Love the idea or hate it, Lotus is making an electric SUV

The yellow Lotus Eletre
Enlarge / Purists may be appalled, but the business reality is that Lotus needs a volume seller, and that means an SUV. At least it’s fully electric.

Lotus

This week we found out what a Lotus electric SUV will look like when the company showed off a new car called the Eletre. Not everyone will be a fan of the styling, and others will simply object to the idea of ​​Lotus making an SUV, electric or otherwise, in the first place.

But keep an open mind, at least until the first test drives. As long as it drives like a Lotus, that may be just what it takes to attract many new customers to the brand, not just in Europe and China, but here in the United States from 2024. And as Porsche demonstrates so well, it’s a good way to pay for the stuff that makes car nerds hot under the collar.

The English lightweight sports car maker has found itself in an unusual position in recent years, sufficiently funded, thanks to the same deep pockets that have rejuvenated Volvo. Instead of having to warm up to an increasingly old platform for small two-seaters, Lotus got to work developing not one but four new architectures.

Some angles are better than others.
Enlarge / Some angles are better than others.

One of them is the recently revealed Emira, Lotus’ latest internal combustion engine sports car. Another is for hypercars that few of us will ever see, and a third is for electric sports cars, with a battery layout that concentrates cells in a larger “trunk” behind the cabin, rather than a flat slab under the whole floor.

But a flat slab of batteries between the axles and under the floor is exactly what you’ll find inside the Eletre, an SUV that will be the first vehicle to use Lotus’ fourth platform. A decent enough panel too – just over 100kWh, to give it a WLTP range of 600km; comfortably expect over 300 miles of EPA range in this case.

Each axle gets its own electric drive unit, with at least 600 hp (447 kW) available to the driver. The powertrain operates at 800V and supports 350kW DC fast charging to charge from 20-80% in 20 minutes.

I don't know if this is what I expected from Lotus, but I don't hate it.  But I need to know what it's like to drive.
Enlarge / I don’t know if this is what I expected from Lotus, but I don’t hate it. But I need to know what it’s like to drive.

Obviously, there is no mention of a curb weight. I predict this will fuel the doubters, but the truth these days is that air suspension and electric motors hide much of a car’s mass from the driver, and regenerative braking means there’s no not much penalty for the kind of acceleration that gets you to 60 mph in three seconds. The Eletre will also feature rear axle steering, torque vectoring and other active chassis settings, all in the service of agility.

The man responsible for making sure the Eletre performs well is Gavan Kershaw, and if you like the way recent Lotuses drive, he’s the man to thank. “Dynamically, the Eletre has been developed to deliver everything you would expect from a Lotus – exceptional ride and handling, highly communicative steering and exceptional driver engagement,” he said. Since I’m clearly saying electric cars should have better steering, that sounds promising.

The studio images you see feature the Eletre with side cameras instead of reflective mirrors. These stalks also contain cameras, some for low-speed parking and others that work in tandem with “deployable” lidar sensors that Lotus says will enable some degree of autonomous driving over time.

The images also show a strict four-seater, with a pair of sporty-looking bucket seats in the back. The interior seems like a step up for Lotus – for more than two decades its cars rarely even had carpets. Durability and lightness are the two key attributes, with microfibers and wool instead of leather. There are many interesting materials, including carbon fiber fabric scraps that would otherwise be waste, used to make composite trim panels.

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