Lotus is back – and how! The Norfolk-based sports car maker shocked the Paris Motor Show by unveiling not just one new model but SIX, including a replacement for the Esprit, a new Elise and an Aston Martin Rapide-rivalling four-door coupe.
The cars are all part of the Proton-owned company’s plan to move upmarket, targeting brands such as Aston Martin and Ferrari. Auto Express first revealed the company’s plans a few weeks ago – and the new line-up caused a huge stir at the French expo.
The range will be split into two new mid-engined sports cars, the Elan and the Esprit, and two new range-topping front-engined GT cars, the two-door 2+2 Elite and the larger four-door Eterne.
Read more about the Lotus family:
• Lotus Elan
• Lotus Esprit
• Lotus Eterne
• Lotus Elite
• Lotus Elise
• Lotus New Compact Car
Lower down the range will be the new Elise and a super low-emission small car, with electric power and a range extending petrol engine, which is dubbed the New Compact Car.
Lotus boss Dany Bahar, who has been head of the company since October 2009 and has assembled a crack team of experts from Ferrari, AMG and Jaguar, explained the radical move: “Lotus has been neglected as a brand. Twenty years ago we were mentioned in the same breath as Ferrari and Lamborghini. But there has been no investment lately.
“So over the next 10 years we will invest £770m. Our new range will be world class, innovative, pioneering and green. They will be efficient with respect to the environment. And in terms of social acceptance.
“We have to adapt Lotus DNA to today’s requirements. I have not seen it written down anywhere at Lotus that the engine has to be in the middle. Or that it cannot be in the front or in the rear.
“We will continue to follow performance through lightweight, but that doesn’t mean that our cars must weigh less than 1,000kg. It means they are the lightest in their class. That is what performance through lightweight means to us.”
All the models show off the firm’s new face. The front end features an oversized central air intake, flanked by slim LED headlights and twin lower air intakes. Incredibly, inspiration has come from the original Seven. “The existing two-dimensional grille [on the Evora and Elise] is not expressive enough. We need more sculpture and dignity, so we looked at the Seven – the way the grille worked with the headlights on the wings,” said chief designer Donato Coco.
The new cars will be built at a revamped plant in Hethel and Lotus is currently looking for government grants, which will help to create an estimated 1,200 jobs in the area. The first models, likely to be the Esprit and Elan, will go on sale in two years time, through a totally refreshed dealer network. Lotus expects to sell 8,000 cars when at full capacity and break even on its investment in 2014.