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Lotus Elise Cup 250

Lotus Elise Cup 250 is fastest road-going Elise ever

Lotus Elise Cup 250Lotus has announced a new Cup 250 version of the long-running Elise that’s more powerful and less heavy than the Cup 220 it replaces – making it the fastest road-going Elise yet launched.

21kg lighter, it now weighs just 931kg. As the name suggests, it’s also gained power, with a 26hp boost for the supercharged 243hp 1.8-litre making it capable of 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds.

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More exciting is the 0-60mph time of 3.9 seconds: presumably there’s a gearchange involved somewhere between 60 and 62mph.

It has a scorching top speed of 154mph too – in an Elise! Good job there’s an aero-tuned bodykit as standard, that gives 66kg of downforce at 100mph and a stonking 155kg at 154mph.

That’s 16% of its overall kerbweight!

Buyers can save an extra 10kg with the Carbon Aero pack, which replaces the front splitter, rear wing, rear diffuser and side floor extensions with carbon fibre. Yup, this takes it down to 921kg (we’ve yet to find out how much the Carbon Aero kit costs, mind).

Elise Cup 250: motorsport-bred

Lotus Elise Cup 250

The Cup 250 has the same motorsport-style suspension as the 220 Cup. The front anti-roll bar is adjustable, there are Bilstein sports dampers and Eibach coaxial coil springs, AP Racing twin-pot front calipers and Brembo single-pot rear caliers.

Yokohama AO48 tyres are fitted as standard.


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Lotus also now offers a sport mode in the Dynamic Performance Management traction control system. It ups throttle response, lowers slip thresholds and stops sensing for understeer. Result: more slip-slide fun before it kicks in.

Entirely coincidentally revealed on the same day as Alpine’s new Vision concept car (yeah, right), Lotus will roll out the new Elise Cup 250 from the spring in all major markets apart from North America. UK price? £45,600.

Making it one of the most expensive road-going Elise yet sold too…

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016

A Lotus a day helps 2015 sales make headway

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016Lotus continues to recover from its post-Dany Bahar nadir, with full-year 2015 new car registrations for the UK reaching 375 units, compared to 235 cars the previous year.

The 2015 success means Lotus sales grew 60% in a year and have returned to the level they were at in 2010 – and with seven new dealers appointed in 2015 alone, the firm is hopeful of more growth in 2016.

There are two dealers in London alone – the first time Lotus has been represented in Britain’s capital since 2009. It plans to bring on more dealers to further grow the 16-retailer total in 2016.


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UK dealer growth is matched globally too: from having 138 dealers in May 2014, Lotus now has 202 retailers worldwide, again with more planned.

“Substantial” sales growth in Germany, France and Italy will help encourage this new dealer push.

New and improved cars are behind its recovery drive: successes include the Evora 400, Exige Sport 350 and the Elises Sport and Sport 220.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus plc, said, “These are excellent sales results and prove definitively that Lotus is back!”

Now for the all-new cars to cement this return to growth and profitability, Lotus…

Renault F1

Renault buys Lotus F1 Team

Renault F1Renault has given loyal Formula 1 workers in Enstone, Oxfordshire the best possible Christmas present by confirming it has completed the purchase of the Lotus F1 Team.

After signing a letter of intent to buy the team in September, a lengthy period of negotiations ensued.

BBC Formula 1 free TV contract switches to Channel 4 for 2016

This was completed on 3 December; since then, says Renault,  “all parties involved have been working relentlessly to comply with all of the contractual and legal obligations under the agreements to enable the transaction to successfully complete”.

Last Friday, the transaction was indeed successfully completed – and the team is confident its 2016 racer will be ready for testing in Barcelona at the end of February.

Just prior to this first testing session, Renault F1 will announce its new team name, management structure, team partners and other key details during an event it plans to hold in Paris.

Renault’s already appointed a new board of directors though: Jérôme Stoll as Chairman and Cyril Abiteboul as Managing Director.

The news means the Enstone team will once again be known as Renault – after the French brand sold its F1 team to Genii Capital in 2009 and headline sponsor Group Lotus renamed the team in 2012.

Genii remains a shareholder in the team; Group Lotus terminated its title sponsorship arrangement in 2011 but the team retained the Lotus F1 Team name.

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016

Lotus Exige Sport 350 review: 2015 first drive

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016The amazing Lotus Exige Sport 350 completes the firm’s model range revival. It’s one of the most thrilling driver’s cars for the money

Overview

Lotus Cars is in good health. For the past two months, it’s been cashflow-positive, an incredible achievement in itself for the traditionally crisis-strewn British sports car manufacturer. It’s been busy too, launching new cars – and the Lotus Exige Sport 350 is the latest model in the new revolution.

Its arrival completes the overhaul of Lotus’ core model range. We already have the fantastic Lotus Evora 400, and more recently the Lotus Elise Sport. Now it’s the turn of the Exige; for a while now, the Lotus coupe has used the firm’s ace 3.5-litre V6 engine. Now it’s been given the focus to go with it.

A brief bit of positioning: Evora is Lotus’ range-topper, the car it wants to be its Porsche 911. Elise is its fun roadster and the Exige is its powerful hard-top cousin; to continue the Porsche analogy, if Elise is Lotus’ Porsche Boxster, the Exige is its Cayman.

And the Sport 350? Why, this is Lotus’ Cayman GT4. ‘Sport’ is a name with heritage within Lotus and it doesn’t just stick it on anything. The new Exige had to earn the right to use it; cue one massive overhaul that saw the car completely stripped to pieces, laid out in the Lotus Lightweight Laboratory and then analysed, bit by bit, to save weight.

The result is a car 51kg lighter than the old Exige S. Doesn’t sound a lot, until you remember the car’s overall weight is a scant 1,125kg. Makes even the basic Cayman 2.7, at 1,330kg, look like a bit portly in comparison.

But it’s not simply lighter. It’s also better. Boss Jean-Marc Gales has introduced a new focus on quality at Hethel that means, for example, the heater is both 3kg lighter but also faster and more efficient than any Lotus heater before it. The battery is 3.5kg lighter, but you can also leave the Exige Sport 350 in an airport car park for two weeks and it will still start. This is Lotus, thinking like Porsche.

Oh, and it looks outrageous. The Exige has always looked like a road-going race car; the Sport 350, with its new black composite louvered tailgate and matt black aero kit, is every inch the compact supercar. And if Porsche can charge nearly £65,000 for the Cayman GT4, Lotus can certainly justify £55,900 for the Exige Sport 350, surely? We visited Hethel to find out.

On the road

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016

‘Light is right’ is the boss’s mantra. Here, it means the 345hp 3.5-litre V6 engine is good for 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and 170mph flat out. Quick enough for you? Certainly it’s half a second faster to 62mph than that Cayman GT4, you know…

But the first thing that intoxicates you isn’t the speed, it’s the chassis and steering feel. Like all good Lotus in that respect, then. Steering is stupendous, a waterfall of ever-varying weight and pulses, writhes and wiggles through the tiny Momo rim. It’s a living thing you’re holding; this is F1-grade feedback, way beyond almost any other car on the road.

It goes without saying that it’s accurate, enhanced by a chassis that is sharper, more direct and more controllable. With extensive geometry changes and a lower centre of gravity, it right away feels more natural, more incisive, more intuitive and, interestingly ‘shorter’: you sense you’re right in the middle of the car, masses rotating around you. Again, rather like an F1 car.

You become incredibly confident in it as a result. Because it’s so light and everything’s so well-signalled, it’s easy to feel heroic driving it, and being intoxicated by the experience is virtually a default. It even makes the lack of stability control less of an issue – if you’re doing it right, you’ll be able to feel when the car’s getting unstable well in advance…

Instead of stability control, Lotus’ own traction control is standard. It’s good in full safety mode, ‘Sport’ lets you get the tail out in safety and ‘Race’ transforms the car yet again into a full-on livewire. On a cold, wet, early dawn Hethel test track, we found Sport was just enough to feel a driving god.

Like all good Lotus, it also rides unbelievably well. Brilliant damping and body control blend with unexpectedly fine B-road compliance and that mass-free light weight to deliver one of the quickest point-to-point cars on sale. You don’t fight it, just let it flow, and it hurtles stupendously quickly but with no fuss or heavy lag. Jaw-dropping.

That torquey supercharged 345hp mid-mounted 3.5-litre V6 engine helps. The multi-cylinder soundtrack naturally gives the Exige Sport 350 a classy, upmarket feel; the immediate and lag-free force it punches out is again race-inspired. The delivery itself is also rich – you don’t need to rev it to feel the instant surge which, combined with the lack of mass, makes this Lotus lively and responsive like few other cars. The thrill when you do rev it through is almighty.

The new gearshift is good. OK, it’s still not Porsche-like, but is much cleaner, snickier and positive than before. More importantly, it clicks and clacks as you shift gear not unlike an old Ferrari – it’s truly brilliant. For all the optional automatic’s surprising directness and lack of soggy slur, you’d be mad not to choose the manual.

Oh, sure, it’s intense. The ride has an underlying stiffness as a result of its racy setup (not to be confused with harshness or hardness, mind). The steering will chatter away to you even when you’re loping up a straight dual carriageway. And this is anything but a one-handed, sit-back cruiser. But you’d be disappointed if it were anything else, right? This really is the perfect Lotus.

On the inside

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016

First things first; that brilliant heritage tartan interior. Yes, you have seen it before – on the original 1976 Esprit S1; Lotus has brought it back as an option on the Exige Sport 350, and surely it’s a default-tick for any Lotus enthusiast? It looks fantastic and is a suitably out-there touch for this brilliant British sports car.

Not that it’s all eye-popping fabrics; under Gales’ direction, Lotus has also worked incredibly hard on interior quality and tactility. This is one of the best-built, highest-quality Lotus ever; if Porsche made ultra-lightweight sports cars on a cost-controlled budget, they might feel like this.

Star of the show is the new exposed aluminium gearshift mechanism, not unlike that on a Pagani. People complained the Exige S’ shift was a bit loose, said Gales; cue an all-new mechanism made from aluminium that’s so beautiful, Lotus decided to showcase it. It’s not just for show either – it also saves 1.5kg…

But the sense of extra quality is everywhere. Trims are now hand-stitched leather, switches are more tactile, fit and finish are exemplary and even the old 1980s Vauxhall column stalks work more smoothly and positively than ever before.

It’s still tricky to get in and out of, mind, with its low roof and high, broad sill. The cabin is compact too – you sit intimately close to your passenger – but it’s surprisingly refined at the same time, even at higher speeds. Thank Gales’ focus again. There are even stowage slots for mobile phones.

Your mobile device will only have a stereo to Bluetooth with if you choose the optional audio pack, mind: to help you hear it better, this also comes with full carpet and extra sound insulation. Lotus expect most people to go for this, even if the tacky Clarion stereo is a bit too ‘old Lotus’ for our liking. Clarion does a great single-DIN touchscreen system, Lotus – AND it has sat nav…

Running costs

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016

Because they haven’t been making all that many Lotus in recent years, retained values are sky-high. This means dealers can offer incredibly attractive finance deals on them; while the Exige Sport 350 is likely to be in much demand, the core financials should still be surprisingly decent.

Lotus’ quality revolution will also make the ownership proposition itself more welcoming. Reliability should be good, rattles few, fit and finish should remain as impressive after three years as they do now. This will also pay dividends for retained values.

More everyday running costs will be a bit higher. It averages a rather thirsty 28.0mpg (the auto does 30.1mpg) and CO2 of 235g/km means annual road tax costs almost £500 a year. Those Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres aren’t going to be cheap either.

Then there’s the fact it handles so well and drives so brilliantly, you’re likely to spend a fortune in track days and on visiting Lotus’ Hethel factory to get your various levels of Lotus Licence under the stewardship of chief instructor (and former F1 driver) Martin Donnelly…

Verdict

Lotus Exige Sport 350 2016

If you thought the V6-engine’d Lotus Exige S was good, you won’t believe what the firm’s done with the Exige Sport 350. It’s brilliant, both in all the ways you’d expect from a Lotus, but also in surprising new areas such as quality, interior tactility and robustness.

The handling is the star of the show, naturally. It gives so much to you and feels so natural doing it, you can’t help but feel like a hero. The engine is a forceful delight too, and the new manual gearshift an open-gate, click-tasatic triumph.

And although it’s pricey at £55,900, it’s also a bargain alongside cars such as the Porsche Cayman GT4. No, it’s not the newest of cars, and obvious hindrances such as the difficulty in getting in and out remain. But the effort is worth it, because the Exige Sport 350 is a truly great Lotus. We didn’t see this one coming, but boy, are we pleased it’s here.

Rivals

  • Porsche Cayman GT4
  • Alfa Romeo 4C
  • Caterham Seven
  • Jaguar F-Type Coupe
  • BMW M4 Coupe

2015 Lotus Exige Sport 350: specifications

Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6

Price: £55,900

Power: 345hp

Torque: 295lb-ft

0-62mph: 3.9secs

Top speed: 170mph

Fuel economy: 28.0mpg

CO2 emissions: 235gkm

Lotus announces £62,995 Exige 360 Cup

Lotus announces £62,995 Exige 360 Cup

Lotus announces £62,995 Exige 360 Cup

Lotus has announced it will launch a 360hp version of its V6 Cup – but numbers will be strictly limited to just 50 units.

Using the same 3.5-litre V6 supercharged petrol engine as the regular Exige V6 Cup, the 360 will come with a freer flowing induction and sports exhaust system – resulting in an extra 10hp.

Performance figures are yet to be announced, but expect a minor improvement over the Cup’s 4.0 second 0-62mph time. Maximum speed is likely to remain at around 170mph.

Using the aero package from the Exige V6 Cup, the 360 comes as standard with an aerodynamicaly optimised front splitter, rear diffuser and wing. Combine these with a flat underside and these aids offer an impressive 42kg of downforce at 100mph.

Lotus announces £62,995 Exige 360 Cup

It’s not all about performance, though. The limited edition 360 comes in an option of four metallic colours (white, grey, black and silver) with a stealth matte-black roof, front access panel and louvered tailgate. Each has a numbered Lotus Motorsport build plate.

Options include a new red Alcantara interior, adjustable roll bars and Ohlins race dampers.

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales said: “The V6 Cup was a favourite amongst many knowledgeable customers, with its incredible track performance and distinctive design. I am excited about the introduction of the new 360 Cup which moves the game forward with striking new design features and performance upgrades that offer phenomenal ability on road and track.”

The Lotus Exige 360 Cup is on sale now at official dealers with prices starting at £62,995.

Lotus announces £62,995 Exige 360 Cup

Lotus Evora

Lotus Evora 400 review: 2015 first drive

The Lotus Evora has raised its game. Lighter, faster, more efficient and more fun, this British sports car is now a real alternative to a Porsche 911.

Lotus Evora

New Lotus Evora 400 is lighter, faster, more efficient and more fun

New Lotus Evora 400: Overview

Building a car that becomes an icon is not something you can write into your business plan. It happens through a combination of excellent design, an understanding of what the public might want in the future, and a large dose of luck. Every manufacturer wants to do it, but most – even after a blinding success – usually fail the next time around.

And so it has been with Lotus. The 1996 Elise was, and still is, an outstandingly successful small sports car, arguably the purest driving machine you can buy today. The 2009 Lotus Evora has not had the same level of success, with just over 3,000 finding buyers in six years.

However, there’s a new broom at Lotus. Jean-Marc Gales brings a hard-nosed business brain into the Norfolk company and a straightforward mission to ramp up annual sales to 3,000, from a mere 1,200 in 2014.  How will he do that? The primary platforms are a radically revised Evora and a whole lot more dealers.

02_Lotus EvoraThe Evora 400 replaces all the previous models. The vision is to make it not just 50hp faster than before, but a whole lot more agile and dynamic. On the Lotus test track at Hethel, a six-second lap time improvement was the target. A seven-second reduction was achieved. Anyone who follows motor racing will realise just what a giant step that is.

The changes are major, with more than two-thirds of the 400 said to be new. Weight has been added – bigger brakes, an intercooler and a larger oil cooler – and taken out with lighter seats, panels and wheels. The net result is a 42kg saving.

The body has been restyled, with a more scoops, wings and splitters, although it’s still a long way from pretty. The interior gets yet another overhaul. The Evora 400 is priced at £72,000 in the UK.

03_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: On the road

For a moment, let’s forget about road driving and concentrate on the track side of things. The suspension is stiffer both front and rear, which reduces body-roll in bends and gives the Evora 400 a whole lot more directional agility. The tyres – Michelin Pilot Super Sports– are now 285-section at the rear, and whether it is the extra width, the new rubber or the chassis changes (or indeed all three), the car’s cornering speed is simply breathtaking.

The Evora sits flat, the steering is pin-sharp and full of feel, and throttle response is razor-sharp. Yes, you’ll have to forgive the clichés but this Lotus is one of those cars that simply brings them out. It’s so easy to feel quickly at one with this car, making it far easier to drive really fast than an Exige S.

Sport mode is essential for track use, letting the rear of the Evora twitch at times, but with a comforting safety net as soon as the car starts to get out of shape on an 80mph corner. Race mode does the same, but the Evora gets more sideways before assistance cuts in. Or, if you have the ability of a Lotus test driver, you can switch the whole lot off. No thanks.

08_Lotus EvoraThe massive AP Racing brakes help bring those lap times down, while manual cars are aided by a limited-slip differential. This is a first for the Evora, and, for the time being, available only on manual cars.

Does all this translate to a useable road car, though? The worry is that the stiffer suspension might compromise the ride comfort too much. Yet Lotus is a master at the art of suspension design, and it was aided during the development phase by the poor state of many of Norfolk’s country roads.

So yes, the Evora 400 does feel a bit stiffer, but compliance is extremely good, so neither comfort nor directional stability are adversely affected.

More to the point, this Evora feels blindingly fast. The engine responds instantly to throttle movements, while the steering dances about in you hands but always keeps you on the right track. It’s both impressive and fun.

05_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: On the inside

The changes inside the Evora are focussed on customer feedback. So it’s easier to get in and out, with the door opening now 56mm lower, plus narrower door sills. Footwell space has been increased, the seats move further back and there are re-designed rear seats – although it’s still hard to fathom how even kids would squeeze in there.

There’s an upgraded heating and ventilation system that pumped through a good volume of cooled air on a warm July morning. The instruments have a cleaner design and a lot of the switchgear has been moved to the centre console, reducing the risk of pressing the wrong button.

Embracing all this is a real ramp-up in the feeling of quality. The Evora, at long last, feels like a genuine high-end sports car, where it is no longer necessary to forgive small flaws that were occasionally not far below the surface.

06_Lotus EvoraCoupled to that are some excellent new Sparco seats that combine an appropriate level of comfort and cushioning on the road with supreme levels of sideways support when you are cornering at the highest speeds on the track.

The boot, so they say, will take a set of golf clubs, and of course there’s space for more gear on the rear seats. I should mention the noise here, too. A three-inch exhaust system gives a terrific soundtrack, but when you’ve had enough, the only option is to select the least focussed ‘Drive’ setting for the chassis and throttle. We suggested to Jean-Marc Gales that a quiet mode in ‘Sport’ would be useful.

07_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: Running costs

A £72,000 outlay buys you get a pretty well-equipped Evora 400. You’ll want the Leather pack or Alcantara pack at £2,500 apiece, and perhaps the faster-changing automatic transmission, with paddle shifters (£2,000).

Despite the extra power of the Evora 400, Lotus has squeezed the CO2 emissions down by 4g/km to 225g/km. The statutory average fuel consumption figure is 31mpg.

Key to Evora ownership is how well the 400 will hold its value. Prices of used Evoras are buoyant at the moment so although a used Porsche will undoubtedly be easier to sell, the Evora does stand up alongside one.

09_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: Verdict

This is undoubtedly the best road-going Lotus for years. Naturally, the performance is a key aspect, combining visceral excitement with a truly outstanding chassis.

But you already expected that, didn’t you? More to the point is that the Evora 400 ably stands up to its competition in terms of showroom appeal for the first time. No longer is an Evora simply the plaything of the dedicated Lotus enthusiast, who accepts the quirks with equanimity.

The new feeling of quality, inside and out, and the easy nature of the Evora when you don’t want to drive it like a race car, suddenly mean Lotus can find a whole new batch of customers. Let’s hope it succeeds.

10_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: Specification

Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6

Price: £72,000

Power: 400hp

Torque: 302lb ft (410Nm)

0-62mph: 4.2 seconds

Top speed: 186mph (300kph)

Fuel economy: 31.0mpg (9.1 l/100km)

CO2 emissions: 225g/km

 

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