► New Lotus SUV due in 2020
► Volvo/Geely Swedish know-how
► But what will Lotus faithful think?
Lotus is working on its first family-friendly SUV in collaboration with new owners Geely and sister company Volvo - and a high-performance crossover much like you see in our artist's impression above is expected on sale by 2021.
The Lotus SUV was confirmed in the last interview previous CEO Jean-Marc Gales gave just before he quit earlier this summer. And it's not just one SUV on the drawing board; Hethel is proposing a pair of crossovers to rival the BMW X4 and X6, CAR can reveal.
Why is Lotus readying crossovers?
Lotus sales have been around 1500 a year for the past few years, but Gales expected them to top 3000 when the new 'four-door' arrives. Given Hethel’s production capacity stretches to 5000, there’s still headroom for a supercar, but industrial logic may propel the more practical (read: SUV) Lotus out of Norfolk and into the Volvo production network. After all, the cars will share components, though they won’t be spun wholesale off Volvo’s SPA platform underpinning the 60 and 90 vehicle ranges.
‘I wouldn’t talk about a platform: that’s nothing more than a set of components, perhaps 30 to 80 main modules,' Gales told CAR magazine. 'These are components Lotus can share, it can be an engine, an autonomous radar system, a wiring harness which can be adapted to the cars.’
Gales expected Lotus to intelligently adapt components from SPA or the XC40’s smaller CMA architecture, built into cars with distinct bodies, interiors and engine tuning. Expect familiar four-cylinder Volvo engines linked to hybrid modules for part-electric operation.
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Target Porsche: why the Lotus SUV will be aimed at the X6 and Cayenne
One of the ‘four-door Lotus’ SUVs is likely to target Porsche’s flagship 4x4, the Cayenne, and BMW X6, costing £80,000-£100,000. Although it should share electrical systems and autonomous driving aids with Volvo, it won’t be anything like an XC90, according to the former boss.
‘It would still be lowest in its class, maybe the widest in its class to hold the road well, certainly the lightest, certainly the best on track.’ Gales admired Alfa Romeo’s execution of the Stelvio, but Lotus’s four-door is still in its early stages, with launch three to four years away. ‘It needs to feel, drive and look like a Lotus,’ he vowed.
Earlier Lotus 4x4 plans
It's not the first time we've heard plans for a Lotus SUV. Back in 2015 we reported on a strategy that looked to collaborate with Chinese brand Goldstar on a smaller crossover, designed to rival the Macan. Our CGI artist's impression at the time revealed a similar stance and typical Lotus styling cues.
With Hethel's lightweight expertise, that car was designed to be 200-300kg less hefty than its German rival, helped by small-capacity four-cylinder power.
'It looks like a Lotus SUV, it looks lightweight, and it will drive like no other SUV because it will be much lighter,' chief executive Gales told CAR at the time. 'It will look stunning. At the front you'll see a taste of 3-Eleven, plus hints of the Elite and other Lotus cars.'
But with Lotus joining Volvo and the London Electric Vehicle Company under the ownership of Geely, the Goldstar plan has bitten the dust as the conglomerate goes it alone.
Should Lotus be following the well-trodden path into the SUV segment? Be sure to sound off in our comments below!
Lotus reviews by CAR magazine