They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To…</br> Or Do They?
The Driver’s Car

I’m not going to lie. I drove this Lotus hard. I could smell the brakes afterwards, and I can’t remember how many times I bounced the needle off the rev limiter. But it was a lot of fun. After I stepped out of the sports coupe from my drive in the canyons, I was drenched with sweat. What a monster, I thought to myself. It’s such a shame that this type of car is a dying breed…

The Lotus Evora S is not one of those cars where you can point it in the direction you want to go and plant the throttle. Because, while the minimal invasive traction control lets you get away with quite a bit, without experience you can still get into a world of trouble.


While we’d never condone racing around on the streets, there’s nothing wrong with stretching out a sports car’s legs every now and then – especially so on a road like Azusa Canyon.


I highlighted this route last year, when I was breaking in my newly-built turbo 240z, Ole Orange Bang, and it’s one of my favorite driving stomping grounds.


The road stretches for miles and miles, with high-speed corners, long straights and tight hairpins. The best part? It goes nowhere. A few years ago the road that connects to the other side of the mountain washed away from massive landslides and to this day it has not been fixed.


With no traffic around, it was the perfect place for me to have a little bit of fun with this little British sports coupe.

240Z Or Evora?

Speedhunting might look pretty easy from the outside, but in reality it can get pretty stressful. I spend days staring at my computer screen sorting photos and writing articles; without leaving the house. It’s hard to take a break – especially with always-looming deadlines. But a few weeks ago, right as stir craziness began to set in, I just had to get out.


Inside my garage was Ole Orange Bang, and a brand spanking new Lotus Evora S press car, which I had used on a recent drive up the California coast to shoot the Vossen Audi S7.


I set out to photograph both the Lotus and the Audi during that excursion, but it didn’t end up working out that way, and I only had time to shoot one car. I figured it was alright though – I was holding onto the car for a little while and therefore had plenty of time to bang out a good story.


I looked at the two sports cars and knew that going for a drive was the best way to take my mind off work. So I asked my dog, Masae, which car I should take. The half-husky, half-labrador choose the Aspen White one.


Sitting in the cockpit and looking at the gauges, you know right away that this car is all business. Nothing fancy. Just the way I like it…


There were a minimal number of switches for the ancillaries and using the air conditioning did not require a sequence of button pushing nonsense. One hot and cold knob, plus one knob for fan speed is all any car really needs.


In the opening sentence, I referred to this car as one of the last of a dying breed. And I really mean it. I’ve been working with Speedhunters since 2010 and in that time I’ve only been handed two press cars that had a proper clutch pedal. One was a base-model Porsche 997 that I drove up Pikes Peak, and the other – this mid-engined stallion.


One of the first things I realized about this car is the fact that you don’t need to be driving it anywhere near its limit in order to have a lot of fun.


Just going down the street to get coffee is even a real experience, because you can rip through a few gears and rev-match some perfect heel/toe to a stop.


I get it, fancy paddle shifters and dual-clutch systems are faster. But really, how often are you doing quarter mile pulls? How often do you compete in time attack?


That visceral feeling you get from proper manual shifting is more than enough for me. Lap times don’t matter in the slightest.


This could be the perfect driver’s car, with the looks to boot. Check out at that big Kool Aid smile it greets you with.


The styling screams Lotus and many of the shapes in and around the car remind me of the Elise.


There’s also a few touches here and there that were obviously borrowed from the Exige.


You can’t really see the 345hp, supercharged Toyota V6 engine through the rear window, but it’s very much crammed in there.


While there are many things I like about this car, I just know it would be a pain to work on. Although, as with most new cars nowadays, the manufacturer would rather you not even lift the hood, let alone change the oil.


As unmistakably Lotus the Evora is from the rear, driving it around town I still had many people asking what it was. I guess that’s to be expected given there are surprisingly few of these cars in Los Angeles.


The good news is, a dealership is just opening – and right near my home. In fact, I actually walked there to pick this car up.


This was a 2+2 version so it’s quite a bit larger than the Elise, which means it’s a little more practical too. Despite its configuration, I don’t think there is any way a normal-sized adult could fit in the rear seat, but I found it perfect for groceries and camera gear.


It weighs in at 1442kg (3179lbs), which is around the same as a 2002 Nissan Maxima. It’s not super lightweight, but you can’t tell so from driving it.


What I missed most from driving the Elise was sheer power, but with its Roots-type supercharger pushing peak torque up to 300ft/lbs, the Evora S really packs a punch. There’s a slight whine in the lower RPM range, but that gets quieter as the needle makes a bee-line for the redline.

Simple Is Better

The interior on this model was super-plush. Everything fit nicely and you could really tell that you were driving a premium car.


I am 5’10.5 and 150lbs, and it fit me perfectly. The seats provided enough bolstering, and that was needed since the North American model does not have a dead pedal. However, I gave a ride to my buddy who is 6ft/300 lbs and he could barely fit. Then, the only way he could get out was if he crawled on his hands first, before dragging the rest of his body out on all fours. Exits don’t get more elegant than that.


Nothing fancy here – just the basic needs and a simple entertainment system. Heck, if it were up to me I would ask for manual wind-up windows!


The best part of the interior had to be the solid aluminum shift knob. Not only was it very comfortable to hold and easy to shift with, I never lost my place. The throw was just right – not too short, not too long.


In terms of sports cars, the Evora’s design in this color had me really flying under the radar most of the time. I only had a few boy racers pull up to me revving their motors –  obviously because they knew what it was.


Driving up the California coast and back down again, I put almost 800 miles on the clock. That averaged out at around 25mpg on the highway, driving 80 to 85mph with the air conditioning on.


Jumping on the power out of corner would result in a smidge of understeer – but it was very easy to correct with just a slight lift off the gas. It was very easy to control the nose of this car with the throttle, but also very easy for the rear end to come around on you if you step off too abruptly.


This car rewards very smooth throttle and steering inputs and you really feel connected with the road. There is no question that this is a driver’s car, but one that you could easily live with on a daily basis. To me, it was that enjoyable.


My SR240 is exactly 1000lbs lighter than this car with about 45 less horsepower and the same amount of torque. I take it up the same road a few times a month, but driving the Lotus was much more comfortable and I felt much more confident around the corners.


With a manufacturer like Lotus still producing a car like this today, it gives me a ray of hope for the future.


Without a doubt, the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 is my favourite car I’ve ever driven, but when Porsche launched the 991 GT3 without a manual gearbox option, I was crushed. Why not leave the option, like Lotus has with the Evora S? We are fighting a losing battle it seems…


My taste in cars has not changed, but I do find myself saying over and over again, ‘They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.’ But after driving the Evora S for a week, maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough…

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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I feel you on the driver's car statement.
I recently bought an E30 318is and it's the most fun ever to push through corners. Nailing a heel and toe and hearing the engine brap up to 5k for the revmatch is absolutely amazing, and a feeling that something with a paddle shift can't match. 
They might be faster, but I'll take the one with the proper clutch any day.


aussieANON Exactly what I mean. I bet it would be way more fun to pick up your friend from the airport in that E30 than a boring old paddle shift car with three times the horsepower. Even though it's the same menial task.


Still haven't been fortunate enough drive this or a newer Boxster/Cayman S, but everything I have read tells me these have to be about the best all around sports cars left for even remotely realistic money. Every article I read laments the passing of so many other cars of the type that we may have taken for granted and are now long gone. It's a shame so many of us will be basically forced into buying older used cars in the coming just to find a car that gives us the right grins the old fashioned way.
Great pics and storytelling as usual.


I'm guilty of not giving this car credit for doing everything the modern driver needs-no more no less.
The worst part is I have no idea where the preconceptions came from!!
Most likely I still want to play with the older cars from the 70's?? Or maybe I dont see enough Evoras around? Maybe Lotus needs to reassure people they're not going anywhere...and offer more variants? a lighter Evora IPS?
Evora gives you heritage, handling and no headaches with the Toyota engine, but at that price maybe people would
just rather have a corvette/porsche-exclusivity be damned.
I think the biggest problem with this market and them not 'making them like they used to' is that the people who used to buy them aren't. The 3 pedal driver looking for a new car is becoming an endangered species. 
If only dogs could buy cars, too!


Dude just to photogrphy! U got nothing to add on evaluating cars!


Larry Chen aussieANON flappypaddleshift gives you streetcreds, not driving skills.


I am totally behind you on the 3 pedals. I love the feeling of being able to get a heel and toe just right, (Admittedly NOT  every time). Most drivers will have never been exposed to heel and toe, let alone learnt the techniques. I just dont feel comfortable in a 2 pedal car. I guess I will have to stick to older cars,not that I will ever be able to afford anything new anyway!!


Good thing manual cars won't disappear so fast here in Europe, at least in small bread-and-butter cars. Like that new Renault Twingo: Rear engined, rear wheel drive, manual, space for four average people


Or flappy paddles let you drive when one of your legs doesn't work... Or when you can't feel the gearstick (or both) due to nerve damage, it makes the interest more inclusive and enables disabled people to also drive a car with actual gears as appose to a "selector" and no clutch.


TarmacTerrorist Obviously a manual isn't for everyone. And if I was commuting through heavy traffic every day I'd very much like an auto.


Are you talking about the one opening in West Covina?


You are getting auto and semi auto confused - as I didn't like the idea before I brought my cars and had it explained to me over a coffee with the lovely people at Honda Motability -my civic has a clutch system with no clutch pedal, same as my 2014crv (though that one does have a selector looking gearstick as apposed to the more common "manual style" of stick, both have paddles, not pedals and both have clutches) I select the gears when I want the gears and can redline as much as I want (though a fail safe will cut in eventually)
I was just hoping to help others understand a different side of the discussion was all man, I hope I didn't cause offence.


Oh and both are standard off the lot models - with standard out of the factory boxes and accelerator pedals and normal brake systems, nothing modified for my ease of use to clarify!


Mideng then just stick to looking at the pictures and stop reading the articles. Problem solved you're welcome. Your complimenting his photography and insulting his writing in that comment.


Nice review Larry. Now try my car :)


The major motivation for car companies to ditch manual transmissions is not because they are "faster" around a race track.

It is because it allows them to market the car to a much wider audience. Wider audience = more sales = more money = more profits. It is just a shame that this has caused the cost-cutting procedure of eliminating the R&D, tooling, etc to make manual versions. Don't let the companies fool you - the biggest reasons for cutting manual transmission from cars is money.
The traffic arguments are B.S. I have driven manual transmission cars for the last 15 years in traffic. After a couple years, it is complete habit. I don't even think about it, it literally is no less annoying than driving an automatic. Unless you have screwed you car up by putting a clutch or flywheel that doesn't belong in a street car - and that is your own fault.
There is NOTHING better than ripping off a toe-heel downshift with a true manual car, or getting your launch just right. What normal people don't understand is that driving a manual transmission well is a skill, and with any skill there is a sense of fun and accomplishment to furthering that skill. This is something a flappy paddle can NEVER do. 
For someone who truly enjoys the art of driving, the more you take away from the driver - the less the experience is. For most enthusiasts the experience of driving is why we love to drive.

The removal of the manual transmission option is one more step in the toaster-azation of the automobile. Self driving cars, in car infotainment, flappy paddles, lifeless steering and brakes, etc - these are all things to make driving just as much fun as microwaving some left over spaghetti.

When the day comes that there are no new cars with manual transmissions - you will find me happily toe-heeling, rev-matching, and launching some old crap bucket with a manual trans, with a huge grin on my face.
If someone walked up to me right this minute and said choose between this new Viper with a manual or this brand new Ferrari LaFerrari - for free - with free upkeep, insurance, and fuel for life - I would be a happy Viper owner. No question, no though, no regret. I am probably crazy - but that is how much I enjoy interacting with driving.

F*ck flappys, you can keep'em.


Larry Chen , were you a Maxima owner before? Very specific reference to the 5.5 gen weight there...


I spend up to three hours a day commuting in heavy traffic, sometime more (Friday's). 

I wouldn't trade my third pedal if you paid me, driving is a completely enveloping experience and the more you remove the less engaging it becomes. I am honestly fearful of the day I cannot buy a car that lets me and only me control all the outputs. I don't need or want computers to help me drive!

Great article! To be honest I have never given this car any attention. To me it appeared that lotus had already sold a large percentage of its soul, by changing from a manufacturer of reasonably powered featherweight cars with amazing handling and minimal intrusions into the driving experience. To a manufacturer of Maxima weight pretend cars with all the creature comforts that one could possibly dream of. 
I guess that's what all the money bags want now...?

Lotus used to make my ideal form of car, a decent dollop of engine (not excessive) and the absolute bare minimum to convey and control that power onto the road, no one does that anymore... guess ill have to buy a motorbike to get that experience.

Meh, huge post not entirely sure why i wrote it all? once again great article.


zero2sixtyZ Haha yeah. Are you on I had a three pedal 3rd gen with factory LSD. Such a fun car.


theAngryMarmot You are right about the wider audience. Although, they do use the speed as a marketing technique. Look at Nissan with the GT-R, when it first came out they touted the lap time around Nurburgring.

Driving a stick almost naturally makes you a better driver doesn't it? LIke you have to me more aware.


Jason0110 Yes.


Acc Europe is a whole different ball game. I almost always get a three pedal car when renting in Europe, where as there is almost no such thing as renting a 3 pedal car in the states cause no one really knows how to drive stick, about 1 percent I think.


vroomtothetomb Yeah, it's become more of a weekend only car, and who can afford that?


Larry Chen theAngryMarmot 

Larry Chen theAngryMarmot 

I am not saying they don't push it off as a performance item - and sometimes, somewhere I am sure a flappy-paddled car is faster. But that is just the thin blanket over the financial reasons.
Funny how the car that owned the "Production Car" Nurburg lap record for quite a while was a good ol' tried and true manual gearbox equipped car (Granted, that is a flying lap sort of thing, and in a actual race event all the tiny MSs saved by flappy paddles would add up.)

It absolutely makes you a better driver. You also learn better pedal control, and how to manage weight transfer, traction, etc with a Manual transmission car.
As impressive, fast, and awe inspiring as modern F1 cars are - they will never have the "awe" factor of the manual transmission cars. Nothing is more amazing than seeing an F1 driver banging through gears, toe-heeling, and actually controlling a monster of a car. I am not discounting the skill of modern F1 drivers at all - but there is just something different, and cooler about the "human factor" that exists in car control - they are just a completely different set of sensations, skills, and amazement.
I will never, ever forget the film "Group B, too Fast to Race." The footwork cameras and the amazing level of hands-on (and foot-on) skill is mind blowing. The scene with Rohl in the Quattro where you see the pedal view is inspiring.


Mideng i stand with you on this one


2xthefun he is right. i am a professional journalist and this writing has nothing to do with journalism or professional writing. something might be acceptable on the forums or personal blogs, but this is an international publishing effort. so go ahead, take your advice to pinterest and stop funking with people who give advice in the best interest of the readers and the publisher.


after driving the Evora S for week =>  after driving the Evora S for A week


Nice to see this article finally posted as I knew it was coming and was looking forward to it.  Funny enough, I drove this exact car the day after you returned it.  It was quite dirty for a dealer car and just looking at the front I knew you had driven it hard.

My biggest issue with the Evora is the pedal placement and the lack of a dead pedal can make things a bit awkward down there.  It's a pricey car for sure, but certain things with cars can be fixed with mods or by buying used.  The pedal placement in this iteration of the Evora cannot be fixed easily.  Of course I heard relief is coming next year...


Also, the brake pedal felt a bit soft compared to my Elise.  Was that the way it came or was that you?


Anyone else see a little bit of 959 in that opening shot?


MilesHayler Just a little bit.


LionZoo I'm not exactly sure if it was dirty from me driving it hard, or if it was dirty from me taking it up north. It was also quite dirty when they first gave it to me.

I figured there was no way around the pedal placement because it was never designed to be a left hand drive car, I looked underneath and it seemed like there would be loads of room if it was a right hand drive car like it was originally intended to be.


incloudsx Fixed, thanks for the heads up.


Larry Chen Acc In performance cars they are still a dying species. I guess mostly pushed by ecological goals we get auto transmission with 7 or even 8 gears, but not much that holds up to sport car levels of power in manual form. Probably one of the reasons tuners start using diesel transmissions in their cars


Larry Chen Awesome. Yes, I am. Here was my 3 pedal 5.5 gen in her prime:


i Love Lotus and everything they do


Thanks for the wonderful story, I feel exactly the same way, everything is going the automatic route which really sucks. Although where I live these types of cars would be demolished by the bad roads, i still prefer to drive a manual transmission especially in a diesel pickup. Having to spend 60000 on a RAM (I'm a Ford guy) just to get a manual. The same goes for me about the porsche GT3 as well, it used to be my dream car (behind the R34 of course) but then they stopped the manual in so many of the 911 configurations I've given up on liking Porsche as much... Anyways, thanks for the story man, it was great.
- Lewis


I love the look of this car with a white roof.  The windows and the white make it look like a checekered flag like shown here:


Such a good presentation of a very subtle yet sexy car. I sure do miss those canyon roads! TX just doesn't have what it takes to keep a driver happy, I'm slowly coming to realization of that. Thanks for the good read, don't take those good roads for granted.


Roll up windows and with the money saved a clutch/start/cancel button. Man I hope manufacturers with a soul read this stuff...


zero2sixtyZ Larry Chen Nice car, man..always like that generation of Maxima. Nice choice of rims too.


The Evora is a truly great car. It's reminiscent of a Esprite in a way too. Some people who don't get the car criticize that it weighs more than a Elise but honestly... What are you expecting it's competing in a different class! That's like comparing a Europa to a Esprite turbo. I really like the Evora. A unique, beautiful, fast car unlike anything else on the road. Lotus still to this day produces some wonderful sports cars.


apex_DNA Larry Chen Thank you very much!


what a lovely doggy!