The Future of Lotus

The Norfolk firm unveiled five new models at the Paris motor show. But have they bitten off more than they can chew?
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The Norfolk firm unveiled five new models at the Paris motor show. But have they bitten off more than they can chew?

The Lotus factory is situated in a tiny Norfolk village called Hethel. Say Hethel out loud and images of exotic sports cars don’t really spring to mind, in fact Hethel sounds like the type of place where men in greasy overalls meet to tinker with cars and talk about spanners over cups of milky tea and soggy bacon sarnies… and that’s basically what used to happen at the headquarters of Lotus cars.

Under the guidance of engineering graduate Colin Chapman, the Lotus group was based on the foundations of lightweight motoring that favoured handling and acceleration over the sheer grunt of its bigger rivals. This involved lots of tinkering, a sort of hands on approach to motorcar manufacturing and one that involved the enthusiast (it only took one phone call to pay a visit and test out the track). But above all else these cars were affordable, massively fun and entirely rewarding to drive. Visit any track day or racing school up and down the country and you’ll find an Elise or an Exige in the paddock ready for a good thrashing. They were and still are the perfect introduction to performance.

So when current CEO of Lotus, Dany Bahar unveiled five, massively dramatic new models that aim to take on the supercar market at the Paris Motor Show this year the world sat up and listened. The world listened for two reasons, one because it’s exciting to see lots of shiny new cars but secondly because it sounds like this Bahar bloke has gone utterly mental.

The new line-up looks a little bit like this:

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The Esprit

Named after the enigmatic sports car released in the late 70s (and arguably reached a pinnacle with the V8 beast of the late 90s), this new model is aimed directly at the new and critically acclaimed (when not on fire) Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Gallarado market. It will boast a 550 or 620bhp engine and some impressive 0-60 times of around 3.4 seconds but going for the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini? It will take a serious motor to tempt punters away from the big dogs.

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The Eterne

This four-door super-saloon has not only borrowed styling cues from the brilliant Aston Martin Rapide but also aims to take it head on in the battle of the forecourts. £120,000 will get you a Lexus-based V8 engine, which is alright but with a price tag placed slap-bang between a Porsche Panamera and an Aston Martin it seems ludicrous. Save yourself nearly £30,000 and get a Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT.

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The Elise

The best-selling, light-weight sports car has had a complete overhaul for 2015. It was probably about time the Elise had a facelift, considering it’s sported the same look since 1996, but the changes here are dramatic. It’s bigger, heavier and due to be more expensive than the original Elise. So, in short it has none of the attributes that made the original so appealing. Good move Lotus.

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The Elan

Is it just me or are all these new Lotuses starting to look the same? Anyway, the Elan will sit at around £75,000 and boast a 4.0 litre V6 that will kick out 450bhp- putting it right in the middle of Porsche's well-guarded 911 territory. Audacious and daring, like a geek standing up to a bully in the playground, but like all these things it usually ends in tears.

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The Elite

Lotus want to ram home how ‘elegant and graceful’ this model is, in fact, in the press release they use the word elegant or elegance five or six times in one sentence. This 2+2 model (as in two tiny seats in the back) will gun directly for the Aston DBS, Ferrari 599 and Mercedes SLS AMG with its performance figures and price point, which just seems crazy considering the aforementioned vehicles are some of the finest examples of motoring perfection money can buy.

Big, bolshie Bahar has got some serious (back) wheels to launch an attack on the car market as impudent as this but you have to hand it to him. Let’s just hope the tea-swilling grease-monkeys at Hethel HQ are capable of fulfilling a task of this magnitude.

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