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Lotus confirms SUV to fight Macan

Published: 29 April 2015

► Lotus confirms it will build SUV
► To be built in a new factory in China
► Designed for China; Europe a possibility

It’s a Lotus, but not as we know it: the Norfolk firm is developing a five-door SUV model. This isn’t the upcoming Evora crossover we’ve reported previously. It's a mid-sized, road-biased 4x4 with the likes of the Porsche Macan in its sights.

It’ll be built in a new factory in China, in a joint venture with parent company Proton and Chinese heavy industry firm Goldstar. And China’s where it will be sold, initially at least, to capitalise on the country’s rampant demand for SUVs and crossovers. The car’s design and engineering development will still be largely based at Hethel, however.

Is an SUV crossover really the right kind of car for Lotus?

There’s no ignoring the potential sales opportunity a premium-image crossover could represent in China right now. And arguably, it’s one that cash-strapped Lotus simply must take advantage of.

Over to Proton CEO Dato’ Abdul Harith Abdullah: ‘The automotive market in China is the single largest in the world today, and is still growing. Therefore it is only natural for Lotus to seek available opportunities. It is very difficult to ignore the market, and the growing demands of an affluent local community.’

While it’s a genre at odds with the purist sports cars at the marque’s heart, Lotus promises the new model will still adhere to the company’s core principles of lightweight construction and fantastic handling. This will be a car tuned more for on-track agility than off-road scrambling.

When will we see the Lotus SUV?

Not for around four years. It’s still very much in the early stages of its development, and Lotus’s engineers are still laying down its exact layout and powertrain solutions.

While we should expect some commonality in components with Proton, the Lotus crossover will be built on an all-new platform. For once, this will be a new Lotus with a chassis that hasn’t evolved from the extruded Elise tub.

In size we’re told the new Lotus will be comparable to a Porsche Macan. And since the Macan’s been mentioned, Lotus presumably also aims to take on its class-leading handling.

While China is the focus, bringing the car to Europe is yet to be ruled out.

So is Lotus shifting its production overseas?

The sports car range – including the Elise, Exige and newly updated Evora – will still be built at Hethel, and design and advanced engineering activities will remain there.

The SUV project is part of a joint venture agreement between Lotus Group and Goldstar Heavy Industrial, announced on 17 April 2015, encompassing R&D, production and sale of Lotus-branded passenger cars, and aftersales services, in China.

Is an SUV-style Lotus crossover sound business sense or a step too far from the brand’s core ideals? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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