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Cayman vs Evora

It was a pleasant surprise when I received an invitation from JCT600 Brooklands and Lotus to have a run out to Ripley Castle in Harrogate and drive the Lotus Evora. When I bought the Cayman I really didn't consider the Evora as an alternative due to the issues I had with my Elise, so I had the worry that when I did drive it I'd regret the decision I made. Still, you can't turn down a day out on the roads around Harrogate in a Lotus now can you!

First impressions are of a very different car to how I remembered my Elise. It feels more robust, more car like rather than race car like. A quick pan around the cabin and it's actually really quite pleasant. The dash is quite attractive though can be a little hard to read on the move. But overall it's a definite step up from the Lotus interiors of old and indeed it was pleasantly devoid of any Elise-like rattles and clanks. The seats are excellent in being both more comfortable and more supportive than the Cayman's, and the controls all fall to hand as they should.

Once we got out on to the roads I found that it took me a little while to adjust to the very sensitive brakes. The Cayman's pedal has excellent feel and weight in comparison. Also the action of the gearbox is clunky and unpleasant, betraying it's origins. Toyota don't make a manual box for the Camry V6 so it was sourced from a van, and it shows.

There are no such worries with the steering, the weighting and communication through the wheel is spot on, as you'd expect from Lotus. So to is the handling and ride. I have never driven a car that rides as nicely and still handles so superbly. It simply flows along the road, regardless of how bad it might be. Compare this to the Cayman's over firm ride and there's no doubt as to which one is most suited to British roads. One glides over them, the other pummels them into submission.

There's been a lot said about the Evora's lack of power. As with the Cayman, this is complete bollocks. In the real world, on real roads it doesn't need any more than it has. It was very easy to wind it up to non-sensible speeds and it does so more briskly than the Cayman into the bargain.

All things considered, the car drives very well indeed. It in no way feels as big or heavy as it's kerb weight would suggest and it's a shining example of Lotus' ride and handling brilliance. If I bought a car purely on how it drove, I'd choose this over the Cayman hands down.

But there's more to it than that. The Lotus is still a little rough around the edges. At Elise prices this can be forgiven, but at Cayman prices and above, the expectations of build and quality are much higher. It just doesn't feel as solidly built as the Cayman even though it's inexplicably heavier.

Then we have the big turn-off. It's snobby, and I hate myself for this being important to me, but in a 50k car the engine simply does not feel special enough. I'm annoyed because it pulls well and has a pleasant engine note (that would be helped even more with the addition of a sports exhaust). It just that nothing about it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, or gives you goose bumps. It's effective, and I'm sure it's efficient and reliable, but it lacks soul.

I think that if the car was cheaper, all of this could be forgiven, as it is with the Elise. You can get away with the Elise's raw nature because it's relatively cheap. You can get away with the engines they run because they conform to the Lotus ethos of adding lightness. Unfortunately the Evora is neither light nor cheap, which makes these niggles all the more grating.

The Cayman is a polished, complete, solid car that more importantly does a bloody good impression of it's faster more expensive brethren. It's not perfect, but it's more finished than the Lotus is. The Evora is a very different car from an Elise, but it still has a lot of Elise DNA in there for better, and for worse. It drives like you imagine an Elise GT should. You could throw it around all day and I guarantee you'll be grinning from ear to ear. However, I wonder if using it on a daily basis would prove as rewarding, as this is no longer weekend only car territory.

Lotus have made a big step up the food chain with the Evora and in a lot of areas it succeeds. Sadly it's let down by little things and that nagging doubt around build quality that I have, which in my opinion is the biggest issue that Lotus need to address. Maybe then they can start to compete with the likes of Porsche.

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