2011 Lotus Evora S First Drive

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There are days when it's especially good to get paid to write about cars, and last Friday at Laguna Seca was one of them.

Lotus brought several groups of journalists out to test the new 2011 Evora S alongside the standard Evora, putting us up in decent hotels and giving us access to some of the best roads between San Jose and the track.

Laguna Seca is a fun and challenging track. It offers a range of high- and moderate-speed turns, elevation changes, and several opportunities to maximize the benefits of power. The Evora S is almost ideally suited to this place.

Why? Because, like its non-supercharged sibling, the Evora S is nearly perfectly balanced, tending neither toward understeer nor oversteer, but letting the driver induce either situation on demand or not at all. Unlike some mid-engine cars, the low polar moment of inertia doesn't promote any spin-happy behavior. In fact, it's confidence inspiring even with all of the driver aids switched off.

When Lotus says the driver aids are switched off, they mean it, unlike some carmakers. The only aids left in effect are ABS and the electronically-operated limited-slip mechanism, which uses the brakes to control power application. Yaw, slip, and slide are all in the driver's control--and the driver's control is borderline incredible thanks to the feel and feedback of the steering and chassis.

It may be overstepping a bit to make this comparison, but the Evora S presents itself as a smaller, slightly less capable, slightly less telepathic version of the 458 Italia I drove over some of the same roads at last year's Pebble Beach Concours. When dressed in red exterior paint and tan leather, it even presents a bit of the image of a mini-Italia. And for the starting price of just $76,000, that's a hard bargain to argue with.

The thrust of the Evora S is impressive to the point that it makes you wonder if the 345-horsepower, 295 pound-feet rating isn't just a bit low. Take off hard in first gear, run through second, and you're above freeway speed limits before you're into third--and well before the end of the on-ramp. Do it on the track and the car willingly darts forward, punishing only the most brutally ham-footed stabs of the gas pedal. It's really a delight to drive--no unexpected or vicious behavior, just completely willing responses to almost any request. By the numbers, it's good for 4.3 seconds to 60 mph and 10.2 seconds to 100 mph. The quarter mile takes just 12.8 seconds with a trap speed of 110 mph. It'll pull 1.2g on the skid pad. It's a quick, nimble, and tossable car.

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