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Type 130: Lotus confirms all-electric hypercar

Lotus Type 130

Lotus has chosen the Auto Shanghai show in China, the home of parent company Geely, to confirm that it is preparing an all-new car. It will be Britain’s first all-electric hypercar, and the company’s first all-new model since 2008.

That’s right, the Norfolk firm’s first new car for over 11 years is going to be a world-beating all-electric hypercar. Geely isn’t holding back on the world-famous sports car proprietor that it’s now bankrolling.

Type 130: everything we know so far

In truth, we don’t know an awful lot. Given the word ‘hypercar’, we can safely bet it’s going to have over 700hp, but power is likely to be in the region of 1,000hp or more,if Pininfarina and Rimac fans are to be sated.

Given that this is Lotus, expect it to be lightweight, too. Not a feat easily achieved when electric power and the associated batteries are involved.

Let’s hope ‘simplify and add lightness’ hasn’t become ‘simplify and add electricity’.

Lotus insists the Type 130 will be the latest and greatest in a long line of game-changers. Indeed, the promotional video references plenty of Lotus’s past F1 greats. The name Type 130 is meant to follow on from the revolutionary Elise, the Type 111, as well as a lifetime of revolutionary F1 machinery.

What we can guarantee is that there will be no Cosworth DFV V8 soundtrack with this new Lotus… Still, the ‘For the drivers’ tag line makes us cautiously optimistic.

“Type 130 will be the most dynamically accomplished Lotus in our history,” said Lotus CEO Phil Popham.

“It marks a turning point for our brand and is a showcase of what we are capable of and what is to come from Lotus.”

The car will be revealed in London later this year, so we don’t have long to wait before we learn more. What is certain is that this is the first in a coming onslaught of Lotus product. Let’s hope they make Bahar’s old plans look as pedestrian as they were ambitious.

Lotus to partner with Williams to develop ‘advanced propulsion systems’

WIlliams partners with Lotus

Two British titans of Formula One past and present are joining forces. Lotus and Williams Advanced Engineering have announced a ‘strategic technical partnership in which the companies will share research and development into advanced propulsion technologies’.

What’s obvious is this has nothing to do with Formula One. ‘Advanced propulsion technologies’ sounds like Williams-developed batteries in an electric Lotus  and potentially Volvos (via Lotus parent company Geely), too.

WIlliams partners with Lotus

Both companies have a history of jumping into bed with other manufacturers to bring go-faster fruit to bear. Who fancies a Lotus Carlton versus Renault Clio Williams twin-test?

Also, both companies have industry-favourite engineering subsidiaries. Lotus Engineering has helped develop various technologies and many cars over the years.

WIlliams partners with Lotus

Williams Advanced Engineering, meanwhile, is currently working on the Dendrobium electric hypercar. With these two performance and technology superpowers combined, the sky could be the limit.

Not coincidentally, we think, Lotus is rumoured to be working on an all-electric hypercar with more than 1,000hp. If true, you can bet Williams will be on the shop floor, further cornering the electric hypercar market.

“Our new technology partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering is part of a strategy to expand our knowledge and capability in the rapidly changing automotive landscape,” said Phil Popham, CEO of Lotus Cars.

“Applying advanced propulsion powertrains can provide numerous exciting solutions across multiple vehicle sectors. Our combined and complementary experiences make this a very compelling match of engineering talent, technical ability and pioneering British spirit.”

WIlliams partners with Lotus

Likewise, Craig Wilson, MD of Williams Advanced Engineering, said, “We will be further developing next-generation powertrains in this partnership with Lotus.”

What do you want to see come out of this partnership? Could we see a Tesla Roadster-rivalling next-generation Elise or Esprit, or even a world-beating hypercar?

Lotus drifts into Christmas with tree-laden Evora 410

#DriftmasEvora being filmed during #MerryDriftmas video

It’s a very Merry ‘Driftmas’ from the fun-loving bods at Lotus, this morning. Watch an Evora 410 – complete with Christmas tree – carve some shapes around the marque’s compound, as employees look on in astonishment. There are a few choice car cameos, too…

The accompanying statement from the classic Norfolk-based sports car manufacturer claims: “while many look back over the year during the festive season, Lotus looks sideways” – that’s what we like to see. An appropriate vehicle is required to shuttle a Christmas tree around in suitable crossed-up style – meet the #DriftmasEvora.

#DriftmasEvora drifts around the Lotus Cars site

Of course, the Lotus Evora 410 doesn’t come standard with provisions to mount a Christmas tree. So the ‘Driftmas’ Evora required a few modifications before it could carry a Christmas tree and hold it at speed.

#DriftmasEvora Lotus GT410 Sport rear with Christmas tree

In the video we see the Evora, complete with tree, slithering up to the security gates, as a somewhat perplexed and disapproving guard grants it access. A few token sideways laps of the roundabout thereafter set the tone. The Evora then heads toward the production facility, passing a famous Esprit along the way.

#MerryDriftmas video included some exciting Lotus Cars cameos including a familiar Lotus Esprit

Sliding into the production facility, things are calmed down for the quiet and clean assembly line. Production staff, complete with Santa hat, look on in disapproval once again. Note the John Player Special-liveried Lotus 72 sitting pretty.

Classic Team Lotus loaned an interesting addition for #MerryDriftmas filming, an iconic Lotus 72

Out into the quality testing area for some token skids, before slaloming round some Lotus loveliness in the car park. Up to the dealer before coming to a stop as the festive tunes ring out. Yes, we spotted the Lotus bike!

#DriftmasEvora inside the factory alongside a selection of Lotus cars being built at its Hethel, UK site

Obviously, this required some expert camera work and state of the art equipment. Check out those drone shots! 

What a fun way to see out the year as well as demonstrate the delicate dynamic capability of one of the marque’s fastest models to date. It’s nice to get a teasing look at the inner workings of Lotus as well as see some special historical cameos.

#DriftmasEvora Lotus GT410 Sport lines up outside #HandmadeinHethel factory before burning off sideways for #MerryDriftmas video

If Lotus goes into 2019 as it’s ended 2018, next year should be quite a laugh with our friends from Hethel. A very merry ‘Driftmas’ and a Hethel new year, to all.

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Elisa Artioli at Lotus HQ

Woman who gave Lotus Elise its name reunited with first car

Elisa Artioli at Lotus HQ

More than 22 years after the launch of Lotus’ iconic back-to-basics sports car, the woman after whom it was named has returned to Norfolk to meet the Elise.

Elisa Artioli was the granddaughter of Romano Artioli, chairman of Lotus in 1995. Back then she was a little girl and can be seen posing with her granddad on the first production Elise.

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As well as taking the Exige Sport 410 and Evora GT410 Sport for her first drive around Hethel, she was also reunited with that original Elise.

There’s no word yet on whether Elisa’s more hardcore brother, Exige, is planning a trip any time soon…

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Lotus Mark 1

Lotus needs your help to find its first ever car

Lotus Mark 1

In its 70th year, Lotus is rightly looking back at all aspects of its history, while also looking forward to a new era of investment from Geely. In going back to the very beginning, however, Lotus might just need your help. The marque is on the hunt for the very first car its founder, Colin Chapman, ever built: the 1948 Lotus Mark I.

It’s no surprise that Lotus is having a job tracking the car down. Despite its existence being well documented, there’s been no trace of the Mark I since it was sold in November 1950.

The car was based on an Austin 7. Typically, Chapman’s modifications comprised mainly of reducing weight, along with extensive chassis and suspension improvements. The car was campaigned in English Trials – primordial British rally events. His continued modification of, and success with, the Mark I proved to Chapman he had a future in motoring and racing. The “holy grail of Lotus’ history”, indeed.

Lotus Mark 1

“It’s the first time that my father was able to put his theories for improved performance into practice when designing and building a car” said Clive Chapman, Colin’s son and director of Classic Team Lotus.

“To locate this landmark Lotus, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary, would be a monumental achievement. We want fans to take this opportunity to look in every garage, shed, barn and lock up they’re allowed to.

“It’s even possible that the Mark I was shipped from the UK, and we’d love to know if it survives in another country.”

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Lotus 70

Lotus celebrates 70th in tyre-smoking style

Lotus 70

This is a very special year for Lotus Cars. It’s the 70th anniversary of the historic British marque and it’s celebrating in style.

Remember Colin Chapman’s famous old mantra? Simplify, then add lightness? It is a methodology the marque has lived by for its road and racing cars since its inception – and it’s now followed suit with its 70th anniversary celebration video…

True to Lotus tradition, there’s no frippery or fakery here. “Rather than rely on artificial aids or electronic trickery, the new video perfectly reflects Lotus’s approach to sports cars”.

It depicts an Exige Sport 410 and an Evora GT410 Sport ripping around the company’s Hethel circuit smoking tyres in no particular direction. Nothing wrong with smoke for smoke’s sake. It is a special birthday, after all.

Then, we get a wide shot and, lo and behold, a rubber ’70’ is seen sprawled out, with the Exige adding just a bit more for good measure. Brilliant.

Lotus is fervent in stressing that “no CGI and more than a few pairs of tyres” were all that went into it. That, combined with some very skilled driving courtesy of Gavan Kershaw, head of attributes and Daniel Peck, vehicle dynamics engineer…

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Lotus Evora GT430

Lotus Evora GT430 review: the fastest and most expensive Lotus ever

With a six-figure price tag and a top speed nudging 200mph, the Lotus Evora GT430 is a superb track car – and a formidable road machine, too

Ford Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years on

We reunite Ford Lotus Cortina TV star with its owner after 40 years

Ford Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years onSome people remember names, others never forget a face. A select few of us even recall our online passwords. Rob Jones, however, has an uncanny memory for car number plates. Hey, we all need a party trick.

Rob knows the registration marks of every car he’s ever owned, from the MG Midget he bought after passing his test to the SEAT Leon Cupra he drives today. And one of those remembered registrations – FGF 113C – led to an emotional reunion with the car he owned 40 years ago.

Like many great love stories, our tale begins on a sofa in front of the telly. The show was ‘Car SOS’, and presenters Fuzz Townshend and Tim Shaw were battling to restore a Mk1 Ford Cortina GT from little more than a bare shell.

Made in DagenhamFord Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years on

Seeking inspiration, the team visited Ford’s heritage workshop in Dagenham. Their mission: to drive the GT’s big brother – the legendary Lotus Cortina. Rob nearly fell off his sofa. This immaculate white-and-green classic, hailed by Tim as “a sensation of the era”, wore the same number plate as a Lotus Cortina he’d bought in 1976.

“It had to be the same car,” explains Rob, “but I searched through my old photos to be sure.” The Polaroid print he found proved it beyond doubt. There was Rob, in glorious faded sepia, wearing a pair of turned-up flares and leaning on a Lotus Cortina, registration: FGF 113C.

The Ford heritage workshop is usually off-limits to the public, so Rob contacted Motoring Research – having seen our gallery feature on the Dagenham collection. A few excited emails later, Rob had a date in Dagenham. Even better, it was on his birthday.

From road to racetrackFord Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years on

Before our heart-warming ‘boy meets car’ moment, a few words on the Lotus Cortina. This skunkworks special was launched in 1963 and is arguably the first fast Ford. It packs a 106hp 1.6-litre Lotus engine and close-ratio Ford gearbox, clothed in lightweight alloy panels.

Tipping the scales at just 826kg, the Lotus Cortina reached 60mph in 9.9 seconds, plus a top speed of 108mph. It was an instant hit on the racetrack, with Jim Clark winning the British Saloon Car title in 1964, then Alan Mann Racing clinching the European title in 1965.

A total of 3,301 Mk1 Lotus Cortinas were built before the squarer Mk2 arrived in 1967. By this point, well-publicised reliability problems and the launch of the Escort Twin Cam meant the Cortina’s star was fading. But it has gone supernova since, with prices for concours examples stretching well into six figures.

Show some appreciationFord Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years on

Rob negotiated a rather better deal. “I paid £370 for my Cortina,” he laughs, “then sold it for £500 eight months later. I didn’t own it long as I kept having problems with the starter motor. The ring gears would slip or jam – I ended up replacing them about once a month.”

There are no such issues when, four decades on, Rob twists the key of his old car. The twin-cam engine bursts raucously into life, its throaty bark reverberating off the walls of Ford’s workshop – a huge warehouse that used to be a truck factory. Rob’s smile says it all.

“This brings it all back,” he beams. “I was a Lotus fanatic, but I couldn’t afford an Elan – so this was my dream car at the time. It’s been lowered a couple of inches since I owned it, but otherwise nothing much has changed.”

For the custodians of Ford’s heritage fleet, Rob’s visit provides a valuable chance to fill in the blanks about this Cortina’s history. “We don’t know much about the car before it came to us,” they admit.

A Christmas crashFord Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years on

One story in particular raises a few eyebrows. “Yeah, I crashed it,” admits Rob. “I’d just finished my Christmas shopping. I pulled out of a pub car park in Newbury [sober, he adds] and got sideswiped by an Austin 1100. It ploughed into the nearside wing and I ended up paying a £25 fine as it was his right of way.”

On the rain-drenched roads of Dagenham, Rob is being extra-careful: “I didn’t want to push it in the wet. I’m very conscious the car is worth a few quid more than when I owned it.”

It’s clear Rob loves being back behind the skinny wooden wheel, though. “It’s just lovely. I remember that twin-cam sound – and the smell. But the steering is so heavy compared to a modern car. You need muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger to do a three-point turn.”

A great motoring memoryFord Lotus Cortina TV star reunited with owner 40 years on

Rob has owned many cars over the past 40 years, including several self-built Ginetta sports cars, but the Cortina is the one he wishes he’d kept. “Just being back behind the wheel felt special. I’d have another, definitely. I just need to discover one in a barn.”

Seeing Rob reunited with his Lotus Cortina reaffirmed our belief that cars are more than mere transport. They bookend periods in our lives, our memories of past journeys and destinations inexorably linked to the vehicles we travelled in.

For Rob, driving the car he owned in 1976 is the closest he’ll get to time travel. And unlike his flares, the Lotus Cortina hasn’t aged a day.

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Why the Lotus Exige Sport 380 is a £67k bargain

Lotus Exige Sport 380Lotus is ending 2016 with yet another new car, the Exige Sport 380. This sounds suspiciously similar to the Exige Sport 350, which we drove last year and deemed brilliant. Only this one costs £11,000 more than the 350, which remains on sale (and remains subject to a waiting list). Quite a price tag for 30hp more, no?

Ah, but this is Lotus. It’s not just given the Sport 380 more power. It’s also give it much more focus and attitude to back up the claim this is a bona fide ‘supercar killer’. You don’t need a Ferrari or an Aston Martin, believes Lotus. The Exige Sport 380 will run rings around them for far less. We headed over to Norfolk to find out why it’s so confident.

Lotus Exige Sport 380: it means business

Lotus Exige Sport 380

For starters, the Sport 380 looks the business. To the Sport 350, Lotus has made the rear wing even larger, and now built it from carbon fibre. There’s an enlarged front splitter with ground-sucking rubber edge hidden beneath, and beefy air blades on the sides to further aid aero. It looks more serious, and it is: this car generates 60% more downforce at its top speed – a whopping 140kg (akin to having two blokes sitting on the rear wing).

Pirelli out, Michelin in

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus is switching from Pirelli to Michelin tyres, so the Exige Sport 380 wears a semi-slick set of Cup 2 tyres. The front tyres are bigger, to reduce understeer (“completely tune it out,” says Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales) and they clothe ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels. With a set of 3-Eleven grooved two-piece brakes (which Porsche tells him they consider “the best in the business,” reveals Gales), unsprung weight is reduced by 2.5kg a corner. That’s a hefty weight reduction.

The Sport diet

Lotus Exige Sport 380

All told, the Exige Sport 380 is 15.2kg lighter than the Sport 350. Lotus has actually taken around 30kg out of it, including a whopping 10kg by swapping the normal battery for an exotic lithium ion one. But it’s added some weight back: the air blades weigh more, there’s a new gearbox oil cooler to help it cope with track use, and the fuel tank is now an enlarged 48 litres which adds weight. Overall weight? 1066kg, or 1100kg with fluids. A basic Vauxhall Corsa weighs 1166kg.

It’s a roadster as standard

Lotus Exige Sport 380

In its standard guise, the Lotus Exige Sport 380 is an open-top roadster. You can have an optional carbon fibre hard top if you want: because it’s so light, there’s no weight difference between the two. And, adds Gales, the top speed is the same whether the roof is up or down – on some Italian supercars, it’s capped when the roof is down.

Inside the Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

A hefty 6kg has been cut from the weight of the Sport 380 by using carbon fibre seats. These are hard but purposeful, adding further richness to an interior whose appearance and quality has come on leaps and bounds. This is a genuinely well-finished car now, certainly one capable of commanding premium-level pricing.

The seats are now Alcantara (“it grips you better,” says Gales), there’s a new Clarion stereo with Bluetooth at last, and you can get carbon fibre door sills that save weight and make it (a bit) easier to get in and out.

Speed is up, power is up

Lotus Exige Sport 380

As for that top speed, it’s now up from 170mph to 178mph – an impressive increase given how downforce has increased so significantly. Gales says careful work in the wind tunnel means drag at speed has marginally decreased, helping the top speed. 0-62mph takes 3.7 seconds, down from 3.9 seconds for the Sport 350. 

 

The 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine, sourced from Toyota, has a new supercharger pulley that increases the charge pressure, plus revised engine calibration, and it’s been donated the sportier exhaust from the exotic Evora 410. This increases power to 380hp at a slightly lower 6700rpm; it also ups engine torque to 302lb-ft. Lotus says above 4000rpm, the Sport 380 is appreciably more responsive than the Sport 350.

Racing cars use British-made Nitron dampers: now you can get them on a Lotus. The two-way adjustable front and rear dampers come as part of the £3200 track pack, which also includes Eibach two-way adjustable anti-roll bars. Because most people take their Exige Sport out on track, Lotus expects it to be popular. So what else for us to do, but…

On track: Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Visiting Hethel to drive a Lotus means you get to enjoy the firm’s on-site test track. It’s already clocked the lap time of the Sport 380 at 1 minute 26 seconds, down from 1 minute 29.5 seconds for the Sport 350. We enjoyed the extra low-rev burble of the exhaust, and the meaty kart-like steering, as we trundled out onto the circuit for some hot laps. “Get some heat into the tyres” was the advice, fully heeded as we slithered around on the autumn dew for a few laps. Then it clicked.

Wider front tyres allow you to attack corners more aggressively in the Sport 380. There’s both more front-end grip and more feel and feedback through the wheel. You have a firm, clear idea of exactly what’s going on below, what the grip levels are like and how much harder you can push – and that’s not the only way in which confidence levels are boosted.

The significant increase in downforce (“most cars generate lift at speed,” says Gales) means the Exige is better planted at speed. This itself gives you more confidence as you go faster, and means the car responds more sharply and cleanly through higher-speed corners. Add in the greater front-end bite, plus all the brilliance of those amazing Michelin semi-slick tyres, and you have a car that simply seems to get better the faster you go. It’s incredibly confidence-inspiring.

Extra pull, extra howl

Lotus Exige Sport 380

The extra responsiveness of the engine is felt right away, and out on track where immediate response is everything. At higher revs, it’s appreciably meatier and more reactive to the accelerator. The rich, deep burble at lower revs also transforms above 5000rpm into a deliciously loud and intense howl. The V6 has never sounded this fine in an Exige before – and if you want it even more intense, choose the exotic titanium exhaust option (which will also cut 10kg from the kerbweight).

On road: Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Air con is, as ever, an option on an Exige, but most cars are fitted with it. Luckily ours was: after a thrilling 45 minutes out on track, we went back, swapped cars and took an identical but fully-fuelled Sport 380 out onto the road. Lotus was keen to stress that, although the focus has been intensified for track-day use, it still remains a perfectly fine road car too. Lotus hasn’t spoiled the everyday comfort for weekend thrills.

A Lotus feels different to most other cars from the off. You sit low, face a minimalist and largely exposed aluminium cabin, albeit now enhanced by judicious use of rich leather across the dashboard. The pedals are cramped, the gearchange clicks loudly like a race car and forget about rear visibility. Indeed, forget about any sort of easy parkability: non-assisted steering is heavy at walking pace. But as on the track, it quickly starts to gel.

The first highlight is, still, the Exige Sport 380’s fine ride quality. Taut and purposeful, sure, but also brilliantly damped and remarkably fluid. It rarely bangs over bumps, remains in control yet never jars, basically displays controlled, sporting comfort over challenging British roads like few other cars. Its elegance is, at times, brilliant: it’s a perfectly able machine to use every day, in contrast to the aggressive jars and intensity of some other high-performance machines.

Handling highlights

Lotus Exige Sport 380

Steering, heavy at slow speed, soon lightens up. It remains meaty and impossibly packed with feel though, giving on-road clarity and detail we thought we’d lost these days on modern cars. Grip is high, the balance incisive, there feel to be no nasty tricks up its mid-engined sleeve. This is a car you can drive as quickly or as slowly as you wish across twisty B-roads and get a different level of satisfaction at the end of it to most normal cars. But because it eggs you on and feels so great, chances are you’ll be driving more quickly than most normal cars without even knowing it…

The Sport 380 feels extremely well honed, well matched and cohesive. It’s a car that gels, a car whose engine, ride, handling and aerodynamics all work together so well. It’s much more than just a Sport 350 with a power boost – this is a more focused, bigger-hitting driver’s car that fully justifies the extra Lotus is asking.

Lotus doesn’t just charge £67k for the Exige Sport 380, but builds and finishes it, by hand, in a way that justifies this. The paint finish is rich. No Lotus has ever been as precisely assembled as the latest machines from the production line. The interior smells of Alcantara and leather, not adhesive. It looks rich and well-finished. Even the doors open and close with a Porsche-like click, not a clang. It now feels like a £67k exotica.  

Verdict: Lotus Exige Sport 380

Lotus Exige Sport 380

This Lotus is a hand-built, richly-honed bargain. It delivers an exotic-level driving experience for relatively attainable prices. A car as satisfying to drive as a six-figure supercar, for a decidedly five-figure ticket. It’s a genuine thoroughbred. Lotus has had a great year in 2016. With the Exige Sport 380, it’s saved the best until last.