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Whether you love the idea or hate it, Lotus is making an electric SUV


A yellow Lotus Eletre
Enlarge / Purists may be aghast, but the commercial reality is that Lotus needs a volume-seller, and that means an SUV. At least it is fully electric.

Lotus

This week we found out what an electric Lotus 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 just 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 road tests. As long as it drives like a Lotus, it might be just the thing to bring a lot of new customers to the marque, not just in Europe and China but here in the US from 2024. And as Porsche so ably demonstrates, it’s a good way to pay for the stuff that makes car nerds get hot under the collar.

The English manufacturer of lightweight sports cars has been in an unusual position these last few years—sufficiently funded, thanks to the same deep pockets that rejuvenated Volvo. Instead of having to warm over 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 those is for the recently revealed Emira, Lotus’ last internal combustion engine-powered 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 the cells in a taller “chest” behind the cabin, rather than a flat slab below the entire 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 pretty decent slab, too—just over 100 kWh, to give it a WLTP range of 600 km; expect comfortably more than 300 miles of EPA range in that case.

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

I'm not sure if this is what I was expecting from Lotus, but I don't hate it. But I do need to know what it's like to drive.
Enlarge / I’m not sure if this is what I was expecting from Lotus, but I don’t hate it. But I do need to know what it’s like to drive.

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

The man in charge of making sure the Eletre handles 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—outstanding ride and handling, highly communicative steering, and exceptional driver engagement,” he said. Since I’m vocal about the fact that electric cars ought to have better steering, that sounds promising.

The studio images you see feature the Eletre with side-view cameras instead of reflective mirrors. These stalks also package 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 in time.

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



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