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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.

Lotus Exige Sport 380

This new Lotus ‘supercar-killer’ does 0-60mph in 3.5sec

Lotus Exige Sport 380The new Lotus Exige Sport 380 is a bona fide supercar-killer that, for £67,900, outpoints many supercars costing several times more than that, claims Lotus.

The new high-performance Exige Sport 380 is an evolution of the acclaimed Sport 350. Power is pushed up to 375hp, weight is further reduced and Lotus has made it even more distinctive-looking – justifying Group Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales’ claim that “we’ve saved something special for our last new car of 2016”.

Describing the weight reduction as “nothing short of drastic”, the kerbweight of the Exige Sport 380 is now down to 1,100kg. Lotus has taken more than 15kg of mass out of the car, by greater use of carbon fibre, an exotic new AP Racing braking system, lightweight forged alloys and even using two round rear lights instead of four (saving 300 grammes, says Gales).

The bolder-looking new Exige Sport 380 has a much bigger rear wing (made from carbon fibre and saving 1.2kg), side aero air blades, a standard carbon fibre diffuser and a much bigger front wing that includes an aero-optimised rubber lip beneath it.

The beefed-up aero package not only makes the Exige Sport 380 look much racier, but also adds significant downforce. Flat-out, the new Lotus generates 140kg of downforce and even at 100mph, it creates 50kg of downforce. “Most cars generate lift,” says Gales, so the effect is significant.

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Lotus has also managed to reduce the aero drag of the car, pushing its top speed up to 178mph. 0-60mph takes 3.5 seconds; 0-62mph takes 3.7 seconds.

The more powerful 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine has more torque as well. It now produces 302lb ft at 5,000rpm, and creates a lot more torque than the existing Sport 350 above 4,000rpm. It sounds better courtesy of an upgraded sports exhaust system.

New tyres are more able to put this power down cleanly. Lotus has switched from Pirelli to Michelin tyres and the Exige Sport 380 comes with semi-slick Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber. The front tyres are wider than before to quell understeer.

And because you might want to drive it harder for longer, Lotus has also introduced a larger fuel tank. The Exige Sport 380, which is available to order now, has a 48-litre fuel tank, eight litres larger than the Sport 350.

The new high-performance Exige costs from £67,900 and is offered in roadster guise: the car pictured boasts the optional carbon fibre hard-top. An automatic model will join in the spring to complement the six-speed manual launch car that’s expected to take 95% of all sales. 

2016 Lotus Evora Sport 410 review: a British Porsche-beater?

2016 Lotus Evora Sport 410 review: a British Porsche-beater?

2016 Lotus Evora Sport 410 review: a British Porsche-beater?

Don’t dismiss the Lotus Evora 410 as just an Evora 400 with an extra 10hp. Revealed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Lotus has applied founder Colin Chapman’s philosophy of “simplify, then add lightness” to the Evora sports car. We’ve been to the firm’s Norfolk factory to find out whether it’s a successful formula.

Hit me with some stats

The Evora 410 is powered by the usual 3.5-litre supercharged V6 producing – you guessed it – 410hp. A muscular 302lb ft torque means it’s open to lazy third-gear track driving, while working through the gears allows you to hit 62mph in 3.9 seconds. That’s 0.3 seconds faster than the Evora 400.

What about weight?

So, that low-weight thing that Chapman was so keen on. An extra 70kg has been shaved off the already-lightweight Evora 400, with a number of carbonfibre panels used – including the roof, rear quarter panels (where you’d find glass on the regular Evora 400) and the tailgate. The result is a dry weight of 1,270kg.

Crucial kilos have been saved all over the place. For example, a super-lightweight lithium-ion battery knocks a considerable 11.3kg off the total mass, while 5.5kg of sound insulation has been stripped out. Even scrapping the mudflaps saved 0.7kg – and the badges on the rear of the car have been replaced by stickers.

Does it feel that fast?

Does it feel that fast?

Yes, ludicrously. You’ll have to spend close to £127,000 on a 911 Turbo before you can buy a Porsche that reaches 62mph as quickly as the Evora 410. There’s next-to-no lag when you stamp on the accelerator, while the noise combined with the steering feedback takes you back to a time when analogue sports cars were commonplace.

Does it sound good?

Does it ever? If you want to treat your ear drums on a daily basis, don’t even consider a Porsche 718 Cayman when you can buy one of these instead. “Sound is a priority for us,” said Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales with a smile on his face during the press conference ahead of our Evora 410 drive.

Baffles in the exhaust can be opened or shut using a button on the dash – while those wanting even more noise can opt for titanium pipes. Unnecessary, we expect, but then who cares? It could be the best-sounding car this side of an Aston V8.

Is it scary to drive on the road?

Surprisingly, not at all. Despite being a high-powered, mid-engined Lotus, it’s easy to make progress in the Evora 410. The rack-and-pinion steering tells you everything you could possibly need to know, and even the clumsiest of point-and-squirt drivers won’t find it a handful.

What about on track?

What about on track?

That docility transfers well to track. Lotus chucked us the keys and told us to go and have some fun on their test track – where we flicked between Normal, Sport and Race modes and tried to find out what the Evora 410’s like at the limit.

The answer? Fun, but not at all terrifying. Sure, it’ll squirm about a bit if you’re too hamfisted (although the ultra-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s fitted as standard prevent any serious sideways heroics). It’s easy to get into a flow of setting tidy lap after tidy lap, though. As a car that you can drive to a track day, show up exotica and then drive home again, the Evora 410 is one of the best.

What exactly do sport and race modes do?

Like most 21st century sports cars (indeed – most cars, full-stop), you can flick between different driver modes using buttons on the dash. These tweak the throttle response and allow you to play around more with oversteer before the traction control kicks in and kills the fun.

So how quick is it around Hethel?

We weren’t attempting to set any track records during our visit to Hethel, but Lotus says it’ll lap its test track in 1min 28sec. That’s three seconds quicker than a Lotus 400 – a huge chunk of time for an extra 10hp and added lightness.

Should I buy an automatic or manual?

Should I buy an automatic or manual?

We drove a manual Evora 410 on track and spent some time on the road in an automatic version. The former is obviously the choice of keen drivers – working through the gears suits the ethos of the car, and the ’box is a lovely one to use.

But, in the nicest possible way, the six-speed automatic wasn’t as awful as we expected. It’s not as slick as a Porsche PDK gearbox, and changing through the gears using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles isn’t as fun as driving stick. But it will blip the throttle on downshifts when Sport mode is selected. It does little to disguise the performance available, too.

How firm is it?

Sitting 5mm lower than the Evora 400, you’d expect the 410 to be a trifle firm on bumpy British roads. And you’d be right. But it’s certainly bearable – soaking up bumps in a manner that means you don’t, unlike in many track-oriented cars, find yourself slowing down just because it’s becoming uncomfortable.

Is it practical?

Yes and no. For a start, there are only two seats, and you’ll miss creature comforts such as a radio (we’ll come to that shortly). Parking is tricky, too – replacing glass with opaque carbonfibre has that effect. But then, we found the race-derived seats to be surprisingly comfortable, and there’s a boot big enough for a weekend bag or two. It’s certainly more liveable-with than, say, an Elise.

Tell me more about the interior…

Tell me more about the interior…

Lotus says it’s worked hard to improve the perceived quality of the interior – the sort of thing that contributes to the Porsche Cayman being the default sports car for so many buyers. While the Evora 410’s interior, which is manufactured by hand at the firm’s Hethel factory in Norfolk, isn’t exactly luxurious, it does feel special.

You sit behind the thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed wheel, while all the controls are easy to find and simple to operate. Colour-coded stitching adds a sporting element, while a large aluminium facia takes the place where there would normally be an infotainment system. It’s far from drab.

We need to talk about the price

OK, the Lotus Evora 410 isn’t cheap. It’ll set you back £82,000 – that’s £10,000 more than the Evora 400, around £18,000 more than the Cayman GT4 before it sold out, and well within Porsche 911 territory.

What about extras?

Not everyone will want an entirely stripped-out Evora. For those people, it’d be wise to save money and opt for the £72,000 Evora 400 instead, but that has a 10hp deficit and lacks the cachet of the 410’s badge. If you do want to add extra weight to the 410, you can ask Lotus to fit a radio, air-conditioning, extra sound-deadening and even leather seats. Seems a bit daft to us…

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

At such a huge chunk of money for a car without a radio as standard, only the most serious of enthusiasts will be able to justify a Lotus Evora 410. If you’re after a daily driver, or a car for cross-continent road trips, the lesser Evora 400 or a rival (ahem, Porsche) will be a wiser bet.

However, if you’ve got the cash to spend on an extremely competent track car and B-road blaster, the Evora 410 is one of the most satisfying cars serious drivers can buy. And you’ll still be able to use it for the odd weekend away. We’d approve.

Lotus Elise 250 Special Edition

Lotus Elise 250 Special Edition marks 50 years in Norfolk for £48k

Lotus Elise 250 Special EditionLotus has lived at its legendary Hethel, Norfolk site for 50 years and to celebrate, the storied British sports car company has launched a new Elise 250 Special Edition.

It’s priced at a hefty £47,900, but includes standard carbon fibre componentry that helps cut the kerbweight to below 900kg.

These include a carbon fibre front splitter, rear wing, engine cover and front access panel; they also look rather beautiful, particularly when complemented by the ultralightweight forged alloy wheels.

Offered in metallic blue, red, yellow or white (“four of the firm’s favourite colours,” says Lotus), the Elise 250 Special Edition also has a hand-finished interior including carbon fibre seats with leather stitched by someone’s fair hands and a choice of contrasting stitching colours (the leather’s either dark blue or dark grey).

Based on the high-performance Elise Cup 250, a 243hp 1.8-litre supercharged engine helps it from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds and around Lotus’ Hethel test track in 1 minute 34 seconds – that’s the fastest-ever time recorded by any road-spec Elise.

Fancy performance kit as standard include Bilstein dampers, Eibach coaxial coil springs, AP Racing twin-pot front brake calipers and Bilstein rear calipers. But fancy luxury kit such as air con, Bluetooth functionality, cruise control, full carpets and extra sound insulation, cost extra.

“When we first introduced the Elise,” said Group Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales, “it redefined how involving and exciting, yet civilised, a sports car could be.

“As the Elise was conceived, designed, engineered and is built at Hethel, we wanted a 50th tribute that’s even lighter than the fastest road-going Elise we’ve ever produced.

“The new Elise 250 Special Edition achieves that.”

Lotus will make just 50 Elise 250 Special Editions: ordering is open now.

Lotus Elise Race 250

Lotus Elise Race 250: road car for the racetrack

Lotus Elise Race 250There are Elise Cup race series running all over the world and, since we now have a fancy new Cup 250 road-going version of the Elise, Lotus has taken the same performance upgrades and twisted them into the track-going Elise. Creating, says boss Jean-Marc Gales, “the most focused Elise we’ve ever produced”.

Compared to the old Elise Cup 220 R, the Else Race 250 gets a cooler name, an extra 30hp (but no more torque) and a tiny weight reduction to “less than 900kg” (a road-going Cup 250 is 931kg). It also gets a full zero-lift aero package that generates 66kg of downforce at 100mph and 155kg at its 154mph vmax – 30kg more than before (and, um, exactly the same figures as the road Cup 250).

Lotus says it’s enough to deliver a Hethel lap time of 1 minute 33.5 seconds, half a second faster than the Cup 220 R, making it the fastest race-spec Elise ever.

This is another new Lotus that has bene into Gales’ ‘Lightweight Laboratory’. A lithium ion battery cuts 10kg, carbon fibre race seats chop 6kg and the forged alloy wheels are “ultra-lightweight” to give an additional unspecified weight saving. You can go further if you can afford to: the carbon aero pack replaces the regular front splitter, rear wing, rear diffuser and side floor extensions with carbon fibre ones, saving 10kg and perhaps making you race that bit more carefully through fear of shattering them.

Lotus Elise Race 250

What else does a race-spec Elise get? Nitron adjustable dampers, Eibach coaxial coil springs and an adjustable front anti-roll bar. There are AP Racing two-pot front calipers and Brembo single-pot rear calipers, Lotus-developed ABS and Yokohama AO48 tyres; 195/50 R16 on the front, 225/45 R17 at the rear.

The steering wheel is removable, the rear windscreen is polycarbonate and the carbon fibre race seat is FIA-approved and fitted with a six-point harness. You also get an A-frame harness bar, FIA-spec front rollcage, fire extinguisher, battery isolator, and composite blanking plates instead of headlights. If you run out of talent, Lotus has also fitted front and rear towing eyes.

Lotus Elise Race 250

The latest racing car from the company that won seven World Constructors’ Championships and six World Drivers’ Championships costs £53,500 including VAT: if you’re racing in the USA, it’s $76,200 sans local taxes. A road-going Cup 250 Is £45,600. Nobody has ever said racing is cheap.

Lotus Evora 400 Blue and Orange Edition

Lotus polls Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to design new Evora

Lotus Evora 400 Blue and Orange Edition

Lotus has polled its fans to decide the colourscheme of a new special edition Evora 400 – and now 10 examples of the winning orange and blue design will now go on sale in dealers.

Thousands of Lotus followers voted on their favourite design from a selection created by Lotus stylists, via Lotus’ Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

The winning ‘Blue & Orange Edition’ harks back to the Gulf blue and orange racing colourscheme first seen in the 1960s and is now on sale as part of Lotus’ 50th anniversary celebrations of moving into its Hethel, Norfolk HQ.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus plc, said, “Any one of the designs in the poll would have been a worthy winner. So now… we have decided that the winner will make it into production.

“We only plan to build 10 of these Evora 400 sports cars in total so with their rarity, I expect them to quickly become very desirable.”

Ever the opportunist, Gales also reminds Lotus fans that those who may be disappointed they’re not one of the lucky 10 Blue & Orange Edition buyers can use the Lotus Exclusive in-house customisation service to create their own one-off…

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Lotus rolls out three-year free servicing incentive

Jean-Marc-Gales_CEO-of-Group-Lotus-and-Aslam-FarikullahLotus has introduced a three-year free servicing deal on the Elise, Evora and Exige S range in what is hoped will give a big boost in buyer confidence. Read more

Lotus Hethel Edition Evora 400

Lotus Evora 400 Hethel Edition marks 50 years in Norfolk

Lotus Hethel Edition Evora 400Colin Chapman moved Lotus from its cramped Hertfordshire HQ into its first purpose-built facility in Hethel, Norfolk 50 years ago in 1966 – and the firm is celebrating this in 2016 with a limited Hethel Edition Evora 400.

It won’t be the only Hethel half-century celebration Lotus plans to roll out this year either: “We are immensely proud to be part of the community,” said Group Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales, and “we’re looking forward to celebrating our connections to Norfolk throughout 2016.”

Lotus Evora 400 review: 2015 first drive

Offered in three iconic Lotus-themed heritage colours – Essex Blue, Motorsport Black and Racing Green – each hue boasts lightweight silver forged alloy wheels, contrasting brake calipers, bespoke graphics and, inside, either black or red leather.

All the changes have come from the Lotus Exclusive programme, created by the Lotus Design team to let owners ultra-personalise their cars. Quite the alluring alternative to an off-the-peg sports car, reckons Lotus.

The £75,500 special is otherwise as per the regular Evora 400, which means a 400hp 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine capable of 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, a 1 minute 31 seconds lap time around Lotus’ Hethel test track, plus enhanced handling courtesy of a stiffer, more rigid aluminium chassis.

“The Evora 400 is the latest in a long line of world-beating sports and racing cars to have all been hand built in Hethel over the last 50 years,” said Gales. “It is entirely fitting that this limited edition be dedicated to our home.”

Lotus Cars

Lotus weighs up savings in a year of cuts

Lotus CarsLotus has revealed it’s cut a hefty 207kg from its model range in the past year alone, proving the spirit of founder Colin Chapman, whose mantra was ‘just add lightness’, is alive and well.

Significant weight savings include 70kg cut from the Lotus Evora Sport 410 over the already-honed Evora 400, 91kg from the Exige Sport 350 over the Exige S, while even the familiar Elise has benefitted from a weight reduction of 15kg.

It means even the heaviest Lotus model tips the scales at under 1,400kg – significantly lighter than even the lightest, supposedly-lightweight all-aluminium Jaguar F-Type, which in base 340hp V6 guise tips the scales at 1,537kg.

“To perfect a pure sports car, you must consider weight your enemy,” said Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales. “Lose weight and you will make significant gains: hard er and faster cornering, better braking, greater agility and responsiveness, along with faster acceleration.

“Colin Chapman famously said, ‘Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere,” and that thinking has become part of our DNA.”

Lotus Elise

As such, the inspirational new Lotus boss has, for the past few years, been running a so-called Lightweight Lab, where all Lotus models are stripped bare and each part analysed to see how to make it lighter. It’s this strategy that’s led to such significant ongoing savings.

Examples include the Lotus Exige Sport 350, where detail engineering cut the weight piece-by piece:

  • Louvred tailgate: -3kg
  • Redesigned gearshift mechanism: -3kg
  • Revised subrame: -3kg
  • Optimised body panels: -12kg

Optional carbon composite components cut another 30kg, giving the roadster a kerbweight of just 1,085kg – outrageous for a 350hp rear-drive sports car (and key to its impressive performance).

Lotus also points out its bonded aluminium chassis technology is still considered a benchmark in the automotive industry, more than 20 years since it was introduced.

Lotus Elise Chassis

Lightweight extrusions are bonded together with epoxy adhesive which means the ultra-strong chassis for the Elise and Exige weighs just 68kg. That’s half that of an equivalent steel chassis  – and, significantly, roughly the same weight as a carbon fibre chassis, despite being significantly cheaper and more adaptable.

Now, Lotus continues to find weight savings in the lightweight lab, with Gales coining the phrase, ‘the Lotus approach to light is right engineering’.

So, 207kg has been cut in a single year alone. How much more lightness can be added?

LDV EV80

LDV is back in Britain – with an all-electric van and Lotus-tuned MPV!

LDV EV80LDV has returned to the UK with a range of models including an all-electric green van that promises a 215-mile range, combined with city-friendly zero local emissions. There’s also a surprise all-new MPV that claims input from Lotus.

China’s first all-electric van, the LDV EV80 will launch later this year as the flagship of the reborn LDV range of vans, following its debut at the Commercial Vehicle Show currently underway in Birmingham.

Now owned by China’s SAIC Maxus, the LDV brand collapsed in Britain back in late 2008. It was the last remaining part of the once-great Leyland company, although by then the brand was owned by the Russian GAZ group.

A rescue attempt failed and SAIC acquired the dormant brand in 2010 – and has since restarted production of the familiar LDV Maxus, now called the LDV V80.

LDV V80

It’s the V80 that’s been converted to a full EV, packing a lithium-ion phosphate battery capacity of up to 75 KWh, plus a choice of short- and long-wheelbase panel van configurations and a custom-built chassis cab option.

LDV says the EV80 can be fully recharged in around two hours – faster than rivals such as the Nissan e-NV200 – while other technical specifications are among the most advanced of any commercial vehicle in the world.

Mark Barrett, general manager of LDV UK & Ireland, said: I think it’s safe to say that LDV has demonstrated just how obtainable the future is for a commercial EV vehicle, following today’s EV80 reveal.”

The LDV MPV

LDV also revealed the new G10 panel van, powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel offered in both manual and automatic guises.

LDV G10

It’s this panel van that’s given windows and other luxuries to create the new LDV G10 MPV. This is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine (curiously rated at only 105hp, says the firm) that’s mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

LDV G10 MPV

Seating five, seven or nine people, the G10 MPV is well equipped with touchscreen infotainment, rear-view camera, cruise control and Bluetooth. It’s only quoted as having two airbags but LDV says prices will be competitive when they’re released later this year.

LDV G10 MPV

The most fascinating aspect? No less than Lotus has been involved in calibrating the chassis. Whether this means it will handle like no van-derived people carrier before it remains to be seen…

LDV back in the UK

LDV’s return has generated a “phenomenal” response, said Barrett.

“We are well ahead of our forecasts with almost 40 dealers on board, 11 of whom are in the UK with many more signings imminent in the UK and Ireland.

“I think this is indicative of the strength of the new LDV range and spec and the confidence and trust that the market has in the future of the brand, particularly given SAIC’s investment in LDV, which is set to top $2.9bn by 2020.”

The firm is even offering a carrot to those unsure about rediscovering the LDV brand – a five-year warranty, offering coverage up to 160,000 miles, with five years’ free roadside assistance thrown in for good measure.