Lotus Evora IPS

What is it?

It may sound like a free iPhone App, but the Evora IPS is Lotus's first automatic car of the 21st Century. Lotus, as you know, makes sports cars, not luxury cars, so automatics are rarely on the agenda.

But in the Evora, Lotus has its first passable touring car (in the non-estate and non-racing sense of the word) of the 21st Century; you can actually get out of this one with a reasonable chance of your trouser seams staying intact. Stick an automatic in it, therefore, and the clutch-hating masses of America and Asia might be interested. That's what the Evora IPS is about: overseas sales.

Is it any good?

IPS, if you were wondering, stands for Intelligent Precision Shift, which is little more than marketing speak because it's a traditional six-speed torque convertor automatic gearbox, taken from Toyota.

That's not to say it's out of date, though: Lotus says it chose this option instead of a trendy twin-clutch automatic because it's lighter, more durable, more cost-efficient and makes smoother gear changes. This being Lotus, the first three of those qualities probably smack you as fair enough, but that last one, smoothness - well, a Lotus is supposed to be all raw and racy, right? They don't call torque convertors 'slush boxes' for nothing.

Fret not. Lotus has completely re-programmed the computer brain of the 'box so that it changes gear like a crazed BTCC driver would. So, you get a real thump during full throttle up-changes, and in Sport mode (switchable with a button) it will blip the accelerator during down-changes, so as to avoid shunting too hard into a lower gear. Impressively, by reading the angle of the steering and the speed you're going, it will also avoid changing gear mid-corner - the scourging characteristic of many an automatic gearbox in sporty cars.

However, the speed it takes to activate this system is higher than we suspect the average driver will regularly attain on a road, even during enthusiastic driving. Therefore, the gearbox does change gears during cornering, and there's a frustrating pause before it shifts back down a gear so you can power away.

It's especially vexing in the Lotus for two reasons: a, the gearbox is otherwise very good, especially at the slow stuff, with steady, smooth changes and a taste for hitting the highest gear possible - good for economy. And b, because the Evora is otherwise such sublimely good fun that driving it with IPS feels like bouncing on a trampoline wearing lead boots.

Should I call the bank manager?

IPS itself is a good value option, costing £1,500 to add to a standard Evora - it's not available on the higher-powered S model. However, it means that an Evora IPS costs from £51,000 - around ten thousand pounds more than the similarly powered Porsche Cayman PDK, which has a better quality interior and a gearbox more apt to moderately quick driving. It's also very easy to spend a lot on options for the Evora, on stuff like bigger wheels, fancy interior leathers and fabrics and upgraded stereo packages.

Running costs probably won't matter too much for owners, but the Lotus is relatively good on fuel - long gone are the days when an automatic gearbox would seemingly draw a fuel supply of its own. The 3.5-litre, 276bhp Evora IPS will return 32.1mpg, losing only an odd mpg on the manual.

Summary

Any frustrations the wannabe racing driver might have with the IPS setup can, after all, be overcome by using the manual shift paddles, but the truth is that few wannabe racers will choose IPS in the first place. At times it sucks the life out of the Evora experience. For Lotus's core market, it's an option best left un-ticked.

But as a tool for widening the company's reach IPS makes perfect sense and, a couple of flaws aside, is a decent effort.

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