Add lightness. Two words that have personified the Lotus brand since it was first introduced by Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman in 1952, his initials still adorn each and every car they produce within its logo.
I’d never really considered a Lotus, apart from the last-generation Esprit possibly, to be a suitable daily-driver car, until the recent Evo Enduro. During this epic 2,000+ km drive from KL to Phuket and back, one participant, a lady named Emily, actually drove her newly-begotten Lotus Elise throughout the entire journey…
Think about that for a second, or maybe a minute. If you’ve ever seen, or better yet, sat in a Lotus Elise, you’ll understand just how incredible a feat this was. Let’s put it this way; when I had the car on review some years ago, I actually got physically stuck inside it. I’m not kidding, I had to get out on my hands and knees. Yes, I literally clawed my way out of that car on all-fours. it wasn’t a pretty sight…
It was the smallest, tightest, most uncomfortable car I’ve ever reviewed, and quite possibly also the most fun I’ve ever had reviewing a car. Think of it as a really powerful go-kart with a removable roof and you’d not be far-off the mark.
It’s a recipe that any car-enthusiast / boy-racer would crave; small and nimble, a beautifully set-up chassis with lightning-quick and direct steering, and oh my sweet lord was it fast.
The thing is though, it was only powered by a (then) 1.8-litre Rover K-series engine when it was first introduced in 1996, and I doubt many expected much from it; that is until they drove it. It weighed a paltry 725kgs, thanks to a fibre-glass body and bonded alloy chassis, and thus was able to exploit every ounce of the 118bhp the mid-mounted engine produced. Have a look at how it’s made in this 2min video:
The Elise worried many a supercar because it could do the century sprint in 5.8sec, and pretty much leave them for dead in the twisties.
But, as I alluded to earlier, it wasn’t the most comfortable car in the world. So when I learned that Lady Emily of Elise (above, in red) had not only made it to Phuket in one, but turned right-round the next day and drove it back to KL, I was more than a little impressed.
I’d driven the car a total of maybe 5-hours when I had it on test many moons ago, and needed a chiropractor after returning it; she’d driven it for 18-hours straight, one way.
It was that Evo Enduro event which got me thinking about the merits of a Lotus being used as a daily-driver, and for the record, Emily is in sales and actually does drive her Elise daily. It made sense then to relive this Lotus drive I was on a while back…
You see, every once in a while, a car company forgets it’s a car company, decides to have a little fun, and organise a drive just for the heck of it. Motoring media do this on our own all the time, but it’s rare for a car company.
Well, Lotus Cars (NB: This was before Geely came into the picture) has always been a bit different, the company is different, their cars are different, and we love them for it.
The drive would encompass a selection if their finest cars, including the latest Evora 400, and with Petron taking care of the fuel bills (thank you!), we set-off a day-trip to Cameron Highlands. It would turn out to be one of the most epic one-day drives of all time.
In retrospect, I was really glad to attend this because I realised that since the first-gen Elise that I mentioned earlier, I’d really not gotten to know the new Lotus cars, apart from their local launches, and in one day, I’d be privy to a whole bunch of them, thanks to this amazing fella in the middle below.
Anyone worth the octane rating in their veins would recognise this guy, and if you don’t, please stop reading now and head-on over to a lifestyle, pet-grooming, banking or home-improvement site.
Tengku Djan Ley is probably one of the coolest dudes in the car business; a champion drifter, accomplished race-driver and certified car-nut, I heard he even bleeds Petron RON100, and does 10W-50 semi-syn ‘shots’ on a regular basis.
So Djan invited a bunch of us loonies to have a go at the cars he’s so passionate about some time ago, and the one thing I can recall vividly is that none of the new Lotus cars have lost that one key-ingredient that makes them just that extra bit special from their competition, fun. And lightness.
The fun-factor has been dialed into the DNA of each Lotus present that day, from the aforementioned Evora 400 to the Exige 350 and of course the Elise S. But perhaps more importantly given the question posed in this story’s headline, what I found to my utter surprise, was just how much ‘livability’ has also been shoe-horned into the new Lotus cars.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still an absolute hoot to pound asphalt in, but a couple of decades on, they’ve become a whole lot more user-friendly too. Granted, the interior space isn’t even close to being anywhere near ‘roomy’, as my co-driver and I found out when our shoulders got intimate during our stint in the Exige and Elise. And I swear by all the car-gods that my hand is on the gear-shift lever up there…
What they have become though, in terms of driver ergonomics anyway, is to enable the perfect driving position in each car, and yet dial-in a modicum of comfort and compliance in the ride and handling department. This especially rings true in the half-million ringgit Evora 400.
At this point some of you may have noticed just 2 pedals in that interior photo above, so I should explain that yes, the Evora 400 does have an auto option, but as can be seen in this photo, it comes with paddle-shifts, which means only one thing; you’re getting the best of both worlds – an automatic for traffic snarls, and a manual for balls-out Sunday drives. Take a breather from reading and check out this video on the Evora 400:
So, it’s time to answer the question that precedes this article, can a Lotus be used as a daily-driver? We’ve seen that the cars are durable enough to be driven from KL to Phuket and back with not a single problem, we’ve ascertained that the comfort and ergonomics of all the new Lotus cars have improved vastly over the years, and we’ve also learned that with the Evora 400, there’s even an option to counteract our dreaded KL traffic woes.
I have to say then, that the answer is yes, if you decide to go for the Evora 400. With its full-auto as well as manual select paddle-shift transmission, it really does offer the option to pound away on a track on Sunday, then turn around and drive it to work on Monday. And as I mentioned earlier, Emily does so with an Elise, so there’s absolutely no reason you can’t in an Evora. No, you can’t have her number…
Funny isn’t it, the one brand that nobody in their right frame of mind would ever pick to be a daily-driver, just may have become the best one yet. – Chris Wee.