Paris motor show: Lotus unveils five new models
Lotus has revealed a raft of new models in a sensational press conference at the Paris motor show.
The first announcement was that the iconic Esprit will return in 2013 as part of an ambitious strategy to replace the entire current range of cars with more upmarket offerings. Lotus boss Dany Bahar insists that the philosophies of founder Colin Chapman - just add lightness - still apply, but the evidence is scant on first look.
The new Esprit will be powered by a supercharged Lexus-sourced 550bhp V8 and should cost around £110,000. The sheer ambition of Lotus' endeavours was encapsulated in this model - not only was a flagship name being reinstated, it was consciously being pitched against the world's premier supercars.
Whether the car has the looks and the technology for such a challenge remains to be seen. For our money the Espirit doesn't make enough of an impact on either scale. Undoubtedly the car inherits the thrusting aesthetic befitting a 21st century supercar, but it arguably isn't distinct enough from what other manufacturers have been doing for the past decade to make a serious mark.
The debate on Lotus's seemingly inevitable weight gain will now rage for some time, but there's no doubting that the Esprit's estimated 1500kg kerbweight is portly for a car described as a direct descendant of Chapman's construction ethos.
If the Espirit was a slightly underwhelming unveil, the next Elan certainly restored some faith in the brand's near future. The mid-engined, two-seater model was gifted another epic name, but this time the car made enough of a visual impression to ensure the concept was a sure-fire head turner.
The new Elan clearly draws inspiration from the design DNA of the larger Espirit, but the dramatic lines seem to have been better reconciled in the aggressive baby Lotus. Of course if any car needs the advantage of good looks it's the Elan as the manufacturer has pitched the car directly at the Porsche 911.
The new model will get the Evora's V6 lump, with the power boosted beyond 400bhp. That should mean a 0-60mph time of less than 4 seconds. The car, which is also due in 2013, is expected to get a price tag of around £75,000.
The Lotus Elite, announced the week before the show, is a 2+2 V8 hybrid coupe utilising mechanicals and electrical systems from Lexus.
Lotus did announce today that it is developing its own KERS system so that drivers will be able to utilise brake energy on demand via a steering wheel-mounted boost button.
The surprise of the show, however, was a four-door coupe to be called the Eterne. One glance at the car was enough to confirm the extent of Lotus's aspirations - the exotic saloon is aimed squarely at the exclusive corner of the market currently inhabited by Aston Martin, Porsche and Maserati.
The £120,000 model will be on sale from 2015, and will use a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 - likely to be the same unit used in the Lexus LS600h, as well as that car's hybrid systems.
The Eterne will be based on the Elite chassis, extended to allow occupants extra room. The concept's resemblance of a Rapide was unmistakable, and the super-saloon is a clear indication of the brand's intention to take the Lotus name beyond the rigid sports car spectrum.
The introduction of such a controversial model was countered by the unveiling of a new version of the model that has been closest to Lotus's heart for the past decade.
The manufacturer's vision of what an Elise will look like in 2015 will arguably be the most discussed car in its revised line-up. Dedicated fans will appreciate the fact that the preview is based on the same kind of bonded aluminium chassis which underpins the current model, albeit in enlarged form.
The new car will get a supercharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Toyota unit developing around 300bhp. That's considerably more than the current Elise has to make do with, but it's worth remembering that the Paris preview is over 200kg heavier than its predecessor.
That weight gain won't be cheap either. The entry-level Elise is expected to get a price tag of around £40,000 - considerably more than the £27,450 currently asked for a 1.6-litre S model.