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Lotus Eletre Electric SUV Packs Pop-Out Lidar, Active Aero and Mega Performance

Lotus' first SUV will have at least 600 horsepower and a maximum range of 373 miles.

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I love cars that look like angry dinosaurs.
Lotus

While it seemingly goes against founder Colin Chapman's whole ethos of simplifying and adding lightness, Lotus' latest model is the long-awaited Eletre, a fully electric crossover that seems like a hell of a package. Beyond just being the brand's first SUV, the Eletre is also Lotus' first four-door production vehicle and is all but assured to become its most profitable, highest-volume model.

The Eletre SUV rides on Lotus' new Electric Premium Architecture platform, which will underpin a bunch of other "lifestyle" cars. It uses a 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack with an electric motor at each axle, and there will be three different versions with the least powerful still having 600 horsepower. Lotus says the car has a maximum range of 373 miles on the European WLTP cycle, 248 miles of range in 20 minutes on a 350-kW fast charger, and a 0-to-62 mph time of under 3 seconds. Air suspension with adaptive dampers are standard, and the Eletre is available with performance features including active anti-roll bars, active ride height, carbon-ceramic brakes with 10-piston front calipers, torque vectoring and rear-wheel steering. There are also optional 23-inch wheels and every Eletre has four drive modes, including an off-road mode.

At 200.9 inches long, the Eletre is about half a foot longer than a BMW iX. While its 118-inch wheelbase matches the BMW, the Lotus still has quite a long rear overhang but a short hood. Overall the surfacing is clean and crisp with the black roof and cladding reducing the visual mass, and the rear glass has a pretty intense rake to it. The menacing front end has L-shaped LED running lights at the front of the hood above, with the main beams shrouded in the Eletre's grinning grille, and the de rigueur thin taillight strip pulses green when the car is charging. It looks like some sort of angry dinosaur in the best way, and while it doesn't seem very Lotus-y at first glance, it fits in with the brand's other recent models, like the Emira, and is certainly distinctive.

Lots of performance crossovers have aggressive designs with vents and intakes that are typically fake, but the Eletre is a different story. Like on the Evija hypercar, the vents in the Eletre's hood, lower grille, front fenders, D-pillar and outer edges of the taillights are all actual pass-through air channels for better aerodynamics -- it's coolest at the back, where you can look through the car to see the rear wheels. Lotus calls this "porosity," referring to the way air flows through the car to increase efficiency and range. It also has an active spoiler at the base of the hatch glass and interesting winglets at the top. But the Eletre's real aerodynamic party trick is its active grille, which is made up of dozens of triangular panels that form a bunch of hexagons. Each one opens as needed to direct cooling air to the battery, motors and brakes, with the motion of the panels giving the effect of breathing.

All of those vents are actually functional.

Lotus

The Eletre also has the world's first deployable lidar system in a production car. The sensors pop out from the tops of the front wheel arches, the top of the windshield and the back of the roof between the winglets. Lotus partially fitted the lidar system as future proofing for driver-assist systems that aren't out yet, as the car can accept over-the-air updates, but available active-safety features include adaptive cruise control with lane-change assist, front and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and automated emergency braking. In markets that allow the Eletre uses cameras instead of side mirrors, with the small pods housing three cameras each: One for the mirror-replacing display, one for the top-down surround view and one for the driver-assist tech.

The Eletre has by far the most luxurious interior we've ever seen in a Lotus, and it's offered with either a traditional three-across rear bench or two individual seats. The dash is dominated by an LED strip that runs across the dash and changes color to notify occupants of phone calls, temperature changes or other things. Instead of a gauge cluster there's a slim display that's barely an inch tall for important info, which is paired with a standard augmented-reality head-up display. The Eletre's central touchscreen is a 15.1-inch OLED display running a new infotainment system that folds flat into the dash when not in use, and passengers get a display like the gauge cluster to control navigation, music or other functions. If you spec the four-seat configuration, the rear gets a fixed center console with its own 9-inch touchscreen.

The Eletre's interior looks fantastic.

Lotus

Despite the interior being so tech-focused, the Eletre has some fantastic tactile design elements. Microfibers and wool blends from Kvadrat are used throughout, along with aluminum and recycled carbon fiber. Much of the trim pieces and analog controls are finished in gold, and the triangular pattern of the active grille is found on the center consoles and door panels. No figures were given but it seems like the Eletre will have lots of room for rear-seat passengers and a generous cargo area.

The Eletre will go into production later this year at a new factory in China. No exact pricing or on-sale timing for the US has been announced, but expect the Eletre to go on sale by the middle of 2023 with a starting price of at least $100,000. Following the Eletre will be a smaller crossover, a four-door coupe and an Esprit-like sports car, all of which will be electric.