What would Colin do? Says Chapman? the late one Founder of Lotus was a restless innovator whose famous mantra was “simplify, then add lightness”. Surely the new Eletre, a complex and heavy electric SUV, is the opposite of everything Chapman stood for?
Maybe, maybe not. First of all, Chapman was also a pragmatist. With the Gold Leaf, he introduced commercial sponsorship to Formula 1 racing lotus 49 in 1968. And he sold the rights to his most enduring creation, the lotus 7, 1973 to Caterham Cars. Before the Eletre, the automaker’s lineup consisted entirely of two-seat sports cars. Now it’s on track to become a high-volume — and potentially very profitable — premium brand.
While the 2,490kg Eletre lacks a certain “lightness”, it’s packed with clever design cues, including active aerodynamics, 5G-enabled infotainment and deployable lidar sensors. We suspect Chapman, who has experimented with everything from gas turbines to ground effect (the aerodynamics created by exploiting the chassis design of cars) and developed the first carbon fiber body F1 car would find the technology fascinating.
There are three tiers to the Electre range: the 603hp base model costs £89,500 in the UK (that’s around $114,000 – US prices are yet unknown but you can do it). reserve here). It’s equipped with twin motors, all-wheel drive and a 112 kWh battery – good for 0-100 km/h acceleration in 4.5 seconds and an officially certified range of 600 km. The Eletre S is priced at £104,500 (about $133,000) and uses the same powertrain but adds extra amenities like mood interior lighting, soft-close doors and a 23-speaker KEF audio system.
At the top of the price bracket is the £120,000 (about $153,000) 905hp Eletre R. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.95 seconds and is said to cover 304 miles on a full charge. It features chassis technologies such as active roll control and rear-wheel steering, as well as a maximum attack track driving mode. We will test that later.
The Eletre is a key car for Lotus. Built in China rather than British Norfolk, the car will soon be joined by a smaller electric SUV and sedan designed to rival the Porsche Taycan. Whatever Colin Chapman has achieved in the past, this is the future of his company. So how does it look?
split the air
WIRED is testing the Eletre at a driving event hosted by the brand in Norway, a country that has embraced electric vehicles more than any other. In 2022, nearly 80 percent of vehicles sold here were electric, boosted by generous tax incentives to cheaper parking fees. The Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Nio also uses Norway to test its battery swapping stations.
The Eletre’s “porous” design is clearly influenced by the Lotus Evija electric hypercar. Its wide grille contains six vents that can be opened or closed as needed to improve cooling airflow or retain heat. The flip-out lidar sensors — an apparent world first in a production car — are hidden at either end of the roof and above the front wheel arches, and are said to give the Eletre “a true 360-degree view of the world around it.”
Instead of conventional exterior mirrors, Lotus offers high-resolution cameras that stream the rear view onto two 6-inch displays. WIRED isn’t a fan of such systems, but you gain a small aero advantage. An active rear spoiler helps the car glide through the air and can more than double downforce if needed (to a still modest 112.5kg at top speed). An overall drag coefficient of 0.26 – a shade higher than the new Rolls-Royce Specter EV – is impressive for such an imposing SUV.
The Eletre’s body is more than 50 percent aluminum and all models come with air suspension that can increase ground clearance by 25mm if you venture off-road. Electronically controlled shock absorbers can adjust the car’s damping rate 500 times per second, while the optional 48-volt active anti-roll system and rear-wheel steering (both standard on the Eletre R) increase agility on winding roads or even a racetrack.
As seen on screens
If Lotus purists are grappling with the idea of an SUV, the Eletre’s interior might send them into shock. Instead of the plain bareness of an Elise, the spacious interior features tactile Alcantara trim and technology. “In electric vehicles, the digital user experience has become the strongest differentiator,” says chief engineer Serino Angellotti. “That’s why a lot of people prefer one car to another.”
Infotainment is centered around a 15.1-inch 5G OLED touchscreen that looks crisp and responds quickly. Use the native Lotus navigation system and it can calculate energy consumption, suggest more efficient routes and pre-condition the battery before you get to a charger. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available this fall via an over-the-air update.