Lotus Evora: More on Evora

More inner secrets of the new Lotus

Lotus Evora

It was the show star without a doubt, not least because precise details of the specification and the way it looks had been kept secret right up to the wire. We've had an in-depth look at the Lotus Evora here, but while the world's press was swarming around it at the show we managed a further chat with Richard Rackham, the Lotus engineer who masterminded the Evora's aluminium structure just as he did with the Elise over a decade ago. How similar is the structure to the Elise's, then? 'In principle it's the same idea of folded and extruded aluminium sheet,' Rackham explains, 'but we've included a joint at the front for easier manufacture and repairability. The central cell stays intact in a 30mph impact and you just replace the front section. You'd have to replace the whole tub in an Elise.' Lotus wasn't letting anyone scramble into the back of this sole finished prototype at the show, but the rear seats did look pretty cramped. 'Well, I can get into the back and sit sideways,' says Rackham, ' so it's as good as an original Porsche 911. Two people up to 10 years old should fit.' There's a separate structural module at the back, too, again to make life easier for construction or reconstruction. It's strong; US rules demand that the fuel tank stays together in a 50mph rear impact. The front cabin is rather roomier than that of an Elise or its relatives, with the centre lines of the seats 100mm further apart and 75mm more rearward seat travel. Also, the bend in the side sill members, themselves 80mm wide instead of the Elise's 100mm, makes it easier to get your feet into the footwell. 'If we use a scaled-down version of the new Lotus packaging rules, we could make the Elise more spacious for the same external size,' reckons Mackham. The boot is big enough for a golf-clubs bag – there's no luggage space up front – and the boot's contents won't cook despite the exhaust silencer beneath. That's because there's an insulated layer above the exhaust and an air duct, fed by outside air, between that and the luggage bay. As seen at the London Motor Show the Evora is a coupé, with a structural rigidity two-and-a-half times greater than an Elise's. The roof helps here, even though it is soft-bonded to the structure rather than rigidly glued with epoxy. There will be an open Evora later, with Elise levels of stiffness which, on past form, should be adequate. The roof will stow behind the seats. Does this new, modular chassis give any clues for a new Esprit? Will it have a longitudinal engine like before, or a transverse one? 'Nothing has been decided yet,' says Rackham mysteriously. Meanwhile the Evora stands as the only current mid-engine two-plus-two (the last was probably the Ferrari Mondial, a rather bigger car) and is intended as a rival to a Porsche Cayman or an Audi TTS. And at 1300kg it's considerably lighter than the competition.

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