Spy shots of a disguised Lotus prototype wearing an old Esprit body disguise have emerged from a snow-bound cold weather test centre in Sweden. What's more, it seems that this mystery Lotus isn't a mule for the forthcoming 'Eagle' GT, as first thought; it's actually a powertrain development car for the next Esprit.
This mule has given us a clue as to the origins of the engine that's likely to power 2010's hottest British sports car too. DVLA records matching its number plate reveal that it's powered by a 4.4-litre V8. Since Lotus sources have advised Autocar that BMW will probably supply the engine for Hethel's all-new flagship, it's likely that this new Esprit is packing a tuned, 500bhp version of Munich's new 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, as seen in the new X6 crossover SUV.
BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer has publicly stated that his company wants to sell more engine technology to third parties. On top of the financial gain, BMW will score strong PR points in Britain by providing engines for Lotus.
BMW’s newest 4.4-litre twin-turbo will debut in the X6 with 420bhp. By 2010, when we expect the new Esprit to arrive, it will have been used in a number of other BMW models including the X5 and the 7-series. Lotus will probably re-work the engine management and extract a Nissan GT-R- and Porsche 911 Turbo-rivalling power figure in excess of 500bhp.
BMW's old 4.4-litre Valvetronic normally aspirated V8 had been rumoured as an option for a new Esprit, but BMW discontinued it from its own range in 2006.
Now, however, the prospect of new BMW grunt combined with peerless Lotus dynamics seems more viable, and more exciting, than ever.