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Lotus Esprit mule (2008)

Published: 25 January 2008

The pace of change is gathering momentum at Lotus. On Thursday we brought you the world’s first scoop shot of the new Eagle 2+2, today we have the latest pictures of the Esprit replacement. Lotus will show its range-topper in 2009 before sales start in 2010.

This test mule is running a 4.4-litre V8. Could this be the BMW lump that powered the outgoing 645Ci? The capacity is exactly the same and Lotus is known to have been in discussions with the Germans to use one of their V8s. If correct, it would suggest outputs of around 330bhp and 330lb ft.

How comes it's taking so long?

Lotus is developing a lightweight chassis and body for its Mid-engined Sports Car (MSC), as the car is known internally. Chief executive Mike Kimberley has already rejected early proposals for the new Esprit; when he was appointed he ‘drove the mules and they did not meet the Lotus DNA. I could have been driving a Corvette. It was not back to the drawing board, but there was a major engine change and vehicle dynamic changes to the suspension.’

So the engineers are working on saving weight and giving the MSC the lightness of touch that has become a Lotus trademark. ‘It’s all about low mass, low weight, bringing better fuel economy and improved handling,' says Kimberley.

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What's the future for Lotus?

Kimberley is wedded to a three-strong line-up. After years of relying on a single range (albeit in Elise roadster, Exige coupe and Europa touring bodystyles), the expanded Lotus family will help the business smoothe over the natural ups and downs of a product cycle. ‘The Esprit will become our flagship,’ he says, suggesting that there will be a natural escalator as young first-time Lotus owners trade up to an Eagle when they have kids, and then an Esprit later in life when they have the necessary funds.

There’s a buzz about Lotus at the moment. New products are finally in the pipeline, and the company is slowly recruiting more staff, after many were laid off in years gone by. Hethel now employs 1400 staff, up from 980 in December 2006.

With the new Eagle and Esprit finally bringing all-new products to showrooms, the company is well placed to begin thinking about replacing the Elise, the car that saved the company in the 1990s. A successor is due ‘some time after 2012,’ according to the boss.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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