By on September 20, 2010

The last time Lotus trotted out an “Elite,” it was a funkily be-hatched, sports tourer which, at about 2,000 lbs, was already nearly a thousand pounds heavier than the sleek fiberglass coupe it replaced. Thirty five years later, the beat goes on: as part of its mainstreaming effort, Lotus is showing a new “Elite” concept at the Paris Auto Show that is the heaviest and most powerful model the brand has ever produced. At 3,700 lbs, and offering a hybrid five liter V8 (reportedly based on the Lexus LS600h drivetrain) and a folding hardtop, this Elite appears to be aimed at Ferrari’s California… and more generally, at people who don’t know who Colin Chapman was. Lotus CEO Danny Behar tells Autocar

Make no mistake, there’s a definite market requirement for the Elite. It’s the ultimate compromise of sports car feel with comfort and space. There will always be those who say Lotus should stick to small sports cars, but we didn’t take the decision to design something like the Elite lightly. It is based on months of careful research and planning.

What Behar apparently doesn’t get is that McLaren would be more than happy to take Lotus’s status as the preeminent British sportscar maker if it takes its eye off the ball for a second. And going from the Elise to the Evora to a full-fat, hybrid hardtop convertible tourer is quite the leap of faith for Lotus. Business is business, but brands are brands… and we didn’t realize just how mainstream Lotus was aiming for.

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26 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Anti-Lotus Edition...”

  • avatar

    compromise of sports car… comfort
    Does it come with a feature where you drive up to Colin Chapman’s grave, and it pisses on it for you?
    I hate these people.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll use what we’ll henceforth call “The Cayenne Maneuver”
      This car effectively pays for the Elise, Exige and Evora, which you can still buy.  The truth is that Lotus can’t survive making hairshirt sportscars alone; they need something to bankroll those efforts and bodyshells for Telsas isn’t going to cut it.
      Another hairshirt would just cannibalize their own offerings, while this eats Ferrari’s.  That’s good for Lotus, and for us, as Ferrari most definitely doesn’t make anything like the Elise.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing. If Lotus is to survive –or at least stop losing money– they’ve got to produce less “pure” cars. As long as they don’t literally go the Cayenne route and produce that SUV they showed a few years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m just not sure that they have the brand cachet to compete with McLaren/Ferrari et al. Porsche could do it because they piggybacked a mediocre product on a brand that was already there. You bought a big POS because it was a Porsche. I don’t think many people are going to do it the other way around, and buy a Lotus because it’s a big POS.

    • 0 avatar

      Lotus does have the credentials, but if they want to grow they’ll need to sell more cars.
      A good way to do this is to convince the existing Elise/Exige/Evora customers (whose cars are track toys) to pick up something like this instead of an R8, 911, California, SLS or what-have-you: a car that you can go to out to dinner in and suitably impress the valet and anyone at curbside, but not so extreme that it’ll pound your dinner out of you on the ride home.  As long as it’s a little bit lighter, greener and “different” from other cars of it’s ilk it’ll do well.

  • avatar

    Sorry, Lotus, you shouldn’t have let Toyota design your car. (they’re not very good at it). This thing looks like a Celica.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Toyota knows nothing about design, but just look at the Lexus LF-A and you can see this car easily came from another studio. It is a lot more attractive than the Ferrari California.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m already sick of looking at this Lexus-like thing. The Elise and Evora on the other hand are very clean timeless designs.
      Lotus should develop the Evora before jumping into the boulevardier market.

  • avatar

    I figured that the curb weights must have included a typo. But the original Elite really was about 1,100 pounds, and the second one about 2,150.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      …and the first elite was an all glassfibre monocoque 2 seater with a dubious record for structural strength, and a 1.2 litre engine, whereas the “Breadvan” Elite was a fairly refined 4 seater trimmed in leather, with a backbone chassis. Comparing the two for weight is a bit of a stretch, even Chapman admitted the original Elite wasn’t strong enough for a road car, hence the use of the metal chassis.

  • avatar

    It’s the ultimate compromise
    Truer words have rarely been spoken. I’m on record as saying that Colin Chapman enjoyed luxury, and there was the Etna, a luxury V8 powered sedan, on the Lotus drawing boards when he died, but saying the words “compromise” and “Chapman” in the same sentence seems jarring. I don’t think that Chapman ever voluntarily compromised on a single thing in his life.
    What made the Lotus brand has always been uncompromising sports car feel. Adding comfort and space to sports car feel would be one thing, or even balancing true performance car feel with real world needs, but using the word “compromise” is telling.
    Unless it’s a matter of Behar not being a native English speaker and just a poor choice of words. On the other hand, most public remarks by CEOs get vetted (or written) by the company’s communications staff and I assume that the folks in Hethel know the meaning of the word “compromise”.

  • avatar

    To be honest, I’m a little sad that Lotus isn’t more popular – I have always liked them, and the Evora had good reviews as well as seeming to be the “grown-up” Lotus. I guess even the Evora is still a bit too much of an eccentric thing to make much headway against their competition…
    I can’t blame them for trying to be successful, but can’t they at least try to be the light as well? At 3,700 they’ll be fatter than the Ferrari. Then again, we could just admit that in the league they’re batting in (exotics but not supercars), luxury is more important than purity. If they made a true supercar they could get away with being a bit of a hairshirt, but if they’re trying to match the California it’s a different story.

  • avatar

    As long as Lotus keeps making cars like the Elise and the Exige I have no problem with this.

  • avatar

    While this is definitely a luxo porker, maybe that’s what Lotus needs to do to make money. Selling hard edge sports cars wasn’t a very lucrative business model for Lotus as its hard to get rich catering to purists only.

  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    It may not be traditional Lotus, but I think its damn nice looking. I can vaguely see what Jimboy called a Celica, but there have been many cars that hold a resemblance to another. My real concern with Lotus is their reputation for poor reliability. Even if you can afford the repairs, taking it the the shop gets old.

  • avatar

    Lotus already builds a Chapman-esque GT in the form of the Europa S.  Its lightweight, quirky, and impractical as any purist would demand.  The later, larger, Elite II shared the chassis with the Europa, and the new Europa S is more a GT in the classical Lotus-vein.  Fact is, it doesn’t sell well.  Build it and they won’t come.
    But this automotive pseudo-ideology is gruesome.  Building a low-volume 2,000 lb car in the modern will ultimately look like the Elise/Europa S, add six-cylinders and rear-seats you get the Evora and 3,000lbs, add eight cylinders, 610hp, retractable-hardtop, and a KERS hybrid that gives you and extra 50hp you get the this new Elite that is 3,700 lbs.
    Relative to its performance I would consider this lightweight.  Yes, it may way twice the weight of an Elise, but it has well over four times the power (depending on which version).  An Aston Martin and Maserati GT which this press release says its competes against weighs hundreds of pounds more and produces significantly less power.
    Lotus isn’t about only making fiberglass death-traps using engines adapted by waterpumps.  “lightweight” is relative.  The Elite in the 70s evolved into a massive car that more then doubled in weight compared to the original 1,000 lb Type 14.  Weight is relative to performance, and as the evolution of the Elite has shown while Chapman was alive, that’s a concept even Chapman understood and appreciated.

    • 0 avatar

      “engines adapted by waterpumps”

      If I’d known I could hire a water pump to do my engineering, I’d have much better margins!

    • 0 avatar

      Glad to see the Grammar Gestapo hard at work.  But for someone who has called this new Elite a ‘big POS’ and accused it of urinating on Chapman’s grave I would have expected more entertaining vitriol in your response.

    • 0 avatar

      “engines adapted by waterpumps”

      It was a reference to the Coventry Climax engine in the original 1950s Elite. The CC engine was originally designed to meet specifications for a lightweight engine to power portable water pumps for civil emergency use.

  • avatar

    Well if they are going to make a air conditioned Super 7 then Lotus is just another sporty luxury car maker. 

  • avatar

    That car looks like it has a V6 and costs 30 grand. Which would be pretty cool. Its also pretty cold with a hybrid V8 and lotus tuning, but its quite pricey at 150+k. Its great that its being built I don’t need brands. That being said, I’m not sure that its twice the car (or 5+times) as a Hyundai Genesis.

  • avatar

    I thought this had the engine from the IS-F and weighed ~3600lbs.
    I also sincerely hope that AutoBlog’s conversion on the price is wrong. Because less than $115k sounds a lot more realistic than $180k.
    Esp. when a V8 Vantage + Maserati GT are ~$120k and an XKR is even cheaper.
    Otherwise, awesome design; if a little bit FT86/Celica/Genesis Coupe/Mazda-ish. And “retractable hardtop” does strike as slightly un-Lotus.
    Hope it sells like hotcakes and they can keep the track car guys who want a GT for summer weekend trips in the Lotus family, making a pile of cash in the process.

    • 0 avatar

      TTAC is referring to the hybrid version which weighs 3,700 lbs.  The non-hybrid weighs 100 lbs less at 3,600lbs.  Both make 611hp from the engine (there is a 554hp option as well), but the hybrid will make an extra 50hp via a KERS-style boost.
      However, the press release says that the hybrid uses electric motors up front and gasoline engine powering the rear, which means that it isn’t using the Lexus LS600h two-mode hybrid that has the electric motors within the transmission system.  It also means the hybrid car is an E-AWD when in hybrid mode.

      I’m guessing that the hybrid version is $180k, and the 611hp and 554hp non-hybrid will be significantly less. The Maserati GT and Aston Martin make 150-200hp less then the Elite while weighing more. The Maserati in particular is a porker at almost 4,350lbs, even the 554hp version should easily outdo both the Aston Martin and Maserati.

  • avatar

    If Lotus really wants to make money… make a Cayenne based SUV. This thing won’t have the sales volume to offset its own costs and keep the company going.
    Other ideas:

    Lotus “sports sedan” S-class competitor
    Lotus minivan R-class competitor w/gullwing 2nd doors
    Lotus commercial van Econoline competitor

    They have to go where the profit is.

  • avatar

    An SUV needs to be (somewhat) reliable. Porsche is the Toyota Camry under the sportscar. Lotus the Alfa Romeo …. made on a monday. There is also the fact that everybody knows Porsche, Lotus is more for the TTAC readers

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Well design wise i think they took several pages out of their former supplier’s (Renault) handbook – it looks very much like a current gen Laguna Coupe mixed with the Megane CC if you squint a bit.
    As for weight, the Evora was already heavier than the NSX, with a similar (and similarly powerful powertrain), so there you go…

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