Lotus Cars has always been a disruptor. Founded by Colin and Hazel Chapman in 1948, the Norfolk-based company continues to punch above its weight. Both on the road and on the track, Lotus is indelibly associated with a pioneering spirit of innovation that has unquestionably shaped the motorsport and motoring landscapes of today. The latter is ably demonstrated by Lotus Engineering, the company’s consultancy arm, which provides expertise to a host of major global manufacturers and suppliers. The Lotus magic might be uncredited, but it rarely goes undetected.

It’s clear to be seen in the new Lotus Eletre, a supreme example of a disruptive company reshaping the market to suit its own expertise. The Eletre is Lotus’ second all-electric car. The first, the Lotus Evija hypercar, goes into production this summer and is a statement of intent about the brand’s global ambition. 

Lotus Eletre

The Eletre is a very different beast. A full-size performance-focused SUV, it is a radical departure in many respects; from the number of doors to the sheer scale, from the quality of design and construction, right through to its integral role in the ongoing transformation of Lotus from a UK sports car maker into a truly global performance car business and brand. 

The Eletre’s design team was led by Ben Payne, who points out that the car has been ‘Born British, Raised Globally,’ meaning his Warwickshire-based team worked with support from Lotus engineers around the world, predominantly China and Germany.

’When I joined Lotus, we already knew we were going to start doing something very, very different,’ says Payne. Developed alongside the Evija and the new Emira – the last-ever ICE Lotus – the Eletre shares a distinct familial DNA, albeit with a few marked differences. 

Lotus Eletre

Electric cars offer designers unprecedented levels of freedom, yet not all EVs have taken this leap into a new realm. The Eletre certainly does, making the most of the long wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs. Carbon-fibre construction and aluminium body panels reduce weight, an approach that is taken into the spacious, airy cabin. The flat-floor battery pack allowed the designers to make the most of this space, creating a driver-focused cockpit with superb detailing, from the minimalist switchgear to the folding central display, slender information screens for both driver and passenger, and powerful sound system created in collaboration with renowned British audio brand KEF. 

The Eletre’s exterior surfaces directly address one of the most crucial components of EV design: aerodynamics. Lotus has quite some form in this field. Forty years in Formula 1, as well as myriad other race series, in addition to decades of svelte, low, wedge-shaped road cars, have given the company a strong heritage in low-drag design. 

For the Eletre, this means bringing air through the car – a practice Lotus calls ‘porosity’ – in order to create downforce and aid cooling. The company’s ‘carved by air’ ethos is a development of the extreme approach taken in the two-seater Evija, and which subsequently inspired the new Emira. In comparison, the Eletre rides high, with functional apertures in the grille, in the D-pillar, and ahead of the rear wheel arches that channel air through the body. In addition, elements like flush door handles, a dynamic shape-changing grille, and retractable Lidar (light detection and ranging) pods for intelligent driving technologies, all help reduce air resistance. 

Lotus Eletre

The Eletre is not a sports car. And yet, in many key metrics, it will outperform practically every road-going Lotus ever built. ‘These days, performance is a lot more diverse than simply being able to go fast around a track,’ Payne says. ‘It’s about how the car engages with you as a customer – especially new customers who are complete digital natives – as well as things like the ability to charge incredibly quickly.’ 

Using a 350kW charger, Lotus expects that 400km (248 miles) of driving range can be added in just 20 minutes, with a fully charged battery range of up to 600km (373 miles). Twin electric motors and all-wheel drive catapult the flagship Eletre to 160km/h (100mph) in under three seconds. 

In every respect, the Eletre is a car that confounds industry wisdom and exceeds all expectations. As the brand’s 75th anniversary approaches, Lotus is taking a bold step into the future. §