Lotus beefs up the badge with 600-hp electric "hyper SUV"
Lotus moves about as far away from its recent history of light, stripped-down coupes as possible in debuting the Eletre, an all-electric SUV absolutely overflowing with tech. Along with touchscreens all over the cabin and multiple LiDARS that pop up when called upon, the first five-door from Hethel promises to be plenty fun to drive thanks to a 600-hp electric AWD, continuous suspension damping control, available rear-wheel steering and more.
With the Eletre, Lotus leaves the past in the past and reaches out to a new profile of customer who's not looking to drive anything that doesn't include "battery powered" and "utility vehicle" all over its description. The company faced no small task in pushing beyond its history of small, lightweight two-doors to develop its first non-sports car ever. It pulled together teams in the UK, China, Sweden and Germany to bring the "born British, raised globally" SUV to life.
The pivot to SUV was made easier by the "carved by air" styling philosophy trickled down from the Evija and Emira. This time around, the aero-guided process manifests in the absolutely angry face driven by sharp, thin daytime running light fixtures (the headlights themselves are partially concealed below the leading edge) and a pair of body-color air blades that remind us of wild boar tusks.
The Eletre has a look like it wants to straight-up pounce and devour the air in front of it, and it's prepared to do so thanks to what Lotus calls "porosity" (i.e. a slasher film's worth of aerodynamic cuts and gashes all over its body). The porosity begins up front, where those side tusks help push air into vertical left and right intakes that channel it around wheels and spit it out through the ducts just ahead of the doors.
The grille space between those front blades, meanwhile, looks like an unassuming black panel etched with a triangular pattern, but those triangles actually open to send cool air rushing over the electric motors, battery and front brakes. Porous aero elements continue with the canyon-like vents dominating the hood, outlets behind the rear wheels and D-pillar air blades.
The Eletre's sharp bodywork conceals a series of deployable LiDAR sensors that Lotus calls a world-first. One finds home just above the windshield, two out around the front wheel arches and another just over the rear windshield, deploying when necessary to run ADAS features like the intelligent adaptive cruise control, front and rear collision mitigation support, and lane-keeping aid. Otherwise, they disappear to maintain smooth, uninterrupted styling. Lotus says the ADAS suite is designed to be future-proof, and will evolve over time via 5G-powered OTA updates.
Below all that styling and technology, the Eletre rides on Lotus' aluminum and high-tensile steel Electric Premium Architecture (EPA) that packages the 100-plus-kWh battery inside a "skateboard" deck. Both the battery and dual-motor e-drive are set as low as possible to optimize center of gravity and handling characteristics.
Lotus believes the Eletre will achieve up to 373 miles (600 km) of driving range per charge before using its 350-kW 800-V charging capability to suck in 248 miles (400 km) of range within about 20 minutes. The electric drive sends up to 600 hp (441 kW) out to all four wheels via front and rear motors, pushing the car to a top speed of 161 mph (260 mph) down the line from the sub-three 0-62 mph (100 km/h). Features like standard air suspension, continuous damping control, available active ride height and available active rear-axle steering contribute to driving dynamics.
The Eletre cockpit is about as far removed as imaginable from the old-school drive-focused Elise interiors of the recent past. A veritable tech den driven by Lotus' new Chinese R&D facility, the experience begins with a little show when the driver hits "unlock" on the key fob – the Eletre flashes its lights, takes a "breath" with its active front grille and deploys the flush-mounted illuminated door handles.
The theatrics continue inside, where a dashboard-stretching light strip changes color to convey important information about battery charge level and the like, and not-as-important information about things like a temperature change. Below that light ribbon, the 15.1-in OLED touchscreen infotainment display sits between two long, narrow digital displays that comprise a focused instrument panel for the driver and a general informational display for the passenger (think song/artist or POI info and the like). The driver can also rely on the standard augmented reality-equipped HUD for information, and the rear passengers have an infotainment touchscreen all their own.
The Eletre pulls audio in with a voice command system and fires it out with two available KEF premium audio systems. The top-tier 2,160-watt KEF Reference system relies on 23 speakers to create a rich 3D surround soundstage.
Lotus will begin Eletre production at its all-new high-tech facility in Wuhan, China later this year, with the first customer deliveries heading to launch markets in China, Europe and the UK in 2023. Pricing will start under £100,000, according to Bloomberg. It also plans to use the scalable EPA platform to create a family of "premium lifestyle performance electric vehicles" with the objective of higher retail volumes and revenues.
Try to enjoy too little Eletre driving action through too much overdramatizing in the 40-sec video below.