Lotus hopes to completely reinvent itself by 2016 and the Elite is our first glimpse at what the brand's future holds.
If all goes according to plan, the production Elite will hit the streets in April of 2014 and Lotus will become profitable around the same time. New Lotus Group CEO Dany Bahar doesn't hide the fact that the little British brand hasn't made money in more than 15 years and that trend needs to be reversed immediately.
New models are needed to improve the appeal and profitability of Lotus and that necessitates taking steps to make the cars slightly more mainstream in approach. The Elite will use a front-mid-mounted V-8 engine connected to an epicyclic transmission with integrated electric motors and an optional KERS system. No manual transmission will be offered, though Lotus will allow the driver to select a gear manually via paddle shifters, and the car will be about 10 inches longer than the current Evora. While the concept is a 2+2 GT with a power retractable hardtop, the production car could also be available as a 2+2 coupe. Expect the 5.0-liter V-8, a heavily reworked version of the Lexus IS-F powerplant, to produce 542 hp thanks to the addition of an intercooled supercharger. A more potent R version will deliver 611 hp and a 0-62 mph sprint in 3.5 seconds, according to Lotus. Curb weight of the base car is expected to be just over 3700 pounds.
Design director Donato Coco is using the Elite to showcase the future of Lotus' styling, which is most apparent in the front end. Coco found the current Elise, Exige, and Evora to be a little too two-dimensional for his taste, so he put a lot of effort into giving the Elite's front fascia some depth. Using words like wide, low, and tensioned surfaces, Coco told us the Elite should be the "highest expression of English cars." In person the Elite almost looks like an Aston Martin, so we'd say Coco and his team have hit the mark.
The Elite's interior will be as upscale and tidy as the exterior. A proprietary Lotus human-machine interface will debut in the Elite, though it's too easy to say exactly what the capabilities of the system will be. The computer-generated images of the Elite's interior were much more luxurious than any current production Lotus, in order to command the expected £115,000 starting price for the car. Most importantly, Lotus has given lots of attention to ingress and egress in the Elite, so you won't have to slither in and out of the car like we're accustomed to with the Elise and Exige.
Elite is the first step in Lotus' plan to move away from a niche player to a healthy brand with a variety of products that range from track-only specials to premium grand touring cars. We'll have more details on the complete range of Lotus products once we get to the Paris motor show on September 30th. Be sure to check back with Automobilemag.com next week for all the updates from Paris.