In a nutshell
No, this isn’t a last hurrah for the Esprit, it’s a prototype version of Lotus’s next-generation V8 supercar, due in 2008. Sources say three mules are on the loose, honing the drivetrain, brakes and handling. This prototype turned up at Germany’s twisting Nurburgring circuit in June; vists have also been paid to Italy’s Nardo bowl for high speed durability testing.
What it does/how it looks
The new supercar will be ‘Lotus’s icon, our jewel in the crown,’ says Mike Kimberley, the latest CEO of the Norfolk-based sports car maker. ‘It’s the brand image builder, and brand equity is what the automotive business is all about.’ Kimberley, a Lotus veteran, rejoined the company in May 2006. He is currently undertaking a 90-day review of the business, in a bid to boost profitability. It would be a drastic and dramatic move for Kimberley to demand big changes to the Esprit project, however. An engine deal with BMW has been struck, while the design has been long signed off. Insiders say it contains hints of the Esprit’s original wedge design, although it’s unflinchingly contemporary. Because it’s an all-new car, the Esprit name won’t be used. One of Lotus’s trademark E-names will be, although Elvis has been ruled out.
Under the skin
The new Esprit sticks to Lotus’s ‘performance out of lightweight’ ethos. So the chassis is made largely of extruded aluminium, cold cured and riveted together. The lightweight construction saves weight and boosts rigidity. This time, a convertible version of the supercar will be produced. The chassis is certainly stiff enough – sources claim its torsional rigidity is three times better than that of Ferrari’s F430 Spider. Engineers are so confident, they are currently exploring making the chassis floor thinner in places, to keep the mass down.
The engine room
According to industry sources, the new Lotus will run a BMW V8 mounted amidships. Odds on favourite is the 362bhp 4.8-litre unit. Sources say the base Esprit will send at least 400bhp to its rear wheels. Forced induction should boost peak power beyond 500bhp for a modern day Turbo Esprit. Insiders promise performance will be ‘phenomenal’, and vow the Porsche 911 is in their sights.
The inside story
The supercar is putting on a growth spurt, as the prototype’s stretched bodywork shows. The cockpit will be far less cramped – it’s designed to accommodate a 6ft 5in bloke with size 14 feet. Naturally, quality, equipment and materials will all leap into the 21st century.
How much and when?
Lotus’s Esprit replacement will make its motor show debut some time in 2007. Sales begin in 2008. Expect an asking price around £60,000 – nice and close to its arch-rival, the 911.