Forget everything you know about Lotus. Forget the Elise, the Exige, the Evora. This is the Elite, a Ferrari California rival and a signpost to an all-new Lotus as envisaged by ex-Ferrari man Danny Bahar, CEO of Lotus since October 1st.
It looks a bit tight for the engine back there?
Ah, yes, here’s a thing: the Elite is front-engined, not mid-engined as is the formula for every other current Lotus. It’s also a folding hard-top 2+2, will cost around £115,000 and will definitely go on sale in 2014. Still, at least it’s rear-wheel drive.
Why change the formula?
Doesn’t everyone love the Elise and Evora? A dedicated bunch of enthusiasts certainly love the current cars – and CAR nominated the Evora Performance Car Of The Year 2009 – but, as Bahar admits:’the company has been loss-making for 15 years. Something does not work, we are here to change all that.’ So, today’s current 2400 units will swell, it’s hoped, to 5000 units by 2015, before topping out around 8000 not long after. And, promises Bahar, Lotus will still serve its hardcore customer base.
Tell me more about the Elite
It will be based on an evolution of the VVA architecture that underpins today’s Evora, but the bodyshell and panels will be aluminium, ensuring light weight – 1680kg dry – and a better fit and finish than today’s cars. A continuation of Hethel’s relationship with Toyota means the Elite’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8 will be based on the naturally aspirated engine in the Lexus ISF. However, it will be massively reworked to give 542bhp in base trim, or 612bhp in the range-topping R. There’s also the promise of Lotus’s class-leading steering, the first appearance of Jaguar-style continuously variable dampers on a Lotus, and aluminium double wishbone suspension. If that’s not enough surprises, how about this: there’ll be no manual gearbox, just a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and transaxle layout, while a Formula One-style KERS hybrid system will be standard, capturing wasted energy for short bursts of an extra 50bhp (controlled via the steering wheel) while two electric motors help out the petrol powerplant, keeping C02 down to an impressive 215g/km, despite the sub-4sec 0-62mph.
They’ll need to shift a lot of Elites to reach 8000 units…
Indeed, but there is a bigger range planned. We’ve been catching the Esprit supercar testing for aeons now, and a city car concept has already leaked online. There’ll be another announcement at the Paris Motor Show, and we’ll give you the full details as soon as that happens at 4pm on September 30, 2010.
NEED TO KNOW ENGINE
5.0-litre 32v V8 with integrated KERS hybrid system
542-612bhp TRANSMISSION Seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox
rear-wheel drive SUSPENSION Aluminium double wishbones, continuously variable dampers
WEIGHT/MADE FROM 1680kg/aluminium