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Supercar mystery (2007)

Published: 28 September 2007

Lotus Esprit? McLaren supercar? A new Noble? Help us identify this mystery sports car

CAR has spotted this mystery sports car testing at a UK facility, but we can't pin down exactly what it is. And this is where you, our army of knowledgable CAR Online readers, come in. Do you know what it is? We need your help. Our first reaction when we saw this low-slung mid-engined supercar? We reckoned it was the new Esprit, although Lotus's next supercar - due in 2009 - won’t carry that name. But all our inquiries so far suggest that it isn't. Click 'Next' to find out why...

So what do we know about this prototype?

As we say, it's mid-engined, and it's registered as having a 7.0-litre engine, probably a big US-spec bent eight. The Corvette Z06 engine fits the bill nicely, developing 512bhp and a tarmac-shredding 470lb ft. The Esprit, and indeed all Lotuses, have always relied on light weight and small-capacity engines for their thrills, suggesting this prototype doesn't hail from Hethel. Besides, last year CAR reported that the Norfolk-based company had signed a deal with BMW for a supply of engines; Munich doesn't make a 7.0-litre engine...

Haven't we seen this car before?

We certainly have. A second right-hand drive version of this same car was spotted in Holland with Lotus paperwork visible in the cabin. So if it's not a Lotus, it has all the hallmarks of being developed by Lotus Engineering. They're a discreet bunch and work for dozens of manufacturers big and small, but rarely talk about their work. Could it be McLaren's new baby supercar? Possibly. The October 2007 issue of CAR Magazine has the definitive scoop on the new supercar from Woking, and the overall proportions are similar to this P11 'son of F1', but key details are different. So this probably isn't Ron Dennis's new road-car project. Is there a clue in its registration plate? This prototype is registered in Milton Keynes, suggesting that it could be linked to one of the Midlands manufacturers; Mercedes's UK base is in Milton Keynes, but its new supercar will surely be developed in Germany...

What else do the pictures show?

Peer closely at the high-res photos and you can make out that this car is running Brembo brakes. It'll need them, if that 7.0-litre V8 is indeed nestling in the engine bay. Then there's that Audi R8-esque 'blade' over the mid cooling vents. Could this car be the new Noble? The M15 is long overdue, and the models we've seen so far look nothing like this prototype. Ascari is another name in the mix.

It does look very like a Lotus Esprit though...

Yes, there's no getting away from the fact. Underneath that black cladding, you’ll find the traditional wedge shape but with a modern twist. And these shots show the car will look remarkably similar to our Esprit scoop pictures from last year. The car has also been snapped at the Nurburgring, and it's been to Nardo in southern Italy for high speed testing. If it is the Lotus, we should know by next summer when the Esprit is tipped to debut at the 2008 London Motor Show, before going on sale in 2009.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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