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Mega, hyper, superlative Lotus Eletre aims to hit the high spots…maybe

Lotus-Eletre-2
Lotus-Eletre

Around six years ago, Iain Robertson carried out a small marketing task for Lotus Sportscars during which time he was privy to some of the firm’s advanced styling exercises, while the Proton connection was just about alive and an all-new SUV model was clearly on the cards…while the inspiration remained, Eletre is a different proposition altogether.

For a start, Peter Horbury is back. Proud to call him a long-standing personal chum, I first met him, when he was Volvo’s design boss. He created the eponymous ‘Horbury shoulder’, the rear three-quarter design element that featured heavily on the 850 and subsequent Swedish models, prior to the Chinese Geely Corporation shares-grabbing the firm from Ford Motor Company. While conservative progression was always a Volvo remit that Peter exercised to perfection, the relative freedom granted to him by Geely has allowed a radical swansong to take place in the form of Eletre. Peter kept his top role.

Lotus-Eletre-1
Lotus-Eletre

The elephant in the room, should one exist, lies in the marketing twaddle surrounding this all-new electric hypercar, which is stylistically SUV-biased, in a manner already familiar with the Lamborghini Urus, a super sporting coupe body atop a higher riding (23.0-inch diameter alloy wheels) platform. Boasting a 0-60mph acceleration time of ‘less than three seconds’ allows the from-600bhp (power upgrades are promised) device to join a club of presently limited numbers, although its reported top whack of a more realistic 161mph suggests that maximum velocity was not on the cards. Yet, 600bhp must surely enable a 200mph+ potential, even though Volvo has now restricted the top speeds of all its models, even the most overtly sporting variants, to underscore that a future of lower top speeds is abundantly clear from a ‘safety’ standpoint.

Still, Eletre is hardly a slouch. Exercising its ‘lighter than lightweight, long-standing design philosophy has allowed a new word, ‘porosity’, to enter its thesaurus. In essence, by using slits, boards, slashes and aero elements, as a means by which passing air can be forced through its form unobstructed, a more aerodynamically pure and svelte design equates to an ultra-low drag body that aids stability and overall balance. Unsurprisingly, Lotus plays these cards fairly close to its corporate chest, even though many of the elements are far from unexplored in the firm’s past. I can only hope that porosity does not equate to being see-through in less planned areas of Eletre, one of the dangers of playing semantics.

Lotus-Eletre-5
Lotus-Eletre

Utilising a 350kW charge time of just 20 minutes, a range of 248mls is said to result on Eletre’s BEV package promising a total target range of 373mls, which I can almost guarantee will need to be cruised at around 65mph to achieve it, otherwise the lower figure is likely to be the maximum range. As one of Lotus’s core attributes, fine dynamic handling has been dialled into the skateboard-type platform, with a pair of compact electric motors providing four-wheel drive but ensuring that the centre of gravity is low enough for the car to live up to expectations. While four seats is not a novelty for Lotus, four access points (not including the rear hatchback) are new and allow comfortable and spacious accommodation, within a high-tech cabin layout that features touchscreens fore and aft, all of which allow upgradable electronic packages to be incoporated to keep the Eletre as much ahead of the game as it can be for as long as possible.

Eletre rides on air, with active damping (a long-standing Lotus development), adjustable ride height, decouplable rear anti-roll bar, active rear wheel steering and chassis vectoring. Its driver selectable ride quality caters for the usual mix of surfaces that its mostly Arab buyers will demand for bouncing over the boondocks. Full LIDAR technology has been incorporated into Eletre in readiness for autonomous motoring, should Volvo’s forward plan for its broad brush industry adoption ever occur. Even if you do not use it, I guess it is nice for it to be present. Mind you, the car’s hi-fi system may be a touch OTT, because if 1,380W of music power playing through 15 speakers is insufficient, the next upgrade is to 2,160W and 23 speakers. I used to believe that 50W RMS was more than adequate for a car stereo but, then, if the only noise permeating the cabin is wind rustle around the door mirrors/cameras, perhaps musical purity is another Lotus benefit worth having.

Lotus-Eletre-3
Lotus-Eletre

Finally, sustainability was a core focus for the design team, which has worked with leading supplier Kvadrat on material choices. The interior uses premium feel and highly durable man-made microfibres on the primary touchpoints and an advanced wool-blend fabric on the seats. It is 50% lighter than traditional leather, allowing for Lotus satisfying, further weight savings. The hard materials are carbon fibre, although rather than use the traditional ‘weave’ most often associated with automotive designs, Lotus has recycled the fibres trimmed from the edge of the weave. These have been reconstructed into a new matting material, then compressed in a resin to create the car’s premium marble-like trim finish.

Conclusion:        Lotus needs an SUV in its growing range just as Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini do. The company needs to be judicious on the pricing of its new Eletre, which is intended to go on sale from 2023 from around £100,000. However, it should comply with the desires of some of its wealthier and corporate customers, which will keep sales buoyant, if rare.

Lotus-Eletre-4
Lotus-Eletre