In the ever-evolving World of automotive technology, few names resonate as strongly as Lotus. Since its inception in 1952, this British automaker has become synonymous with performance, innovation, and engineering excellence. Today, as the automotive industry transitions towards a sustainable future, Lotus embarks on a new chapter under Chinese ownership, courtesy of Geely, while keeping its legacy and Colin Chapman’s famous mantra of "simplify and add lightness" in the back of its mind.
Lotus History: A Legacy of Engineering Brilliance
Before delving into the Lotus Eletre, it is essential to understand the roots that have shaped this iconic brand. Founded by the visionary Chapman, Lotus has continually pushed the boundaries of automotive engineering. From pioneering aerodynamics to revolutionary suspension designs, Chapman’s relentless pursuit of innovation permeates every Lotus model.
The brand’s presence in motorsports, particularly in Formula One, has been nothing short of legendary. Lotus’ tenacious spirit and countless victories on the track have cemented its status as a symbol of racing success. However, it is not just on the racetrack where Lotus excels; the marque’s road cars have earned their reputation for providing pure driving experiences, crafting an unwavering loyalty among automotive enthusiasts worldwide.
Gallery: Lotus Eletre Review (UK)
Chinese Ownership: A Strategic Partnership
In 2017, Geely, one of China’s leading automotive manufacturers, acquired a majority stake in Lotus, signalling a strategic partnership that blends tradition with modernity. Rather than altering Lotus’ essence, Geely’s investment aims to synergise their respective strengths, fostering a new era of growth and innovation for the British marque.
Geely recognised Lotus’ engineering expertise and saw the brand as an ideal platform to expand its presence in the high-performance segment while simultaneously embracing the burgeoning EV market. Under Geely’s supportive umbrella, Lotus can now accelerate research and development, explore electrification, and expand its global footprint, securing a prosperous future.
The Electric Vehicle SUV Market: A Paradigm Shift
With the arrival of the Lotus Eletre, the brand from Norfolk tries to combine its illustrious history, Geely’s visionary support and the ever-growing electric SUV market to develop this new business case and simply survive. There is no future in this World for a sports car manufacturer making only 1,500 cars per year. Instead, a similar philosophy was introduced, which Porsche used when they launched the Cayenne in 2002. Now more than 20 years later, look where they are now with models like the Macan, Panamera and Taycan allowing themselves to preserve the brilliance of their sports car model lineup.
In many ways, the introduction of the Eletre mimics Porsche’s controversial release with one main difference, being that Lotus has decided to only make EVs moving forward. Not the smartest choice in my opinion and something they will turn around in the next 5 to 10 years, but that is different story for another time. For now their Emira two-seater sports car will be the last in a long history of nimble, small and lightweight funfests. Going forward, we will only see new models which won’t support Chapman’s mantra and have a body shape that you see across a vast majority of car manufacturers; a SUV, a saloon and a crossover.
Therefore, please before reading more words take in the following; In the Eletre you won’t find any intrinsic Lotus-ness. Just don’t link it to Lotus’ past! It will help you in starting to see all the goodness in this electric SUV, because there is a sheer lot of it. It is just nothing you expect from Lotus, and has become in many ways a life-saving badge exercise and a first step into the new Lotus while trying to win the hearts of enthusiasts and eco-conscious buyers alike. So with that out of the way, let’s see if the outcome of their efforts was successful!
Performance: Electrifying Performance Meets Efficiency
Characterized as simply the Lotus of SUVs, the British marque offers three models; Eletre, Eletre S and Eletre R. Each use a 112.0-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery connected to a 800V skateboard architecture allowing to charge at speeds up to 350 kilowatts. In the base and S models, this will get you a performance level of 595 bhp and 710 Nm, good for 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds. The top-of-the-line R model adds a stronger rear motor with two speeds that lifts the output to 905 bhp and 985 Nm, which drops the 0-62 mph time to 2.9 seconds.
The rapid and linear acceleration is characteristic of electric vehicles, offering immediate response and a surge of power whenever required. With the Eletre, power is building up more progressively rather than instantaneously, which offers a more comfortable driving style. This also benefits the 311 mile (500 kilometres) of driving range in base and S trims. Unsurprisingly, the high-performance R’s range won’t be quite as impressive and should hit around 260 miles (418 km) on a charge.
To achieve improved efficiency, the engineers designed a vehicle which should come out of the box with a huge front aerodynamic deficit that would impact its effectiveness. Instead, the low and immensely long design is driven by numerous aerodynamic passageways/speed holes to give it a more than impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. They don’t make the car look prettier though, it is just different in its own right.
Handling: A Symphony of Precision
Lotus has long been celebrated for its legendary handling, and the Eletre tries to continue this legacy. Geely’s collaboration has resulted in a vehicle that tries to strike an ideal balance between SUV versatility and sports car agility. The Eletre boasts a chassis tuned for every day practicality and allowing access to locations no Lotus has ever been, such as off-roading and finding your way through the wilderness where a Lotus sports car wouldn’t feel at home.
On public roads, there is nothing but praise for the way the Eletre is able to comfortably transport you from A to B. The ride is lovely on its 22-inch wheels shod in specially developed Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tyres. A low-drag 20-inch option is available as a no-cost option if you are more into a lower drag coefficient and improving your range.
The combination of the air-suspension, four-wheel-drive and four-wheel-steering chassis make for a surprisingly positive feeling I have never experienced in a Lotus before. While it tries to hide its 2.5 tonne weight at any moment in time, the Eletre isn’t a lightweight and it’s weight does shine through when you try to treat it like one of the brand’s sports cars on a twisty country road.
Out of all the available driving modes (Range, Tour, Sport and Individual), Tour seems to fit the driving manners of the Eletre best although the differences aren’t that big between them. In the R you will also have a Track mode, which I didn’t experience.
While you use the right paddle shifter to choose your driving mode, you can also alter the level of regeneration via the left paddle. There are four levels ranging from none to one pedal drive. However, some fine tuning is required here, one-pedal drive isn’t really possible and often you just want to keep it in the 2nd level because the others aren’t really pleasing nor usable.
Exterior Design: A Masterpiece in Aerodynamics
The exterior design of the Lotus Eletre is a testament to the marriage of form and function, blending luxury elegance with aerodynamic efficiency. The designers tried paying homage to Lotus’ iconic design language. The Eletre features a bold front fascia that houses the signature triangular grille, reimagined to accommodate the EV’s cooling requirements. Sleek LED headlamps add a touch of modernity while maintaining the brand’s distinctive look. The side-view cameras finish off the unique look.
Surprisingly, there is no immediate noticeable visual difference between the normal, S or R models other than spotting the 10-piston carbon ceramics optional brakes behind the wheels. Those come standard on the R, but are an option for the other models making it impossible to determine what your neighbour has really ordered. Some additional distinguishing features would have been nice here.
Which leaves me to one more noticeable point to mention about the exterior. The Brits and Chinese equip the Eletre with a range of 34 sensors such as a lidar system which would make the car future proof for autonomous driving. However, the placement of the sensors on the outside doesn’t help the design of the car, nor was I fan of the loud motors (which you hear inside the cabin) opening the big sensor pop-up turret above the front windscreen while driving.
Interior Design: Merging Luxury with Modernity
Step inside the Lotus Eletre, close the soft-close doors and you’ll be greeted by an interior that epitomises luxury and modernity. The cabin features a sheer amount of features you never saw in a Lotus. The level of technology inside the cabin is top notch with some highly required refinements needed here and there.
High-quality materials envelope the cabin, ranging from premium leather upholstery to sustainable and eco-friendly accents, symbolising Lotus’ commitment to a greener future. The build quality is good and the level of refinement excellent. The interior space caters to the demands of a modern SUV, offering ample legroom for four adults and a cargo capacity of 688 litres without compromising on comfort and style.
The display set up in front of the driver and passenger offer a new take. Dual 12.7-inch driver info strips offer all the important information you require. The driver has its own digital gauge cluster with driving information, while the front passenger has the ability to control the song selection and scroll through some data. In the middle of the dashboard, you will find the 15.1-inch OLED central screen which runs Hyper OS and requires quite a bit of attention to detail.
The input of an user interface specialist is welcome since not every single feature is executed well enough with the driver’s behaviour in mind. The interface is unable to run multiple windows at once, the audio level adjustment doesn’t disappear after you have used it blocking your navigation view, the heads-up display seems to be non-adjustable and the option to change the airflow of the air vents via the display is not a smart move.
Add to this, that the voice control is flawed, the flashy toggles on the steering wheel are an annoyance on their own and the cruise control decided to stick to a maximum of 19 mph, which makes you feel as if there are a few more development stages necessary to remove all the niggles from within the tech. This is along with the important requirement of adding Apple Carplay and Android Auto. However, OTA updates are an option so those upgrades will be an easy fix and are definitely around the corner.
At the rear, the occupants are greeted with ample space and another display between the seats in the centre console allowing you to control the multimedia system and the lovely 23-speaker KEF stereo with Dolby Atmos surround sound. In the process, you have a much better view on the auto-tinting electrochromic glass roof and the ability to comfortable ride from the back.
Conclusion: A New Dawn for Lotus
The Lotus Eletre represents the dawn of a new era for this storied British marque. Under Geely’s ownership, Lotus has embraced the electric revolution while preserving its heritage of performance engineering and driving pleasure. The Eletre stands as a testament to Lotus’ ability to adapt to changing times, symbolising the brand’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, while also understanding that it needs to change to survive.
In a world where EV SUVs are introduced at a constant stream these days, the Lotus Eletre emerges as a compelling option in this market. With its ability to perform within the right market space and using its ability to be different than many other similar models, the Eletre invites automotive enthusiasts and eco-conscious consumers alike to partake in the journey towards a greener and more thrilling future, which doesn’t necessarily encompass Chapman’s mantra but does allow for a brighter future with models that people want to buy.
The Lotus Eletre is the basis of a really well-done electric car offering a comfortable and nicely composed ride combined with a decent range and ample interior refinement. Here and there, the Chinese and the Brits would need to do some fine tuning with regards to the tech, but other than that the next generation of Lotus is off to a great start.