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Frankfurt show: Lotus prepares 'surprise' show cars

Lotus to debut more Oz-bound automatic variants, Evora GTE, surprises at Frankfurt

Lotus logo1 Sep 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

LOTUS news just keeps on coming, with three new Australia-bound variants of the Elise and Evora S sportscars debuting at Frankfurt in two weeks alongside the race-bred Evora GTE special edition and two secret show cars.

The Proton-owned British sportscar brand remains tight-lipped on what the surprise debuts will be, only hinting that one will be “one of the quickest road cars Lotus has ever built,” and the other marking the company’s return to “another adrenalin-filled motorsport discipline”.

The former could be a pre-production version of the new Esprit supercar first unveiled at Paris last year as part of the staggering ‘new era’ line-up of six new models and due for Australian release in late 2013, while the latter might be an official Lotus IndyCar racer.

In November last year Lotus announced it would be supplying engines and bodykits for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar series, at the time describing the sport as “adrenaline filled” and one in which Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said the company would “significantly increase” its participation.

Frankfurt will play host to the debut of an update to the supercharged Elise roadster, which brings a nomenclature change from SC to simply S to fall into line with its hard-top Exige and larger Evora brethren.

57 center imageFrom top: Lotus Elise, Evora IPS, Lotus team Indy Car 2010, Exige 270E.

The 1.8-litre supercharged Elise retains its 162kW power output but gets improved throttle response and an as-yet unspecified torque boost that is available across a wider rev range, while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre Elise will also gain a lightweight robotised automatic transmission with paddle-shift dubbed Serial Precision Shift (SPS) and the force-fed Evora S flagship will also gain a self-shifter, which Lotus claims will make it “the most versatile Evora yet”.

Having recently introduced the automatic Evora IPS (Intelligent Precision Shift) and supercharged Evora S flagship to the local market, new Australia and New Zealand Lotus importer Ateco Automotive confirmed to GoAuto that importing automatic versions of the Elise roadster and Evora S were a foregone conclusion.

The Elise S will also be brought in as a “rolling change” some time next year, with the automatic Elise and Evora S arriving early next year.

Ateco public relations manager Edward Rowe said: “We’ve just launched an automatic version of the normal Evora and we knew there was an auto version of the S coming.

“Both of those factor significantly in lifting Lotus sales from 40 to 100 next year. In fact the automatic Evora is important in getting to 40 this year. Those models will play the dominant role in Lotus sales in 2012.”

The race-inspired Evora GTE unveiled at the recent Pebble Beach car event was originally conceived as a special edition for the Asian market but response – 114 orders taken – was such that Lotus decided to increase production and offer the car internationally, and it could potentially be imported to Australia.

Asked whether the most extreme Evora is headed Down Under Mr Rowe said Ateco was “looking at it”.

With liberal use of carbon-fibre, the GTE weighs 105kg less than the entry-level Evora but has power from its race-fettled engine upped to 327kW – an increase of 69.5kW over the Evora S – to make it the most powerful Lotus road car yet produced.

Mr Rowe said importing the GTE was subject to the ease of gaining ADR (Australian Design Rule) approval. “We have to look at whether it meets all the homologation requirements. There are substantial changes to the drivetrain and suspension so that means it is treated as a separate car.”“We are obviously interested, it is a fine flagship for the present range, the cream on the cake of the two self-shifting model.”

In addition to developing road cars and widening its motorsport penetration Lotus is also working on technologies that will make personal mobility more environmentally friendly and sustainable for the future through its engineering operation.

Its latest project is a biofuel-powered Exige that runs on ethanol brewed from the by-products of the cheese, wine and chocolate industries, synthetic methanol made by extracting CO2 from the atmosphere or regular petrol – a versatility Lotus regards as “important for a successful transition from today’s fuels to the sustainable, synthetic fuels of the future”.

Despite running on products traditionally associated with fattening, the featherweight Exige 270E Tri-fuel is the most powerful road version of the model yet pumps out 201kW at 8000rpm and can hit 100km/h in 3.9 seconds on the way to a 255km/h top speed.

Lotus says synthetic methanol offers “improved performance and thermal efficiencies” compared with traditional liquid fuels, making it ideal for use in downsized, forced-induction engines.

Lotus plans to introduce the technology to the market within “four to five years” but cautions that supply infrastructure from governments and fuel suppliers “could take 15 to 20 years”.

Lotus Engineering is also developing other alternative propulsion systems such as hybrid, downsized and ‘omnivore’ engines, the latter being a compression-ignition unit able to burn a wide range of fuels thanks to a variable compression ratio.

As GoAuto reported, Ateco has repositioned the entire Lotus range by dropping prices and offering more standard equipment than the previous importer.

Ateco intends to double Lotus sales, using the increased value for money coupled with an awareness-building campaign, to ready the brand and its Australian dealership network for the arrival of the all-new line-up – starting with the Esprit – from late 2013.

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