Currently reading: Paris motor show 2010: Lotus Elite
Front-engined 2+2 guns for Aston DB9 with 'charged' V8 power and KERS

Lotus has revealed plans for a stunning front-engined, 2+2 V8 coupe, reminiscent of Aston Martin's DB9 and scheduled for launch in early 2014.

The car, a hybrid that incorporates a Lotus-developed KERS system, will be the third front-engined model in Lotus's 52-year history to use the revered Elite name. Its launch confirms months of speculation that Hethel is deadly serious about challenging Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin head on with cars costing £100,000 plus. More models are expected, including an Elite offshoot to challenge Aston Martin's Rapide saloon.

See the official pics of the new Lotus Elite - now updated with Paris show picsRead more on Lotus's amazing expansion plans, including full details and pics of the other five new cars

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar only joined the company last year. But since then he's been working on a multi-model Lotus revival plan, of which the Elite is only one step. Bahar calls the new model "a car of perfect contradictions: compact yet spacious, high performing yet low emitting, lightweight yet still reassuringly solid."

The new Elite will be made both as a fixed-head coupe and with a retractable hard-top. It's not clear yet whether there will be a full convertible.

Read all the latest news on the stars of the Paris motor show

The structured, muscular new Elite shape ditches Lotus's traditional 'mouth' in favour of a new, squarer and more aggressive intake, which is likely to be used in various forms on future models. There are no details yet of the interior, beyond Lotus's intention to use an own-design touch-screen for all major functions. Company insiders are well aware that Lotus will have to ramp up its craftsmanship skills if it is to compete successfully with the Aston/Porsche brigade.

All models will get a 'charged' 5.0-litre V8, believed to be the unit used in the Lexus LS600h, linked to a hybrid transmission comprising two electric motors and an epicyclic gearbox from the same source. Two power levels are suggested: a 540bhp standard version and a 610bhp R model, both delivered at 8000rpm, but there are no details on how the front-mounted KERS stores energy, or how much it can deploy.

Toyota, once Lotus's co-owner, has been the Norfolk sports car firm's engine partner since the Elise adopted Toyota units around 10 years ago. The Japanese giant seems content to allow Lotus to 'charge' its V8 (Lotus is understood still to be deciding whether it will be turbocharged or supercharged) and to use its own engine control software to vary the performance of Toyota's engines. It already does this with the Elise SC and Evora.

The new Elite is bidding to be the first performance hybrid in the £100,000-plus sector. At 4.6 metres in overall length, it is around 10cm shorter than a DB9, and its proposed 1680kg kerb weight is about 80kg less. However, the forecast CO2 output of its hybrid powertrain (215g/km) undercuts the Aston’s 367g/km by a remarkable 40 per cent — for no performance penalty. Lotus forecasts a 0-62mph sprint time of 3.5 to 3.7sec, depending on model. No top speed has yet been mentioned, but it’s certain the high-powered Elite will at least match the Aston's 186mph.

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"Make no mistake," says Bahar, "there’s a definite market requirement for the Elite. It's the ultimate compromise of sports car feel with comfort and space. There will always be those who say Lotus should stick to small sports cars, but we didn't take the decision to design something like the Elite lightly. It is based on months of careful research and planning."

Bahar points out that front-engined 2+2s represented around 20 per cent of Lotus production between 1948 and 1996, when the Elise became the company's only model, and 11 per cent overall. "The sector has been very successful for us in the past, and the new Elite raises the benchmark higher still," he says.

Steve Cropley

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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kush 4 October 2010

Re: Lotus Elite revealed

i was pretty impressed when i saw the pics, but now after i saw your youtube link, im kind a blow away, as it looks like a normal fixed roof and not and not cabriolet.

Christian Galea 1 October 2010

Re: Lotus Elite revealed

Only after re-examining the original pics did I realize that this indeed is a convertible.

I must say that, although I still have some reservations about the overall design, they did a good job on not making the rear look comparatively huge and ugly like most coupe-cabriolets...

mfe 26 September 2010

Re: Lotus Elite revealed

Gorgeous looking thing ! Ok there are styling cues from other good looking coups but who cares when the end result is this good :-)