Every once in a while, a car comes along that is a bit out of left field. For me, it’s the 2021 Lotus Evora GT.
I don’t mean that I wasn’t expecting it to be as fun as it is—I knew it would be. What I mean is, I wasn’t prepared for how infatuated I’d become with it. And when other reviewers said it’s a more analogue and no-frills exotic sports car in a high-tech, high-frills era, I didn’t expect this to be so true, as well as some of the reasoning why I love it so much. I'd always wanted to drive one of Lotus' iconic sports cars, and finally, an opportunity arose. I was also fresh off of a long holiday break to unwind and not write about cars, so I possessed a crisp, clear mind to review it, too.
I swear I’ll try not to gush too hard over my week with this beautiful 2021 Lotus Evora GT. But it’ll be hard.
To hop in, turn the key, and experience immense corner-carving thrills, this comprehensive carbon-fiber-appointed, 6-speed manual tester starts at $96,950, and can reach as much as $135,000 with various options added on, such as better audio amenities, some wild colors, and a 6-speed automatic gearbox.
2021 Lotus Evora GT
- Four-wheel double wishbone suspension
- Torsen limited slip differential,
- Hydraulic rack and pinion steering
- Engine: Supercharged 3.5-liter V6
- Horsepower: 416 hp
- Torque: 317 lb-ft of torque
- Drivetrain: Mid-Engine, RWD
- Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
- Excellent handling
- Thrilling power
- One-size-fits-many interior
- Shifter doesn't match the other inputs
- Hard to see out of the back
- Dashboard reflections at night
The Evora GT Has Exotic Value In Spades
From the outside, the little 3,175-pound Evora GT has a lot of presence. It looks unlike much of what’s on the road. Between its carbon fiber roof, massive carbon fiber trunk lid, short stature, wide stance, modern Lotus shape, massive brakes, and meaty tires, when I asked passersby how much they thought it cost, everyone said a figure that’s north of $200,000. So, McLaren money. I’ve heard “mini-McLaren” passed around quite a bit when discussing the Evora GT—I say it’s more “slightly-slower-more-engaging-McLaren.”
That’s the beauty of what Lotus has cobbled together here. The Evora does its lineage proud by offering hand-assembled, lightweight composite-bodied, near-supercar looks for a much lower price than it seems. And it’s not all show and less go, either, which I’ll get to a tad later.
The Evora GT especially looks the part with its carbon fiber roof and trunk lid. Matched with its wide stature, these grab the eye and summon thoughts of its race-prepped GT4 cousins. Plus, opening and closing the trunk lid is an experience in itself, separate from how the whole package drives. Lifting it up and feeling its featherweight construction will always put a smile on your face, and noticing its massive holes that open up to the world to vent engine heat remind you how purpose built this little beast is.
A No-Frills Interior For Corner Carving Connoisseurs
Stepping into the Evora GT isn’t as difficult as other carbon-roof exotic fare. It sits low to the ground, but the space between the door and the driver’s seat is pretty minimal, and the opening in its composite body is very large. Its airbag-equipped, carbon fiber-back Sparco seats are easy to slide into and very comfortable. They’re also trimmed in supple leather and Alcantara, and have excellent bolstering, too.
Throughout the cabin, there’s a good mix of stitched, supple leather, Alcantara, and substantial-feeling plastic. The carbon fiber binnacle on top of the dash is a neat accent, though its reflections onto the windshield at night are a tad annoying. Still, it’s a very aesthetically pleasing and comfortable place to be.
The various buttons and knobs making up the Evora GT’s switchgear surprised me. They not only feel substantial and of good quality, but remind me of high-end switch panels that occupy high-dollar GT and Touring Car race cars. Their operation is simple and straightforward, though some can be a tad tough to read at night. The gauge cluster is a nice mix of an analogue speedometer and tachometer, with small digital displays on either side. I was glad to be able to monitor tire pressures, but wished I could’ve paged through to also see exact water and oil temperatures.
The infotainment system is simply a small, aftermarket Alpine head unit, which I dig. The buttons are very small, but who cares? It’s got Apple CarPlay and BlueTooth, both of which connect in the blink of an eye, and the sound system is very good. That’s all that one needs, there’s too much other stuff to love about the Evora’s overall package.
The steering wheel itself is an excellent size, it has an excellent diameter, and is devoid of any buttons except the horn. Intuitively, Lotus has placed the washer and turn signal stalks far in front of the wheel, ensuring those won’t get in the way of some focused, precise wheel work. I had too much fun experiencing this in practice while catching a few slides through a wide, empty late night intersection or two.
Fitment-wise, as a six-foot-three gent with wider shoulders, it was a relief to fit so well in the Evora GT. This makes sense, as people in the United Kingdom tend to be of a similar build, albeit I bet not quite at the same waist size as me. I had to peer under the top of the windshield to see traffic lights, but not to a bothersome degree. Shoulder room was good, headroom was plentiful in every position except stiff-as-a-board upright, and legroom was surprising. Some of that goes to the two miniscule seats in the back, but that’s a lost cause for anyone who’s blessed with the gift of arms and legs. It’s only very-small-child-friendly.
With an engaging, low-slung driving position with an excellent mid-engine sports car front view, excellent spacing between the pedals, as well as between the steering wheel and shifter, the Evora GT is tailor-fitted for all forms of fun motoring.
The Evora GT’s Supercharged V6 Is A Sublime Engine
Behind the passenger compartment sits a transverse-mounted, supercharged 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 416 horsepower at 7,000 RPM, 317 pound-feet of torque, and enables the little Evora GT to hit the 60 MPH mark in 3.8 seconds, and reach a top speed of 188 mph. Like I said, a slightly slower McLaren.
Both the power curve and song that this rowdy 6 sings are thoroughly intoxicating. It’s pretty well-known by now that Lotus sources the engine from Toyota, like how they nabbed the Aichi brand’s four cylinders for the Elise and Exige. You might’ve heard “not bad for a Camry engine” if you’ve kept up with the Evora’s lengthy eleven-year run, and it remains true. Not bad at all. Lotus massages the engine to their liking, straps a big ol’ Edelbrock water-to-air supercharger to the top of it, feeds the engine 8.7 PSI of boost, and boom: glorious noises all-around. Well, actually, not boom—it’s a wise move choosing such a sturdy 6 for the job, as this cuts down on maintenance and I imagine rowdier engine qualities like oil consumption. It’s a win-win.
The noises that the Evora produces are incredible. Not just the supercharger’s glorious whine, but the fast-revving, angry-V6 scream as well. It doesn’t sound clunky and crappy like a Nissan VQ, either. It’s very crisp and… just good. Like VW/Audi V6s, but better. Its Sport and Race modes were key, as these kept the exhaust baffles wide open, allowing it to sing its glorious song to the heavens. I almost always had my driver’s side window at least a little cracked, too, as that was the best way to hear the supercharger spin up with the revs. Then, the cherry on top was seeing the electronic throttle body spin in cadence with the revs in the rearview mirror.
My tester’s 6-speed manual gearbox is a welcome sight in 2022. Paired with a heavier clutch with excellent feel and travel, it’s a joy to row through the gears, though requires a healthier than average stab of the gas to properly heel-toe downshift. That’s quite OK though, I appreciated every chance to hear the single rear exhaust pipe let out a sharp growl. The cable-actuated shifter itself wasn’t as amazing as the rest of the car, but that’s a very minor complaint. My size 12 feet with a fairly normal width were at the limit of formula-car-like distance between the clutch, brake, and gas pedals, too, but this was easy to get used to and made for joyously precision footwork.
The Evora’s fast-revving 3.5-liter V6 has a hearty, linear power curve. Paired with good gearing, it’s a treat to rev out over and over, all day long. First and second gear and a little long, but because of this getting underway in a very spirited fashion isn’t too much work. Then, when faced with a succession of slow, twisty mountain road corners, second gear is great to hold onto while the engine smoothly hums near its 7,000 RPM redline. The only other aspect of the Evora that’s as addictive as its performance is the way it rips through corners.
Well-Balanced, Corner-Dominating Steering, Handling, And Braking
The Lotus Evora GT is proof that a properly tuned chassis and suspension doesn’t require adaptive dampers. Its four-wheel double-wishbone suspension paired with Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, and Eibach sway bars rode so incredibly well over most surfaces.
During my week that contained a lot of in-city driving around Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, the ride was never choppy over rough pavement. It bounced a bit and definitely felt connected, but it was never harsh. Adaptive dampers set to full-stiff would’ve been an immensely different story.
People often regard the Evora as a very everyday-friendly exotic sports car, which I agree with for the most part, though would like to modify a tad to every day, enthusiast-friendly. Large bumps and undulations on the highway definitely unsettle you in the seat, and you have to keep a generally attentive grip on the wheel thanks to its hydraulic rack and pinion steering.
This is by no means a complaint, though. The steering is very communicative, it has excellent weight, and pairs the perfect ratio to the Evora GT’s power and handling. Slicing through twisty roads is a joy with your hands and nine and three, and the wheel feels so connected with the front-end. This side of a McLaren 620R, the Evora GT is mid-engine sports car steering at its best.
Weaving through my favorite roads in Southern California’s Angeles National Forest was a religious experience. I loved how easy the Evora GT was to delicately slice through my favorite sections, as well as what speeds the Evora could sustain without issue. The chassis is so capable and confidence boosting that I never felt overworked or nervous. The same ride that did a good job at ironing out bumps and post-apocalyptic-resembling tarmac in-town had no body roll whatsoever ripping through the twisties. Mid-corner bumps and undulations didn’t upset it, either. The Evora GT sways ever so slightly, and always feels well-balanced. You can feel the precision-tuned compression and rebound in the dampers always maximizing the 245/35/19 front and 295/40/20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s’ contact patch.
To make the Evora GT a well-rounded package, Lotus fitted 2-piece cross-drilled and vented discs to all four corners, which measure in at 370mm up front and 350mm in the rear. They’re topped by four-piston AP Racing calipers, making a powerful and confidence-boosting package. I never experienced any inkling of fade while ripping around at speed, and pedal feel and travel were excellent.
There’s endless traction when driven with precision in Sport and Race modes. For the most part, there isn’t much difference between them. They both open up the exhaust baffles to produce a better sound, but the latter kills traction control. It’s common for short-wheelbase, mid-engine sports cars to be a bit lively when the rear tires break loose, and the Evora GT is no different. It’s fun to lightly slide around, but conversely offers a sensation of hunkering down under corner-exit acceleration—it feels so glued to the road.
Furthermore, there’s no doubt that aerodynamics had a hand in all this. The trunk lid features a slight ducktail-like upturn at its end to aid in downforce, and a generous sized front splitter, mostly flat floor, and a diffuser behind the rear wheels show that there’s some neat, race car-like magic happening underneath.
Though, not to the degree of being undrivable on the street. The Evora GT deals with bumps and steep driveways very well considering what’s going on underneath. There’s a thick piece of rubber underneath to extinguish any fears of scrapes and gashes in its lower bodywork to boot.
An Enthusiast’s Top Choice
Ripping around in the 2021 Lotus Evora GT made for a truly excellent week. I’d never driven a car so focused on precision suspension tuning, laugh-out-loud acceleration, and brilliant inputs, that's all wrapped up in something far less expensive than similar-looking exotic European fare. It’s a car for those who love driving first and foremost, and does everything possible for its price to be the best at it.
Lotus actually stopped producing the Evora GT, Elise, and Exige a few months back to make way for the new Emira, Evija, and Type 132. Lotus threw me the keys to this GT as a sort of refresher before Emira debuts to the press, but it actually turned out to instead be a solid, firm-handshake-of-an-introduction to the Hethel, Norfolk brand.
I can’t wait for what it has in-store for how this just-as-beautiful new sports car drives and performs.