This heavily modified Lotus Exige is the first visual evidence of the recently approved project to replace the Esprit supercar.
Sources say the wide rear track and large wheels on this mule show it is fitted with an early version of the new Esprit powertrain.
The plan to build a new Esprit (the historic name may not be used for the showroom model) was recently revealed in Autocar. Our source also said that Lotus is “targeting a power-to-weight ratio of 275-325bhp per tonne” for what it described as its “essential brand image builder”.
There’s no news yet on the Esprit’s engine, but it’s likely to be a Toyota-sourced V8, possibly a version of the unit that powers the Lexus IS-F. The fact that Lotus still has a wide target for the power-to-weight ratio shows the project is at a very early stage.
The Esprit’s aluminium chassis and engine are some way from being their final definition, but the car will use a version of Lotus’s Versatile Vehicle Architecture.
Lotus’s plan, due to revealed soon by new CEO Danny Bahar, is said to focus on a three-tier line-up. The four-cylinder Exige, Elise and Europa will be the entry-level models, and the bigger V6 Evoras (including the forthcoming convertible) will be the mid-range cars. The Esprit will be the “ultimate expression of the brand” according to our source.