07 Jan

Good things come to those who wait, in this case the wait was 7 years. Today Stelvio Automotive takes a look at the most powerful Lotus ever made which even a super fan missed the memo for; the Le Mans homologation special Lotus Evora GTE.

By Sean Smith

Ah, so you thought the Lotus Evora GT430 (above) was the most powerful Lotus road car ever made did you Sean? You thought the Lotus Evora 410 was the most powerful one before that when you wrote the article about it 2 years ago did you?

Yes, I did; and I... Was… Wrong.

The Lotus Evora is my favourite Lotus road car in the entire world (the WEC’s Lotus T128/T129 which became the ByKolles being my favourite Lotus ever) and Lotus are my 3rd favourite car manufacturer behind only Toyota and Ferrari. I believed nothing the company had done in the past decade had gone unnoticed by me. But yesterday, I found out, that was not the case.

I had in fact missed the company’s most powerful road car ever made, the Lotus Evora GTE. And what’s worse is that I had supported the race car which the thing had been created for in the first place.

The GTE is from that long, long, long ago time of 2011; back when the company was under the reigns of then CEO Dany Bahah. Bahah was responsible for almost bankrupting the company in what was a hugely aggressive active marketing push to modernise and diversify Lotus to get the name out there in racing and its road cars. 

It was a bold and daring strategy which, had it paid off, could have seen Lotus competing with the big luxury car brands today and would have seen a whole new range of Lotus cars on the road by 2020.

One of those projects commissioned under Bahar was Lotus entering the WEC with the Evora GTE. This was a top of the line GT2 spec. race car which was thrown against competition from Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin, BMW and Ford. In order to compete in the WEC though there had to be a road going version of the car they wanted to race so Lotus made the very limited edition GTE Road Car. Only 25 were ever made.

This car is very much a mad, over the top version of the standard Evora. It uses a Toyota engine, much the same as the standard car; however, this engine is a full on, race spec, 3.5litre V6 which produces 438bhp! When this car was launched in 2011 it was nearly 100bhp more powerful than the Lotus Esprit V8 which had been the company’s record holder for the past decade.

What’s clear, looking at it today, is that the GTE has very obviously shaped the development of the Evora in both its styling and engine performance since the car was released. Back in 2011 the standard Evora had a rounded face but today it has the same sharp angles, gills, a wider looking front and aggressive aesthetics that were born out of the GTE Road Car.

When you look at the 2017 GT430 (below) the only real difference between it and the GTE is that it has modern-day movable vents and a slightly more pedestrian friendly front splitter. The GTE and GT430 share the same basic engine block and you can be certain that Toyota and Lotus have worked to bring that block up towards the GTE’s power whilst making it accessible to the “masses” who can buy a GT430.

What’s impressive is the GTE is 22kg lighter than the GT430 even after all these years of weight saving development between the two cars. This is testament to the thorough job the Lotus engineers did in making sure the GTE was as good a car as it could possibly be. Moreover it proves the car was worth the c. £100,000+ which each of those 25 models would have set back their owners.

Interestingly though the top speed and acceleration of the GTE is only 167mph and 0-60 takes 4.0 seconds. Faster than any standard Evora which have top speeds of 163mph and do 0-60 in  4.8 seconds, but  these figures are blown out the water by the GT430 which can do 190mph and 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, (198mph with its rear wing removed).

This is entirely due to the race engine in the GTE. Racing engines have minute tolerances as they are lightened to near breaking point. The GTE’s weight will have been removed from the engine to around the car and what you will likely find is the GTE would be faster coming out of a corner than the GT430 and would then accelerate faster towards the 160mph mark before the GT430 would begin to pull it in. GT race cars very rarely hit over 170mph on a track so there would have been no need for the Evora GTE to have an engine which could do 200mph.

The GT430 has to compete with cars like Porsche's and Ferrari's road cars which can do 200mph which is why that car can defeat the GTE so handsomely in a game of Top Trumps for top speed. The GT430 is currently the fastest road going Lotus even made.

I say currently because, as was said in last year’s Proton Iriz article, Lotus are now under new ownership. It is more than reasonable to think that with this new supply of investment and capital that a “450” model will be out this year or in 2019 taking away the GTE’s horsepower record and very likely the GT430's top speed record.

Before that happens though; it is worth remembering the GTE and the cause of its existence. It was made to push Lotus to its engineering perfection on and off the track at a time when they were looking to reinvent themselves to stop them going into bankruptcy (again). They had their backs against the wall and that desire to show their potential and prove themselves brought out a car which showed what they could do.

The GTE WEC car didn’t do very well on track though unfortunately. Also Dany Bahar’s dream turned out to be too expensive and too much work for what was and still is a very small factory in Norfolk to deliver.

That said, I believe the Evora GTE has the true spirit of Colin Chapman living on inside it. It took on the world with a huge amount of risk riding on it. It wasn’t the fastest in a straight line but it certainly was in the corners It was the lightest car it could possibly be, so much so the company themselves still haven’t made a lighter version.

It is, 100%, a proper Lotus!