Lotus Eletre: The New Era of Innovation and Luxury
A new kind of electric SUV delivers autonomous tech and great charging for half the price of a Lambo Urus. But is it a Lotus? Tons of onboard tech. Impressive performance and dynamics. Rapid charging. Potential for autonomous driving.
Colin Chapman, the late founder of Lotus, was renowned for his philosophy: "Simplify, then add lightness." However, the latest innovation from Lotus, the Eletre, challenges this mantra. A complex and hefty electric SUV, it seems to diverge from everything Chapman stood for. But let's not forget that Chapman was also a pragmatist, and he embraced innovation and commercial ventures during his time.
The Evolution of Lotus: From Sports Cars to Electric SUVs
Lotus has come a long way from its two-seat sports cars, and the Eletre marks a significant shift. The carmaker aims to establish itself as a premium brand, catering to a broader audience and potentially reaping substantial profits.
Despite its weight of 2,490 kg, the Eletre boasts clever design features, including active aerodynamics, 5G-capable infotainment, and deployable lidar sensors. These technological advancements would surely intrigue Chapman, the restless innovator who explored various concepts, from gas turbines to ground-effect aerodynamics.
The Electre Lineup: A Glimpse into the Future of Lotus
The Electre lineup consists of three tiers, each offering distinct features and powertrains:
Base Model - £89,500: This 603-horsepower model comes with a twin-motor, four-wheel-drive system and a 112-kWh battery. It can go from 0 to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds and has an officially certified range of 373 miles.
Eletre S - £104,500: The Eletre S shares the same drivetrain as the base model but includes additional luxuries like ambient interior lighting, soft-close doors, and a 23-speaker KEF audio system.
Eletre R - £120,000: The top-of-the-line Eletre R offers an impressive 905 horsepower, reaching 0 to 62 mph in just 2.95 seconds. With a claimed range of 304 miles on a full charge, it also features advanced chassis technology, including active roll control and rear-wheel steering, along with a maximum-attack Track driving mode.
Unraveling the Innovative Design of Eletre
Built in China, the Eletre introduces a revolutionary design inspired by the Lotus Evija electric hypercar. Notable features include a "porous" design with six apertures in the broad grille that open or close to optimize cooling airflow or retain heat. The car also boasts a world-first with its pop-out lidar sensors, offering a comprehensive 360-degree view of its surroundings.
Gone are the conventional door mirrors, replaced by high-definition cameras streaming the rearward view to 6-inch displays. While some may question this technology, it does provide an aero advantage. Additionally, an active rear spoiler aids in aerodynamics and can significantly increase downforce when required, achieving an impressive drag coefficient of 0.26.
The Eletre's Interior: Where Luxury Meets Technology
For Lotus purists, the Eletre's interior may come as a surprise. Departing from the minimalist design of an Elise, the spacious cabin features tactile Alcantara trim and a host of advanced tech. The infotainment system centers around a 15.1-inch OLED touchscreen with 5G connectivity, offering crisp visuals and responsiveness.
Lotus navigation system calculates energy use, suggests efficient routes, and preconditions the battery before reaching a charging station. Over-the-air updates will soon introduce wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The car also boasts "Hi Lotus" voice control and a smartphone app for remote parking.
A Drive Like No Other
WIRED had the opportunity to test-drive the Eletre in Norway, a country known for its strong embrace of electric vehicles. The car's performance and capabilities impressed even in a nation where EVs are a norm, thanks to features like rapid charging and electronically controlled shock absorbers.
Despite its size and weight, the Eletre handles well, offering a comfortable and refined driving experience. Five driving modes cater to different preferences, with the default Tour mode providing an ideal balance between comfort and dynamic performance.
Autonomous Driving and Beyond
Lotus has prepared the Eletre for Level 4 fully autonomous driving, equipped with 34 sensors powered by two Nvidia Orin-X chips capable of performing 500 trillion operations per second. The lidar sensors, with an impressive 200-meter scanning range, enable the car to operate in low-light conditions.
While the Eletre currently operates at Level 2 autonomy outside China, it showcases the brand's commitment to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous technology.
The Future of Lotus: A New Chapter
The Lotus Eletre represents a significant shift for the iconic brand, stepping into the world of luxury electric SUVs. While it may deviate from Chapman's original vision, it presents an exciting opportunity for the brand to expand its horizons and potentially fund future sports car projects through the success of its SUV lineup.
Lotus has come a long way since its inception, and the Eletre signifies a new era of innovation, luxury, and versatility for the brand. As it embraces electric technology and prepares for autonomous driving, Lotus continues to be at the forefront of the automotive industry's evolution.