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Future models - Lotus - Esprit

Lotus back in the game

On the horizon: Esprit supercar will be worth the wait.

A rash of future models will again stamp Lotus as a serious sports car maker

19 Mar 2007

LOTUS plans to re-establish itself as a serious GT and sports car manufacturer with a brace of new models over the next three years.

Topping the range will be an all-new mid-engined Esprit supercar that will put Lotus back in the main game with Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.

It is three years since the Esprit went out of production after 28 years and the development of the new model is taking longer than expected, pushing out the release date to late 2009 (probably at the Frankfurt Auto Show).

However, Lotus chiefs believe it will be worth the wait, promising a power-to-weight ratio that will match its rivals and push the Esprit past 200 miles an hour (320km/h).

Long-rumoured BMW power is a certainty – probably the 4.9-litre V8 from the E39 M5, which delivers 294kW of power.

The choice of engine is not expected to be affected by on-going discussions between Proton and potential technical development partners.

Whatever the engine, it will not be supercharged or turbocharged, said a Lotus insider – at least initially.

Instead, the car will derive its performance from light weight, which has been the Lotus tradition since 1948. Total weight is said to be as little as 1300kg (compared with 1520kg for a Lamborghini Gallardo, 1450kg for the Ferrari F430 and 1395kg for the Porsche 911 Carrera).

It is expected to have a composite or aluminium body and employ a six-speed sequential gearbox.

57 center imageLeft: 2-Eleven and APX concept.

Although the name has not been confirmed, everyone from Lotus chief Mike Kimberley down calls the new car the Esprit, but there is also a train of thought that such a new chapter in Lotus history warrants a new name.

More curious is a so-called "mid-range" Lotus that the company simply refers to as Project Eagle.

This will be a successor to the Eclat of the late-1970s, which had a Lotus four-cylinder engine mounted in the front and driving the rear wheels.

Due to be revealed in mid-2008, the four-seater Project Eagle is likely to feature a V6 or a turbocharged four-cylinder similar to the Opel-sourced unit in the new Europa S, though its origins remain a curiously well-kept secret.

Remarkably, both the Esprit and the new 2+2 coupe will apparently employ Lotus’s new aluminium "Versatile Vehicle Architecture" – which must be incredibly flexible indeed to spawn both a mid-engined supercar and a front-engined coupe.

In fact, this new modular platform is also being employed for an electric-powered SUV being developed by American company ZAP, which already sells an electric car and a truck in the US.

The new ZAP-X is based on the Lotus APC concept vehicle that appeared at last year’s Geneva show, but the show car’s V6 petrol engine will be replaced by four electric motors located inside each hub.

Total power output will be 483kW, driving through all four wheels.

ZAP projects that an advanced new battery system will provide a range of up to 560km and a rapid recharging time of just 10 minutes.

"We believe that the ZAP-X will become the most advanced, most practical and most appealing flagship electric vehicle to date and will revolutionise the industry, providing the driver with the enjoyment of a sports car and the practicality of an SUV," said ZAP chief executive officer Steve Schneider.

Earlier in 2008 – possibly to debut at the Geneva motor show in March – will be a production model for Lotus’s new Malaysian owners, Proton. It will probably be a hot Satria-based hatchback.

The Lotus-Satria will be faster than Proton’s own GTi and will feature much sportier handling thanks to Lotus-tuned suspension and steering.

Finally, Lotus used this month’s Geneva show to debut its latest track car – the stripped-out, super-light Lotus 2-Eleven.

Weighing in at just 670kg, it takes Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s theory of performance through light weight to extremes.

Designed with serious track day drivers in mind, the Exige-based 2-Eleven boasts a power-to-weight ratio of similar to that of a Formula One car in the 1960s.

The supercharged and intercooled Toyota-based 1.8-litre engine produces maximum power of 188kW at the redline of 8000rpm and 242Nm of torque at 7000rpm, driving through a six-speed gearbox to the rear wheels.

It accelerates to 100km/h in an estimated 3.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 250km/h.

Production will begin at Hethel in the UK in April and Lotus Australia expects it to arrive here in the third quarter.

It will be road-registerable in the UK, where it will be priced at £39,995 pounds.

What’s coming from Lotus:
2-Eleven (Exige-based track car) March 2007
Lotus-tuned Proton Satria May 2008
Mid-range coupe August 2008
Esprit supercar December 2009

Read more:

First look: Lotus gets excessive with Exige

Lotus stuns with APX crossover

Esprit fires up

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