The Lotus press launch at the Paris Motor Show was one of the most anticipated and audacious of the entire event. A huge crowd gathered around the pavilion long before the 4:45 pm unveil and since many of them didn’t know the identity of the five cars under the wraps, there were plenty of speculative chatter.
It started off with a video about how Lotus under founder Colin Chapman excelled in motorsports, winning races (F1, Indy, saloon car, rally) and building great driver’s cars, all using the legendary “performance through lightweight” formula.
Then Lotus CEO Dany Bahar introduced the cars one by one, as they were unwrapped by famous faces such as Stephen Baldwin, Queen guitarist Brian May, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actor Mickey Rourke alongside Proton bosses Datuk Syed Zainal and Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Salleh.
The reborn Esprit was first. This is a car that best demonstrates the company’s statement of intent. And what is that intent, I hear you ask. Well, since we landed in Paris, the top men from Proton and Lotus has been telling us that with this new management and their new vision, plus this range of new cars, the company wants to be back where it belongs.
CEO Dany Bahar said that 20 to 30 years ago, Lotus was spoken in the same breath as Ferrari and that Lotus’ motorsports heritage “is second to none except maybe Ferrari”. And the Esprit is the supercar that will take the battle to the best from Ferrari and Porsche. Vital stats: Supercharged 5.0-litre V8 with 620 PS and 750 Nm, 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, 330 km/h top speed, weight 1,450 kg.
Next up was the Elan. Looking much like a scale copy of the Esprit (no bad thing), the Elan should be taking on “junior supercars” like the Ferrari California and Porsche 911 GT3, reflected by the 450 PS rating from its supercharged V6. The targeted performance figures of 0-100 km/h in 3.5 seconds and top speed of 310 km/h owes a lot to the low kerb weight of below 1,300 kg. Hybrid and KERS are options.
The car that has been synonymous with Lotus over the past 15 years over two generations is due to be replaced in 2015. Enthusiasts, especially those who have experienced the magic of an Elise before, might worry after hearing terms like “the Elise has matured” or “Elise has come of age” (actually used by Lotus), but Hethel promises that the pure, fun and agile character of the car will be preserved. Just that it won’t have a spartan cabin that’s hard to get in and out of anymore. Weight is up (expected to be below 1,100 kg) but there’s plenty more poke too, about 320 PS from a 2.0 turbo four. This is no longer a basic sports car.
Moving away from the core sports car family is the Elite, the only car in this five that was revealed before the show. It’s a Lotus, but also a refined and comfortable GT. Unlike the above three, this is a front engined car (rear driven, as with all Lotus cars) that will come with a retractable metal top.
As you can see from the gallery later, the interior is lavishly trimmed while the exterior metal is very elegant. The new signature lines on the profile is the most obvious on the Elite, and its face is the least brutal of the lot. Classy it may be, but this thing has near Esprit performance. Very nice.
The final show stopper is the Eterne. The only car not to use an old name is also the only here with four doors. Using a long wheelbase version of the Elite’s front engine-RWD chassis, the Eterne is meant as a super luxe rival to the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera. Using the same 620 PS/720 Nm supercharged 5.0 V8 as the Elite, it’s expected to weigh 150 kg heavier that the Elite at 1,800 kg.
Nine months to come up with five cars for one motor show is unheard of and mightily impressive. But why five at a go? Design chief Donato Coco says that it’s not enough to talk about great ideas and just show one car. “We have to show the world our intent,” he says, adding that Lotus already has “one leg in the production phase” by starting wind tunnel aero testing.
Just bear in mind that none of the figures and engines mentioned here are set in stone – the show cars are not running prototypes and every number here is a target rather than a sure thing. What we can tell you is that there will three different chassis being used for the five cars – small mid engine, big mid engine and front engine.
The engines are most likely to be sourced from Toyota, but with mods for “more life and more emotion”. Don’t trust us, trust Lotus’ new technical chief Wolf Zimmermann. He was previously the product and engineering boss of Mercedes-AMG, a company famous for its thundering engines.
Feast on the live gallery after the jump. Hope you like what you see!
Lotus Esprit live gallery
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Lotus Elan live gallery
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Lotus Elise live gallery
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Lotus Elite live gallery
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Lotus Eterne live gallery
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