By on April 25, 2012

Despite all the righteous indignation regarding Lotus and their legendary outburst – which I still maintain is a brilliant PR stunt to get their message out and subvert the armchair-racer blogger cartel – it appears that the British sportscar shop has made a real world class sports car under the leadership of Dany Bahar, the supposed Antichrist for “real enthusiasts of the marque”. The kind who may be able to buy an Isuzu Impulse with Handling By Lotus.

Writing for Pistonheads, Chris Harris dubs the new Exige S, which mates the Exige with the 3.5L Supercharged V6 from the Evora S, as “…fast, capable and very desirable.” “At last, from within the madness,” he continues,  “Lotus has produced a world-class sports car.”

While arguments on both sides have been endlessly beaten to death, I am still not willing to write Lotus off just yet. As TTAC contributor and Elan owner Ronnie Schrieber has pointed out in the past, Chapman himself was an astute marketer and his cars got heavier and more luxurious as he advanced in age. EVO Magazine also seems similarly impressed with the new Lotus direction, stating (perhaps a tad prematurely) that the new Esprit may be better positioned to fight the Ferrari 458 than even the sublime McLaren MP4-12C.

I hope that the British press is right. Not only do I want to see Lotus survive and thrive, but I want to see all of the self-appointed marketing and engineering experts and other outlets eat a giant plate of crow when their prognostications turn out to be totally wrong. Vindictive and facile? Perhaps. But anyone who knows Anthony Colin Bruce will tell you that he was no saint either.


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21 Comments on “Has Lotus Produced A World-Class Sports Car Under Dany Bahar?...”

  • avatar
    The Doctor

    Did Lotus Cars Ltd ever actually make a profit under Chapman?

  • avatar

    Who cares? It’s too late now. The lines have been drawn and the trenches have been dug. The “cartel” you mentioned is utterly meaningless to Lotus in the long run; they shouldn’t have indulged them, just let them stew in their own irrelevance. They’re no different than the remaining bailout denialists. From this point forward, it’s not about the cars. It’ll be about rooting for Lotus to fail because that will make them “right,” and nothing Lotus does will ever change that.

  • avatar
    Vipul Singh

    Got totally confused for a moment. After having spent the better part of two hours at PistonHeads, I fired up TTAC only to see Chris Harris referred here. I though something was wrong with the computer!

  • avatar

    Derek, I’m genuinely interested to hear your personal opinon on Lamborghini’s Urus.

    I don’t think the Lotus hard-liners you hate so much are worried about Lotus building a better Ferrari 458. They are worried about a future Lotus lineup that consists of a CUV, a LWB sedan, a Continential GT competitor, and a $250K+ supercar.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on that last paragraph. The Espirit V8 was pretty close to a 355, and the 458 is not an overweight overwrought super car, so that car doesn’t scare me. Even a Mclaren F1 rival, wouldn’t bother me too much since that car was fanatical about low weight. At the risk of sounding sexist, my problem with “expanding the customer pool” beyond the traditional buyer as BMW, Porsche, and now Lotus are threatening to do is that the new vehicles are the sort that girls would buy…and I’m not talking about Billie Piper (who drives an 80s Porsche 911) girls, but sorority girls with rich daddies, trophy wives, and wealthy yuppie suburbanites who just want the image of the brand. I remember reading an article about BMW stating that in the late 90s the decision was made that the brand was too “scary” or “intimidating” for the average buyer (and specifically mentioned women). Well good, cars like BMW’s, Lotuses, and Porsches should be scary and not for the faint of heart. Part of what makes the brands special to enthusiasts is that 99% of the people out there are scared of the car. if you see a guy driving an Elise, you know he’s the real deal because only someone who truly values what that car delivers as a driving experience would put up with its shortcomings, knowing those are the sacrifices that have to be made for it to do what it does. At least Porsche still continues to mollify the base by building the sorts of cars the purists will buy alongside its poseurmobiles.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m an ’05 Elise driver, and yes, I am the real deal … heh heh. The shortcomings are negligible, and it’s a great commuter car that I hear is great on the track too … it does chew up rear tyres tho …

        Owning this car has sorta scratched the sports car itch for me, and I am currently unmotivated to make any sort of change, even to another Lotus. The main complaint with the Fed Elise has always been lack of power, but others believe it’s nicely balanced with the stock 190hp. If I were to do anything, I’d add a supercharger via BOE fabrication, but eh, I love the car as is, so why mess with it?

        It defies the traditional British sports car nightmares — it’s been terribly reliable over 55k miles — but yeah, tires are expensive. Boo hoo, poor me and my aggressive cornering.

        The twists and turns of the current Lotus soap opera don’t affect me at all. I love them for producing my car, fear the bloat of more universally appealing models, but in reality, used Elises are available to the purists, while faster and heavier stuff might keep Lotus around in the future for us all.

  • avatar

    Lotus’ current customer base is not interested in buying a 458 competitor. they want an improved Elise/Exige – which the mentioned Exige S is. as ajla notes, they are concerned that the Lotus line-up will become something else and leave them behind.

    90% (my estimate) of the people who buy a Ferrari or Lambo are doing so for the image it presents, not the ultimate performance. people who buy an Elise (or McLaren MP4-12C or Noble for that matter) want performance and don’t have their head up their ass over the brand image associated with the car they buy.

    McLaren has huge credibility within the enthusiast community due to the F1, but it’s not a recognizable brand to most of the general public. Lotus has similar (near complete lack of) profile with most people. someone interested in image would spend $60k on an M3 or S5, not $60k on an Exige which requires contortions to fit into, compromises nothing for comfort.

    if Lotus do indeed produce a viable 458 competitor, great for them. it will eventually bring them awareness and market share. the problem is that thus far they have been all smoke and no fire. Bahar hasn’t helped anything much by making the splash he’s tried to make, but without firm backing. the nature of Lotus last 20+ years makes skeptics out of all of us. if they keep their heads down and produce something excellent, great. I won’t believe it unless I see it.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to nitpick on your comments (with that said, I will), but many of the Lotus owners I know want neither a 458 competitor nor an improved Elise/Exige — they just want to drive their current Elise/Exige for the next 20 years. I don’t care if Lotus leaves me behind.

      I agree 100% on the lack of image that Lotus, Noble, Rossion, etc. have. That’s part of the charm, or anti-image pursuit, which is an image itself, I suppose.

      Regarding image, the most common conversation I have on the street goes like this:

      Inquiring person: “What kind of car is that?”
      Me: “a Lotus”
      IP: “who makes Lotus?”
      Me: “Lotus”

      At that point, I try to avoid delving into the murky history of Lotus, as eyes start to glass over (mine included) and the wonder of the car itself is lost. The car gets a lot of attention, even 7 years from new, altho few know exactly what it is.

      And agreed, lots of talk from Lotus recently, but little to show. Either way, I don’t care much.

      • 0 avatar

        I am agree with all that you said. your point about Lotus being an iconoclast’s choice is very valid. I think lots of people who run Elise/Exige could afford something with more image but are happy to enjoy a purer experience.

        another owner above notes that as long as they can enjoy their car, they’re not worried about Lotus going forward. which is further indictment of the disconnect current management has with their current owners. if they want to craft a Ferrari/Lamborghini image out of whole cloth, they have quite a mountain to climb and I wish them well.

      • 0 avatar

        You hear that conversation with a lot of cars though. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately), most people are just not that “in” to cars. One of our neighbors owns a Lotus and I see it around town occasionally. I stopped and talked to him one day for a few minutes while he was washing the car, and he absolutely loved it as well. He also stated that it had been 100% reliable and was a pleasure to drive. It’s these small lightweight sports cars that I think of when I hear the name Lotus. If that disappears, not only will they have no brand recognition among the average Joes, they will have lost brand recognition among those who might actually buy one of their cars.

  • avatar

    Exige which requires contortions to fit into

    Just had my gall bladder out, dont think any twisting body movement is kosher for your truly.
    Another fnd whose knee is pretty screwed up, he said the easiest way to get into his rag top vette is having the top down!

    many of us do have physical limitations.

  • avatar

    If I am not mistaken, it looks like you can actually see out the back window of the new Exige S. From the photos on the Lotus website, you can see out the front window from behind the car.

    Where did the put the intercooler?….or is it not intercooled?

    The last (old) one I drove was a bit tough to get into (…6’0″) but reasonably roomy once in. Seeing out the back could make it less like wearing a helmet all the time.

  • avatar

    Not only do I want to see Lotus survive and thrive, but I want all 5 models.

  • avatar

    Wait… HAVE they produced a good sports car under Dany Bahar? Honest question. I thought it was still all vaporware. Did they finish one?

  • avatar

    Do the shareholders and board of directors like Danny? That’s all that really matters.

    I think we as enthusiasts want CEOs who are larger than life and not a part of the MBA type ‘soft sciences’… Danny seems to be the marketing type who has been thrust into a position that isnt the boffin type that we expect for Lotus.

    • 0 avatar

      there are no shareholders in Lotus, it’s owned completely by Proton. which was bought by DRB-HICOM Berhad, who do vehicle assembly for Mercedes and Honda among other things apparently :

  • avatar

    I must admit I’m an agnostic on the whole Lotus branding/Bahar flap. What this car does show is that Mr. Bahar understands economy of scale.

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