22 October 2004

Despite being officially played down, work on the new Elise-based Lotus GT coupé – its planned £30k Porsche Boxster rival – continues at top speed. This spy shot shows a lightly-disguised prototype undergoing tests in the UK. As well as pounding the roads of East Anglia, the GT is also said to be in final stages of component destruction testing at secret facilities in the UK. Sources say that Lotus engineers are currently running at least six prototypes.

Autocar can also reveal that the project is known internally as ‘Sepang,’ and that there is likely to be a mildly modified version sold under the Proton badge. This magazine revealed the project on 14 September, when pictures of a full-size styling model were uncovered after the company registered the design. Lotus would only admit that it was considering a car that has more touring than track ability, and that it would be of a higher specification than the Exige or Elise. It added that the car would be sold across the globe and that the engine was ‘still under consideration’.

The car caught here seems to show a rear end with a noticeably wider track than an Elise or an Exige, almost certainly in an attempt to accommodate a six-cylinder engine. Although the Elise could take a Rover KV6 engine, the original project never progressed beyond the experimental stage.

This car, however, is designed to be more refined and more spacious, with a longer wheelbase, and easier to get into – the Elise’s high sill design has been reduced. A smoother and quieter six-pot engine would be desirable to make the most of the extra refinement. A Toyota unit – which would easily pass US emission regulations – is the current favourite, if Lotus can make the figures for an expensive motor add up.

One source says that Proton is mulling over plans to move some of the component manufacturing back to Malaysia, although final assembly would still take place in the UK.

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