Hold your horses

Lo­tus takes on Fer­rari with the pow­er­ful Elite, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE car that will launch Lo­tus into bat­tle with Fer­rari is fi­nally un­veiled to­day. It’s the Elite, a long-over­due suc­ces­sor to the Esprit, that prom­ises true su­per­car per­for­mance with a price in the $300,000-plus range.

The car is a front-en­gined 2+2 coupe that is also be­ing de­vel­oped as a hard­top con­vert­ible. De­liv­er­ies are not ex­pected un­til 2014. The Elite was de­signed and de­vel­oped by the team of for­mer Fer­rari staff who now con­trol Lo­tus, led by man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Dany Ba­har.

It’s a mas­sive step up from the road racer Elise and part of a plan to turn Lo­tus into a su­per­lux­ury brand to ri­val Fer­rari and Lamborghini.

‘‘There will al­ways be those who be­lieve that Lo­tus should stick to small sports cars, but we didn’t take the de­ci­sion to de­sign some­thing like the Elite lightly. It’s based on months of care­ful re­search and plan­ning,’’ Ba­har says.

‘‘Make no mis­take, there’s a def­i­nite mar­ket re­quire­ment for the Elite — it’s the ul­ti­mate sports car-feel with com­fort and space.’’

The Elite is ex­pected to be fol­lowed by at least two other new mod­els.

Lo­tus is not go­ing fully pub­lic with de­tails on the car un­til the first day of the Paris Mo­tor Show but has re­leased some teaser in­for­ma­tion.

‘‘ There’s no deny­ing that the Elite is breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful to look at, but it’s so much more than that,’’ Ba­har says.

‘‘It’s a car that over-delivers in all other as­pects as well.

‘‘One could say it’s a car of per­fect con­tra­dic­tions. It’s com­pact yet spa­cious, high-per­form­ing yet low emit­ting, light­weight yet still re­as­sur­ingly solid.’’

The car has a 5-litre V8 en­gine — per­haps from Lexus — with 450kW and 720Nm, good enough for a top speed of 315km/h and a 0-100km/h sprint time be­low four sec­onds.

There’s also a model with an op­tional hy­brid sys­tem, us­ing a For­mula One-style Ki­netic En­ergy Re­cov­ery Sys­tem.

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