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Lotus Ever 400 Named Road and Track’s #2 Performance Car of the Year
Road & Track’s 2017 Performance Car of the Year
Nine incredible sports cars blend past, present, and future in the chase for our annual crown.
THIS IS PCOTY, our Performance Car of the Year group test. Entrants must be new or significantly revised for 2017, and they must be traditionally shaped cars that push the limits of high performance on both road and track. That means no high-power crossovers, no hot hatches, and no rally replicas.
The test spans four days, two of which are dedicated to the fast back roads of Kentucky and Tennessee and two of which are spent on track at NCM Motorsports Park.
Although we invite every car that fits the criteria, some manufacturers are unable to meet our scheduling requirements and others are unwilling to expose their products to the harsh light of open competition. This year, we had nine contenders answer the bell (Here’s what happened to the 10th contender). We chose the winner through two rounds of balloting among our 10 editors. Although we record lap times at NCM and take a few other performance measurements, this is neither a fastest-lap contest nor a battle for spec-sheet supremacy. Our goal is to find the car that best stirs the emotions, captivates the driver, and boldly faces the future. We measure with the stopwatch, and we evaluate with the mind, but in the end, we will choose with the heart.
OUR DRIVERS’ MEETING takes place at sunrise, in a small parking lot just outside Kentucky’s Berea College. After deputy editor Joe DeMatio gives us marching orders for the day, we fire up, form up, and prepare to head down the main drag out of town. Any of these cars would draw attention on their own, but as a candy-colored convoy, they draw a steady, antlike stream of interest from the sweat-shirted students and reluctantly caffeinated faculty on their way to class. There’s plenty to catch the eye, from the bewinged cobalt-blue Jaguar F-type to the wasp-waisted Lotus Evora in bright orange, but for the college crowd, the wine-red Acura NSX is definitely primus inter pares, the belle of the ball.
After eight hard-charging hours on the road, most of us are pretty tired at dinner—but there’s an undercurrent of excitement, a certain buzz going around the table, and much of it is focused on the Lotus Evora 400. Okulski is ecstatic: “It’s the only car here that’s fun when you’re driving slow or fast. That counts for a lot.” Zenlea concurs: “Even plodding along in traffic, the Evora entertains.” Kinard was charmed as well. “It carried speed like no other.”
I know the Evora well, but I’m still eager to get behind the wheel the next morning. We’re running below our normal clip, because this part of our route takes us through a series of rural communities, but the Lotus is a thrill at any speed. It is the proper size and width for a sporting automobile, the deftly thrust rapier in an era that only knows the clumsy swing of a two-handed broadsword. The steering is untouchable in this company; the pedals are weighted to perfection. Feedback is absolute and millimeter-precise.
Without a doubt, the Lotus is the best pure driver’s car in the group. It’s enough to make me overlook the aftermarket-style stereo and the somewhat casual manner in which the interior has been assembled from commercially available parts. I worry, however, that the rest of my compatriots won’t feel the same.
The Evora is one of just two cars here with a clutch pedal. The other is the Corvette Grand Sport. It would be a mistake to characterize it as a bigger, faster Evora; Smith says of the pair that “the Evora is the only real car here, in the traditional analog sense. All the rest are machines. Except the Corvette, which is a machine that does a damn good impression of a car. Every aspect of the Corvette is computer-controlled, yet it’s done so well that it feels transparent.”
Two of our 10 voters chose the Lotus Evora 400 for first place. “The car that I had to be pulled out of because I wouldn’t get out otherwise. The winner for me,” Okulski says. Alone in our group, the Evora offers traditional proportions, tidy exterior dimensions, and the close-coupled cockpit that was considered an essential component of a sporting vehicle for the entirety of automotive history prior to the turn of the century. It makes everything else on the market look obese and gluttonous. Fully deserving of the ACBC badge on its nose, this brave and charming two-plus-two is perhaps the finest over-the-road enthusiast vehicle available for sale at any price.
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