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Paris show: Lotus aims at Porsche with all-new Elite

Smooth operator: Sexy new Elite packs a forced-induction 5.0-litre V8 up front, delivering 0-100km/h acceleration in as little as 3.5 seconds.

Sleek new Elite emerges ahead of Paris as Lotus takes direct aim at Porsche, Aston

Lotus logo21 Sep 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

LOTUS has lifted the veil of secrecy from a stunning new front-engined four-seater V8 coupe with which it plans to tackle the likes of Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari from 2014.

The British-based sportscar maker will reveal the new Lotus Elite on September 30 – more than three years ahead of launch – at the Paris motor show, where it will also debut the new supercharged 257kW Evora S automatic.

The all-new Elite coupe marks the beginning of the Malaysian-owned company’s ambitious product-led expansion strategy, details of which will be announced at Paris by new CEO Dany Bahar.

Lotus will produce the Elite in both fixed-roof coupe and folding hardtop convertible guises, and it will eventually also spawn a four-door derivative to rival the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide.

While the Lotus limelight in Paris will be reserved for the new upmarket V8-powered 2+2 coupe – the third front-engined model to wear the Elite name in the 52-year history of Lotus – GoAuto understands Mr Bahar will also meet with Lotus dealers to reveal his plans for the company’s global distribution network.

The managing director of Lotus Cars and Proton Cars (which owns Lotus) in Australia, John Startari, would not directly comment on the future of Lotus vehicle distribution Down Under, but GoAuto understands the current Lotus distribution contract for Australia ends in March.

57 center imageHowever, Mr Startari made it clear the Elite is a global model destined for worldwide markets, including Australia.

“At this stage we’re waiting for all to be revealed at the Paris show, which is when Lotus will reveal its new product-led plans,” said Mr Startari.

“Paris represents a new beginning for Lotus, which wouldn’t release any new model if it wasn’t destined for global markets.” While it remains at least three years away from reality, the Elite – which will allow Lotus to target buyers of $200,000-plus models like the 911 and DB9 for the first time – incorporates a Formula One-style KERS energy regeneration system developed by Lotus.

The four exterior images released prior to its Paris debut reveal an all-new “shark-like” design direction for the Elite, incorporating an aggressive new central air-dam flanked by massive outboard air inlets, as well as vents either side of a wedge-shaped bonnet and a sleek roofline below a super-narrow glasshouse and two pronounced bodyside feature lines.

At the rear, the Elite concept features two triangular chromed exhaust outlets mounted within a large black diffuser, below Porsche-style capital-letter ‘LOTUS’ badging on the bootlid, which also incorporates a pronounced inbuilt wing.

A Lotus-designed touch-screen infotainment system has been developed, but no images of the interior have been revealed.

Power will come from a ‘charged’ 5.0-litre V8 that revs to 8500rpm and is understood to be based on the Lexus LS600hL engine.

Confirmed to produce up to 455kW/720Nm in top-shelf ‘R’ form, it will be linked to an optional hybrid transmission comprising two electric motors and an epicyclic gearbox.

There are no details on the KERS system, which is said to help the car return CO2 emissions of just 215g/km and, hopes Lotus, will make the Elite the world’s first hybrid supercar.

Lotus says the force-fed rear-wheel drive Elite, at least in “production intent prototype” form, can sprint to 100km/h in 3.5 to 3.7 seconds, making it a match for some of the world’s finest supercars, while top speed is listed at 315km/h.

Kerb weight is a surprisingly hefty 1650kg but nevertheless undercuts the DB9 by about 80kg. At 4600mm long, the Elite is about 100mm shorter than the DB9, while also measuring an expansive 1900mm wide and just 1320mm high.

Lotus says the Elite will enter production at its Hethel plant in the UK in early 2014, before first deliveries take place later that year.

“There’s no denying that the Elite is breathtakingly beautiful to look at, but it’s so much more than that it’s a car that over delivers in all other aspects as well,” said Mr Bahar.

“One could say it’s a car of perfect contradictions it’s compact yet spacious, high performing yet low emitting, lightweight yet still reassuringly solid.

“It’s a car that we are exceptionally proud of at Lotus and we truly believe that there is nothing else like it out there both in terms of styling and performance.” Mr Bahar said the decision to build the bigger, heavier Elite – which flies in the face of the Lotus brand’s traditional lightweight, minimalist ethos – was difficult.

But he also pointed out the fact the front-engined 2+2 Elite will enter a market segment that accounted for around one-fifth of Lotus production until 1996, when the Elise became the company’s only model.

“Make no mistake, there’s a definite market requirement for the Elite – it’s the ultimate sportscar feel with comfort and space.

“There will always be those who believe that Lotus should stick to small sports cars, but we didn’t take the decision to design something like the Elite lightly it’s based on months of careful research and planning.

“It’s worth noting this sector has been very successful for us in the past and now the Elite raises the benchmark higher still.”

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