- Apr 1, 2011
Impressive on paper, rubbish on tarmac.
The English county of Norfolk is home to many big names like James Blunt, Martin Brundle and Steven Fry. It's also the home of a small car company called Lotus. If, like me, you're a petrol-head then of course you will have heard of them: Plucky underdogs, punching above their weight with small, lightweight sports cars that keep the supercar giants on their toes. Most notably with the Elise, a fun-sized, agile mouse of a car that will give Johnny Sixpack a thrill and a fright. Lotus's latest performance car is called the Evora, which is larger and more powerful than the Elise, and is damn nice to drive to boot. Both are featured in Assetto Corsa and both are markedly different to drive. But if I'm honest, the Elise is to me, still the Jewel in the Lotus crown, as it may not be quicker around a track, but it's nicer to drive and feels more connected with the road.
However, there's now an upgraded version of the Evora: A track oriented car that can be used legally on the road, with lower profile tyres, stiffer suspension, a new body kit with beautifully flourished aerodynamic panels, a new sequential gearbox taken from an actual race car, and more carbon fibre than you can poke a stick at. They've named it the Evora GTE, and on paper it's quite a serious looking car. But how does it stack up on track?
Let's start with the 'good', shall we?
It's quick in a straight line. Very quick. It will get you from a stand still to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, and if you keep your right foot hard down (and if you have a long enough straight), Lotus claim it'll go on to reach a top speed of 288 km/h. It also comes in a variety of colours... Which is nice. Speaking of looking nice, I think it's actually quite a good looking car. The gills on the side of the front bumper make it look aggressive and almost shark-like. The stylists have done an exceptional job.
The force feedback is detailed enough to feel the weight transfer of the car nicely, which seems to be a strong point of Kunos's road cars. But, inevitably that leads me on to my next point, which is that this car is horrible to drive on track. The steering wheel is so light that any feel for the tyres and track surface is lost. Every corner is a 'turn-and-hope' affair as you understeer into whatever piece of scenery that you happen to be aiming at at that particular moment in time. Then when you are inevitably about to run wide at every instance, you ease off the throttle and there's a buffet of lift-off oversteer that greets you in an instant and in great quantities. If the steering wheel had more weight to it, then you might be able to compensate and judge the grip level more naturally, but it isn't so you can't.
It's supposedly a rear wheel drive, but it doesn't feel that way because of all the on-throttle understeer. It honestly feels a lot like a front wheel drive... Only worse. A deep-sea cruise-liner is more nimble than this thing. The braking performance is good, but because of the terminal understeer and general unwillingness to go around corners, you have to brake for corners so early that you'll practically have to come to a dead stop as you reach the apex.
I find it hard to believe that the engineering and design teams at Lotus stepped back from this car and said "Mmmm, Yes. This is the way I want this car to handle." As a result, the Evora GTE is a frustrating experience to say the least.
I honestly don't understand how this car has been butchered so badly by making some race-car modifications. Logic would tell you that it would be better for it, but it simply isn't. The standard Evora is a fantastic car, it behaves as you'd expect it to, and it's traditional 6-speed manual gearbox works flawlessly. It's also a match, and often quicker, than the outstanding German-made BMW 1M, which for my money is one of the best cars in the world right now.
As a result of all this terribleness, the Evora GTE is one of the least driven cars in all of Assetto Corsa. Most people would fail to even recognize it's existence in the game at all. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Assetto Corsa would be no worse off if the Evora GTE was scrapped from the game entirely.
So, unless you're the type of person who enjoys questioning every life decision you've ever made while sim-racing, then I'd say you should stick with the standard Evora, or better still, take the Elise for a drive. It's better looking and much better to drive.
However, if you do decide to test this car out after reading this review, you'll be spending the majority of your time either in the pits getting repairs, or spun out in the runoff. Still, this will at least give you some free time to admire the interior which, as with the aesthetics of the external bodywork, is very nice. In keeping with the weight saving ideology, Lotus have made several of the items in the cockpit out of carbon fibre, including the steering wheel and the centre console. They've even made an Evora GTE Carbon, which is almost entirely made from the stuff, but that's for another day.
1 out of 5 stars.
Lotus's 'George Bush moment'.