s like there’s an old man living under the hood who’s swapping the cogs on his own. He’s probably deaf too, so I can’t blame him.
Motorsport first, road car second.
The main point of this entire piece is to shed light on why cars no longer excite people today. Yet this Evora — as imperfect as it may be — is dripping in excitement, lust, and passion. It takes me back to the days when I wished I was old enough to drive and has made me feel completely privileged that now, I do. Where it lacks in its clinical reliability and durability, it makes up for in orgasmic noise and a bewitching experience. This is the kind of car that will get the youth behind the idea of an automobile.
No one is ever going to hop out of the Evora thinking, “Yes, this car rocks, but I’d like an autonomous Uber”. That’s like having the best sex of your life and saying, “You know what, I fancy becoming a priest”. Cars are a wonderful thing, yet this “save the planet” propaganda has molded the future of cars into a politically correct loaf of bread. A company like Lotus still exists for the hopeless romantics, the thrill seekers, and the foolish people that make an impact on the world simply because they’ve been left with something to aspire for.
Until I found you.