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Grand Tourer: The all-new Europa S will be launched in Europe in July.

Boxster rival leads the latest push from Lotus to increase its brand presence

13 Dec 2005

LOTUS Cars Australia will be on the hunt for Porsche Boxster buyers when its new Europa S coupe arrives here next year.

Although the Boxster is its key target, the $100,000 two-seater will also be forced to tackle other top-end Euro sportscars like the Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4 and Audi TT.

The Europa will join the Elise and Exige and will be an important model as Lotus Cars Australia endeavours to expand the appeal of its range, which will also include a new V8 Esprit in 2007.

Based on a lengthened Elise chassis, the Europa will be pitched as more of a grand tourer rather than a pure sportscar in the vein of the Elise or Exige.

It is expected to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March.

The rear-drive coupe was originally intended to be built in Malaysia by Proton but will now be built at Lotus’ Hethel plant in the UK.

Rather than use a Toyota-sourced 1.8-litre engine as seen in other Lotus models, the sub-1000kg Europa will be powered by a turbocharged 2.2-litre Ecotec four-cylinder engine shared with the Vauxhall VX220.

It will be paired with a six-speed gearbox and is tipped to be able to hit 100km/h in about 5.5 seconds. Top speed will be around 225km/h.

Standard equipment is expected to include leather upholstery, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, drive-by-wire throttle, traction control and high intensity discharge headlights.

As a styling feature, the engine will be visible through the steeply sloping rear hatch.

Lotus engineers have tried to make the Europa a more refined driving experience with attention paid to noise, vibration and harshness levels.

The car-maker also claims the car is easier to get into and out of than an Elise because of its bigger doors and redesigned sills.

Spy photos of the car reveal a more integrated body with a long, low stance and deeply scalloped headlights that curve into the bumper.

The Europa name was last used on the diminutive mid-engined Lotus Europa back in the 1960s.

57 center imageLotus Cars Australia managing director, John Startari, said the coupe would expand Lotus’ business in Australia. He acknowledged that Lotus sales had stalled but he believes volumes could total more than 100 cars next year through a concerted marketing push.

So far this year it has sold 50 Elise and Exige models, compared to its 2004 tally of 81 vehicles.

Mr Startari said although the company had had a difficult time recently with the collapse of Rover, which supplied engines to the Lotus Group, he said the decision to appoint UK-based Lotus marketing co-ordinator, John Stretton, as national sales and marketing manager for Australia would help turn the business around.

"He brings a level of experience and he knows the people to deal with and get a lot of things that we were unable to get for this market," he said.

Already moves are afoot to give the brand more exposure here. All 2006 model year Exige and Elise will use Toyota’s Euro4-compliant 2ZZ-GE 1.8-litre VVTL-i engine.

Australia is the first market to be granted the Lotus Sport franchise outside the UK and Mr Startari said Lotus Cars Australia would start doing more specialist cars like the 240R, as well as Australian-specific limited editions.

"That’s what the brand needs," he said. "We’ve filled the niche of the Elise and Exige buyer but we still need to generate quality product that fills out the variants ... such as a Dutton Rally Special and Targa Tasmania Specials." Mr Startari also said there would be other variants off the Europa platform using the Toyota engine.

Lotus is also believed to have a 4WD wagon up its sleeve, which would be vital for its expansion into the United States. However, Mr Startari is cautious about such a vehicle.

"Whether that fits in with the brand is another matter," he said.

Lotus "is very protective of their heritage, it’s all about light-weight", he said.

If Lotus did build a 4WD it would emulate what Porsche did when it built the Cayenne, ostensibly for the SUV-crazy US market.

The Cayenne has received a mixed reception from Porsche enthusiasts and Mr Startari said that, as a specialist company, Lotus was aware of its traditional heritage and a brand DNA that remained true to value of Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus cars.

However, he believes it must explore all avenues to expand the brand.

"I don’t have much of a say in the workings of Lotus but my advice would be to look outside the box," he said.

Mr Startari said the 4WD could carry either a Proton or Lotus badge.

Lotus has also confirmed it is working on a new alloy-bodied V8 Esprit supercar due out in 2007, which is expected to use the Lotus aluminium "variable vehicle architecture".

VVA is also tipped for the "crossover" 4WD.

The previous Esprit was built between 1976 and 2004, with the last few cars being powered by a 3.5-litre V8. More than 10,000 were built during its 28-year model run.

What's coming from Lotus:

Europa S - 2006
V8 Esprit - 2007
4WD wagon - 2008

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