► New Lotus Type 131 confirmed
► Elise, Exige, Evora retired
► Part of Vision80 strategy
Lotus has confirmed it will this year launch a new sports car, dubbed Type 131 and revealed in our exclusive artist's impression above, as it sends the venerable Elise, Exige and Evora range of aluminium roadsters and coupes out to pasture.
Benefiting from a major cash injection from parent company Geely, the Norfolk manufacturer is embarking on a signficant new-model launch programme which will see new sports cars, the Evija electric hypercar and even SUVs join the line-up.
More on the Lotus Evija EV
The first new Lotus: what we know about Type 131
Talk about getting plenty of mileage out of your material. Perennially cash-strapped Lotus hasn’t had the readies to launch a truly new sports car in eons. But a brand-new model will materialise in 2021, and unlike the Evija hypercar (which reaches its first customers this year), it won’t be an EV.
The cars waiting in the shadows next to the Evija (below right) herald a new Lotus line-up and enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief that they'll focus on heartland sports cars first.
The first new model is codenamed Type 131, following in the footsteps of the Type 130 which became the Evija. It’ll have a mid-mounted internal combustion engine, understood to have two banks of cylinders. Hybridisation is possible for the future, but the new car is likely to launch as a combustion-engined machine.
Spyshots show Lotus is well into development, using mules based on the current Evora. Broadened arches betray wider dimensions, but it will still be dinky in overall size. It will, however, be more accessible than existing Lotus models – not in terms of price but in terms of physically getting in and out (a challenging task in current models).
To that end, expect a larger cockpit than the current Evora, likely achieved by making the car a two-seater rather than a 2+2. That will also enable a more expressive roofline, coupled with styling cues echoing those of the Evija. Interior quality will be dramatically improved, too, insiders vow.
Still aluminium tech galore on future Lotus sports cars
Like the existing Lotus family, the chassis will still be composed of extruded and bonded aluminium, a Lotus hallmark since the Elise, but it has evolved significantly enough to be classified internally as a new platform. A further, truly all-new, platform is expected to follow for subsequent models. Covid has pushed the new sports car’s reveal back some way, but expect to see it in the first half of 2021.
The Group Lotus Vision80 strategy has already confirmed a new 12,300sq m aluminium sub-assembly base in Norwich, which merges the previous two sites in Worcester and Norfolk. It's 10 miles away from the Hethel HQ and employs 125 staff.
This is good news: in an age of heavy batteries, hybridisation and electrification, Hethel plans to keep its lightweight DNA intact. In truth, it has never been more important to keep weight at bay...
The aluminium backbone was core to the closely related Elise, Exige and Evora ranges that Lotus confirmed today will end production in 2021 with around 1500 made this year as part of a lifetime total of 55,000 units.
It's a loss we'll mourn deeply - but it's balanced by the news of new sports cars under development in Hethel.
When can I buy the new Lotus Type 131?
No word yet, but the company says 'prototype production' will start in 2021. Given Covid wobbles, we expect the new sports car to arrive towards the end of 2021, though that could yet slip into 2022.
Prices are expected to climb to around £75,000.
Phil Popham, the CEO of Lotus Cars, said: 'This year will be hugely significant for Lotus with new facilities coming on stream, a new sports car entering production and new levels of efficiency and quality that only a new car design and factory can deliver. Despite the continuing global challenges, Lotus has emerged from 2020 strong and on track in the delivery of our Vision80 business plan.'
And the Lotus SUV?
It’s coming - and we've got the latest on the Lotus crossover in our scoop package here. Look to 2022 for a Macan-sized crossover on Volvo/Polestar’s CMA platform. By 2025, that may be superseded by Geely’s own platform, enabling extremely powerful full-electric power for Evija-lite performance on the school run in a five-door Lotus.
But that’s then. For now, it’s intriguing to see how Hethel’s considerable engineering talent will utilise Geely’s capital and parts bin.
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