Lotus Evora S. DRIVEN. Should Porsche be worried?

British sports car manufacturer Lotus opens it first dealership in the UAE this month. We took out the flagship car, the Evora S, to see what local customers can look forward to.

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For many years, sports car fans in the UAE have had glimpses of a legendary British name. Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the like are ten-a-penny here, but a Lotus is a car you spot once a year, if you’re lucky. Even though the cars have been sold in other GCC countries, they’ve not exactly proved popular – Lotuses are specialised, hardcore machines for the knowledgeable and devoted only. And if you’re in the UAE, where there’s been no dealer for many, many years, your chances of experiencing what many think is one of the purest driving machines available today has been virtually nil.

But now that’s changing. Although there are a handful of the faithful that have gone the extra mile to bring a Lotus into the UAE, it’s only now, with the opening of a new Lotus dealership in Dubai that the wider populace will have a chance to see what goes into vehicles from one of the most celebrated names in automotive and motorsport history.

For the uninitiated, the Lotus names dates back to 1952 and was founded by an engineer whose name has gone down in legend. Colin Chapman started his company with university classmate Colin Dare, building sports cars that used Chapman’s knowledge of aeronautical engineering as their foundation. Chapman believed, in contrast to the successful road and racing cars of the day, that lightness was key to performance, and set about creating nimble, lightweight machines.

He was phenomenally successful. Many of his inventions revolutionised fast cars, from rear suspension struts to monocoque chassis construction and the use of composite materials. He was also instrumental in realising the potential that aerodynamics had in automotive performance, pioneering downforce in competition. Under Chapman’s guidance, Team Lotus, the racing division of the company, won seven Formula 1 constructor world titles, six driver championships and the Indianapolis. The road car side of the business survived the turbulent 70s and produced thousands of cars a year, to great acclaim.

But by 1980, things were in trouble. Lotus’ production had shrunk, and Chapman died in 1982 with the threat of legal proceedings hanging over him, relating to the misappropriation of government subsidies use in Lotus’ involvement with the ill-fated DeLorean project. During the 80s and 90s, Lotus was sold numerous times, eventually ending up with Malaysian carmaker Proton in 1996.

Since then, Lotus’ fortunes have continued to ebb and flow with drama behind the scenes. The latest was just last year, when flamboyant chairman Dany Bahar, who had promised big things with new car launches and dubious celebrity tie-ups, was fired by DRB Hicom – Proton’s parent company.

It’s against this backdrop then that Lotus arrives in the region, a company with a rich history but instability in its business. Al Futtaim, the company opening the showroom in Dubai’s Festival City area, has its work cut out to broadcast the Lotus message. To its advantage though, while behind the scenes things haven’t been easy for Lotus, the products it’s churned out over the years have been almost universally adored by those that have tried them.

Lotus has tried to stick as closely as possible to Chapman’s philosophy, and all of its models have been lightweight cars designed to handle superbly and place the focus on the driver above all else. For the UAE, it’s the Evora range that will be heralding the brand’s arrival. This is arguably the most accessible model, and apt for a new market, as it’s not as hardcore as the smaller, more focused Elise and Exige models. The Evora is a 2+2 sports car, with more space inside than its siblings, and a boot that can swallow a set of golf clubs.

Our introduction to Lotus in the region comes from the supercharged Evora S, which gets its grunt from a mid-mounted blown Toyota V6 driving the rear wheels with 345bhp. It has a kerb weight of 1442kg, making it beefy for a car carrying the Lotus name – almost 100kg heavier than a Porsche Cayman S.

Our time with the car is limited. We pick it up from the still-in-progress new showroom, where it sits outside, bright yellow paint warming up the nearby walls. The Evora is four years old now, but it still has presence, particularly at the back end, where the rear lamps hint strongly at the Exige and Elise. The front end is a touch plain by the latest contemporary design standards, but there’s a focus, a purity to its look. It doesn’t give the impression that anything’s been added that doesn’t need to be there.

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