In the 1970s, James Bond drove a Lotus Esprit that changed into a submarine, courtesy of Q, ensuring good sales for the model. Now Lotus brings back the Esprit in a form designed to compete with the Ferrari 458 Italia, Audi R8, and Lamborghini Gallardo. The new Esprit goes on sale in spring 2013.
Technically a concept, this Esprit shows much of what the production car will look like. Designer Donato Coco opted for a squared grille, echoing Lotus racing cars of the late 1960s. This design language will work its way throughout the company's new models.
As with all of its new models, the Esprit will be built on Lotus' Versatile Vehicle Architecture, using an extruded aluminum center tub with front and rear suspension pieces bolted on. Composite and aluminum body panels help keep the weight down to 3,200 pounds.
The Esprit uses a midengine configuration, similar to Lotus' current cars. This car debuts a Toyota-sourced 5-liter V-8, which will also see use in other new Lotus models. With its supercharger, the engine makes 612 horsepower, accelerating the Esprit to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds. Buyers will be able to option a hybrid system for the car, which uses a kinetic energy recovery system and two electric motors in the transmission for an extra boost of power, similar to hybrid systems in racecars.
Lotus' new 5-liter V-8 comes from Toyota, where it is used in the Lexus IS-F. Lotus made various modifications, such as changing the engine management module and adding a supercharger. Red line has been increased to 8,500 rpm, giving the engine higher power output.
The Elan is another historic name for Lotus, a model that was produced in the 1960s and 1970s. The revived Elan, coming in fall 2013, will actually serve as a replacement for the current Evora, using the same 2+2 seating configuration and mid-engine layout.
Although a little wider than the Evora, this Elan will shave off about 200 pounds, weight savings achieved by Lotus refining its versatile vehicle architecture. The styling of the new Elan reflects the new design language and is a departure from the current, curvy style.
Similar to the Esprit, the Elan will have an optional hybrid system. Rather than drive the car under electric power for short distances, this hybrid system supplies extra power, a 49-horsepower burst, when sufficient braking energy has been recovered.
Lotus uses the same V-6 engine from Toyota as it used in the Evora, but increases displacement from 3.5 liters to 4 liters. Again with a supercharger, this engine will generate 444 horsepower. The Elan will get the same seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as the Esprit.
Although in concept stage, the interior shows a simplified design, even doing away with anachronisms such as a shift lever. Lotus is also exploring the idea of LCD instrument clusters, and will implement that technology in the production cars.
Lotus' third new car, the Elite, is a radical departure from its current lineup, and marks where Lotus begins to enter a new segment. The Elite is designed as a grand tourer, with 2+2 seating and a retractable hard top. Lotus also calls this car a front midengine layout, as the engine sits behind the front wheels. The Elite becomes available in spring 2014.
The Elite is more luxury cruiser than pure sports car but still gets the supercharged 5-liter V-8 that will be introduced in the Esprit. A little heavier than the Esprit, the Elite takes 3.7 seconds to get to 62 mph. It will also have the optional hybrid power system.
The new Elise, launching in spring 2015, gets a radical new look, along with a completely revised platform. The Elise will go to the same versatile vehicle architecture as other Lotus models, and adopt the styling language becoming common for the brand.
Many of the Lotus concepts on display at the Paris show, including the Elise, made use of LED headlights. Lotus assures us that these components are part of its production intention. However, a camera system for the side mirrors used on these concepts will probably not make it to production.
As production for the Elise is still four years out, this interior is more conceptual than some of the other models. But Lotus does plan on making the cabin much more accessible than the current model.
Lotus' final new model, intended for production in 2015, is the Eterne. This model is designed to compete directly with the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera. It uses similar construction as the Elite, and will be the only new model to offer four doors.