| Passenger preview | Goodwood, England | Lotus Evora GTE |
Model tested: Lotus Evora GTE
Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6 petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual sequential, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door mid-engined coupé
Rivals: Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale, Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Black Series, Porsche Cayman R
In the Metal:
The Lotus Evora's a good-looking car anyway, but the GTE (especially finished in black) is like the standard model turned up to eleven - both in terms of desirability and aggression. There are larger sills, a new rear wing, forged alloy wheels, a deeper splitter and plenty of carbon fibre. The short of it is, this car could be terrible to drive and I'd still want one. Now please.
It's not quite so extreme on the inside, where there's still an abundance of leather and Alcantara surfaces - it's not a stripped out special like the GTE-racecar inspired moniker might have you believe. That carbon fibre makes a reappearance on the centre console, steering wheel and the door cards; it feels more purposeful than lightweight.
It's based on the supercharged Lotus Evora S, itself not short on performance, but the GTE uses an uprated version of that car's 3.5-litre V6 engine. The result is another 94hp, taking the total to 444hp. That makes an already quick car even faster, and our blast up the Goodwood Festival of speed hillclimb course only served to certify that.
But the assault on my senses starts before we've even left the start line. As Lotus driver Johnny Mowlem blips the throttle it's clear the Evora has finally found its real voice - the GTE displaying a harder edge to its aural accompaniment than the regular S. And then we're on the line, waiting for the flag to drop.
As the throttle pedal is depressed the real wheels struggle for traction, one clearly giving up trying, before second gear is selected. There's a slight pause as the sequential automated manual gearbox hits home with second gear and then the brutal acceleration starts all over again, all the way to the tight first right hand corner.
By the time we're in front of Goodwood house we're well into three figures, the uprated suspension doing a formidable job of keeping things in check over the undulating tarmac. There's little roll through the bends either, the GTE displaying lots of grip and absolute composure throughout.
And then, barely a minute after we've left the start, we're at the end. A brief chat with some of the other drivers and passengers is followed by a relaxed jaunt back down the course. Which is where the Evora reveals its ace card; it might have leapt up the hill like a stripped out special, but on the way down the superb ride, leather lined cabin and comfortable Recaro seats are nothing but relaxing.
What you get for your Money:
Initially it was intended to be a limited run special available only for the Asian market, but demand has been so great that this has been extended to anyone who wants one. The differences over the standard Evora S may seem small, but together they add up to a lot more. Over 105kg has been shaved from the weight, and it's nearly 100hp more powerful - so you're guaranteed startling performance. All of the panels that are different from the standard model are made from carbon fibre, while the forged wheels use centre locking hubs and racing inspired Pirelli rubber. The pricing hasn't been announced, but from our brief experience we'd wager it'll be worth what it costs.
The car we were passenger in was actually Lotus CEO Danny Bahar's personal car; the first customer models are only just starting to roll down the production line. And though all of the cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed day are special, and often priceless, this was one that really did need to be returned to its owner in impeccable condition. That didn't stop Lotus Driver Johnny Mowlem topping 110mph in front of the house, though he did take a wide berth of that infamous flint wall further up the route!
For the road we'd doubt you'd ever feel disappointed or short-changed with the standard Lotus Evora S, but on track the extra ability of the GTE really does make a difference. It dispenses with straights quicker, brakes later and attacks corners harder than anything else in the Evora line-up. And though we can't comment on day-to-day liveability just yet, we'd wager Lotus' engineers, often regarded as kings of sports car ride comfort, will have made the suspension supple enough to make this a very very very fast road car too.