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2020 Lotus Evora GT Review: A thrilling, analog weekend racer

By Matt Burns

Why’s this on TechCrunch? We hear that occasionally when posting things outside of our general programming. Generally, there’s a tech hook; there isn’t here with this $100,000 2020 Lotus Evora GT.

The Lotus Evora GT is supersized go-kart with nary an advanced technical feature. And I love it. While most cars are coming equipped with supercomputers, the lack of technical wizardry makes the 2020 Evora GT interesting, and that’s why it’s on TechCrunch.

A modest v6 rests behind the driver. The stats are hardly notable. 416 BHP and 317 lb-ft. It’s supercharged with an Edelbrock screw providing 8.7 psi of boost. In all, it’s not much considering rivals often sport twice the power and torque. The Lotus Evora GT doesn’t care. The engine provides intense thrills and driving dynamics. This car proves that even today, when 1,000 hp is obtainable and F1-inspired hybrid systems are hitting cars, over-the-top horsepower and exotic power plants are not needed. Not really, at least.

This Lotus follows a timeless analog formula. Throw a good engine in a little car, give the driver control over the transmission, and fun ensues.

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Review

I never turned on the radio. The howl of the engine was enough for me as I took this Lotus around Michigan’s deserted backroads.

The engine wails with power. A distinct whine is caused by the supercharger that’s quickly followed up by a roar from the exhaust. The combination creates a harmony missing in most modern sports cars. Now in days, automakers take grain pain in isolating drivers from the violent explosions powering their vehicles, and in a vehicle the size of this Lotus, that’s not possible.

The Lotus Evora GT is small. This isn’t a car for commuting. The creature comforts of power seats, and cup holders are missing. There’s no room for golf clubs. The tiny storage compartment between the rear-mounted engine and the bumper has a warning not to exceed 50kg. There’s a back seat, but don’t expect anyone to sit in it; it’s too small for even a child. This is a car for whipping around a track or empty roads and enjoying every second of it.

Power is instructed through a six-speed manual transmission. The throws are lovely and spaced perfectly. It’s the Goldilocks of standards. Not too long, not too short. Not too hard, not too soft. Just right. This transmission is part of the Lotus Evora GT’s appeal.

In most modern sports cars, the driver is often a conductor, sending instructions to various orchestra members. The result is beautiful music, and the crowd cheers as the conductor take a bow. But he didn’t do anything. He just told the musicians what to do.

In cars like this Lotus, the driver is more akin to a one-person band. Sure, the music or driving might not be as technically beautiful as an orchestra, but that one man, controlling and playing all the instruments, simultaneously produced magic.

Save the manuals.

With immense power to weight ratio, the Lotus is primed for excitement. In traffic, it’s like driving a Hot Wheels toy car next to a giant Tonka Truck. Wide Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 XLs seem to provide enough grip to allow the Evora GT to climb a wall. I had a smile every time there was a sharp highway ramp.

There are a handful of competitors around the Evora GT’s $100,000 price tag. For perspective buyers, they should be considered. For nearly the same price, one can opt for the stellar Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, which offers similar driving characteristics with a lot more creature comforts. Likewise, the base model Porsche 911 starts at $100,000 and can be configured for weekend fun and daily commuting.

Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I’m unable to provide a report from a track. Everything is closed here in late May as the country struggles to reopen.

This Lotus Evora GT is a quarantine buster. I live outside of a small city in the middle of Michigan. Make a right when leaving my house to go to town. Take a left, and I have access to endless roads lined with cornfields. That’s where I spent most of my time with this Lotus.

It’s a thrilling ride, racing through country roads. Uphills and down. Around meandering country lines and fields and animal pastures. I’ve taken many cars through this area, and the open stretches of the road never get old. This Lotus feels at home on these back roads.

Cars like the Evora GT are a dying example of motoring. Electric sports cars can provide more thrills, and yet they lack the mechanical wonder caused by gas-powered cars. The Lotus Evora GT is a new car with an old soul. It doesn’t want to live a life of commuting. It wants to drive for the hell of it.

Ford partners with Thermo Fisher on COVID-19 test kits, expands production to face masks, gowns

By Kirsten Korosec

Ford has expanded its plan to make critical medical equipment and supplies, including a new effort to make reusable gowns from airbag materials as well as a partnership with scientific instrument provider Thermo Fisher Scientific to ramp up production of COVID-19 collection kits to test for the virus.

This broader plan highlights the latest effort by automakers and medical device manufacturers to help ease a shortage of equipment and supplies such as face shields, face masks, protective gowns and ventilators, a medical device that is used in the treatment of COVID-19, a disease caused by coronavirus.

Ford announced in March a partnership with 3M to build Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) as well as a separate effort to produce more than 3 million face shields at its factory in Plymouth, Mich.

On Monday, Ford provided an update on its 3M partnership and laid out new plans to produce other medical equipment. Ford will start Tuesday producing PAPRs — respirators used by healthcare workers that filter out contaminants in the air — at its Vreeland facility near Flat Rock, Mich. Paid United Auto Worker volunteers will be working to assemble the PAPR devices. Ford said it expects to be able to make 100,000 PAPR devices.

Ford to make Powered Air-Purifying Respirator

Ford will start producing an all-new PAPR design to help protect health care professionals on the front lines fighting COVID-19.

“I think our immediate focus is on the surge need that is really at the end of April, May and June, so we’re focusing on that timeframe,” Jim Baumbick, vice president of Ford Enterprise Product Line Management said during a call with reporters Monday. “What I can also say is we have very clear signals working with our partners that three on that the demand is far outpacing the supply of this critical equipment. We know that there’s incredible demand, and need for this during this short time horizon.”

Ford engineers have also been working to increase the output of PAPRs and N95 respirators at 3M’s U.S.-based manufacturing facilities. 3M has doubled its N95 production to more than 1.1 billion annually and has plans to double that again in the next 12 months, according to Mike Kesti, the global technical director of the personal safety division at 3M.

In addition to its previously announced plans to make face shields, Ford outlined three additional efforts, including face mask and gown production as well as the partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The company has started to produce face masks for its own workers to use throughout its global operations. The face masks, which are being made at Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., were developed in collaboration with the UAW and are being made for internal use to lessen the burden on an already squeezed supply chain. Ford said it is looking to have the masks certified for medical use.

Ford has also tapped supplier Joyson Safety Systems to make reusable gowns from airbag material. The automaker worked with a local hospital in Michigan to develop a pattern for the gowns. The airbag material used for the gown is nylon based and has built in coating.

“This is really a great find that we could take something that we already knew how to produce and then turn that into isolation gowns, and they are washable,” said Marcy Fisher, Ford director of global body exterior and interior engineering.

Ford-supplier Joyson Safety Systems will cut and sew 1.3 million gowns by July 4. The gowns are self-tested to federal standards and are washable up to 50 times, according to Ford.

Finally, the company said it will help Thermo Fisher Scientific expand production of COVID-19 collection kits. Ford engineers at its Kansas City Assembly Plant are helping set up additional collection kit production machinery. These engineers are also helping Thermo Fisher adapt machinery that currently runs glass vials for other products to run plastic vials required in drive-through coronavirus test collection.

Proposed amendments to the Volcker Rule could be a lifeline for venture firms hit by market downturn

By Jonathan Shieber

In the wake of the financial crisis, Congress passed regulations limiting the types of investments that banks could make into private equity and venture capital funds. As cash strapped investors pull back on commitments to venture funds given the precipitous drop of public market stocks, loosening restrictions on the how banks invest cash could be a lifeline for venture funds.

That’s the position that the National Venture Capital Association is taking on the issue in comments sent to the chairs of the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Commodities Future Trading Commission.

The proposed revisions of the Volcker Rule would exclude qualifying venture capital funds from the covered fund definition.

“The loss of banking entities as limited partners in venture capital funds has had a disproportionate impact on cities and regions with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems — areas outside of Silicon Valley and other traditional technology centers,” NVCA president and chief executive Bobby Franklin wrote. “The more challenging reality of venture fundraising in these areas of the country tends to require investment from a more diverse set of limited partners.”

Franklin cited the case of Renaissance Venture Capital, a Michigan-based regionally focused fund that estimated the Volcker Rule cost them $50 million in potential capital commitments resulting in the loss of a potential $800 million in capital invested in the state of Michigan.

“This narrative unfortunately repeats itself, as we have heard firsthand from investors about how the Volcker Rule has affected venture capital investment and entrepreneurial activity across the country,” wrote Franklin. “The majority of these concerns about the Volcker Rule have come from members located in regions with emerging ecosystems, including states like Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Virginia, to name a few.”

It’s not only small states that could be impacted by the decision to reverse course on banking investments into venture firms in these uncertain times.

There’s a growing concern among venture investors that — just like in 2008 — their limited partners might find that they’re over-allocated into venture investments given the decline in markets, which would force them to pull back on making commitments to new funds.

“Institutional LPs will run into the same issues they had in 2008. If you used to manage $10B and the market declines and you now manage $6B, the percentage allocated to private equity has now increased relative to the whole portfolio,” Hyde Park Ventures partner, Ira Weiss told a Forbes columnist in a March interview. “They’re really not going to look at new managers. If you’ve done really well as a manager, they will probably re-up but may reduce commitment amounts. This will bleed backwards into the venture market. This is happening at a time when Softbank has already had a lot of trouble and people had not really modulated for that yet, but now they will.”

Some of the largest investment funds have already closed on capital, insulating them from the worst hits. These include funds like New Enterprise Associates and General Catalyst . But newer funds are going to have a harder time raising. For them, giving banks the ability to invest in venture firms could be a big boon — and a confidence boost that the industry needs at a time when investors across the board are getting skittish.

“Fundraising for new funds in 2020 and 2021 might prove to be more difficult as asset managers think about rebalancing their portfolio and/or protecting their assets from the current volatility in the market,” Aaron Holiday told Forbes . “This means that VC investing could slow down in 12 – 24 months after the most recent wave of funds (i.e. 2018 and 2019 vintages) are fully deployed.”

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