Last month, we reported that Lotus’ future was safe and that we may see a new Esprit on the roads. Today, British magazine, AutoCar, is offering a few more details on the rumored British supercar, including some insight on its powertrain.
AutoCar is reporting that the Esprit’s production is effectively complete, but there are still some lingering problems. Those problems are that Lotus is camshaft-deep in legal battles and unpaid bills, and lacks consistent management.
Rumor has it that if — and we stress if — the Esprit hits production, it will feature a 5.0-liter gasoline engine that works in unison with an F1-style KERS system. So what’s so great about that? Well, that will be good for a whopping 650 ponies beneath the Esprit’s sexy hood — 20 horsepower more than the initial rumors.
These 650 ponies are all well and good, but if it’s priced like the 918 Spyder, only a select few may actually be able to afford one. Lotus has your back there too, as Autocar is also putting out there that the Esprit will be closer to the price of a top-line 911, which is roughly £100,000 — around $160,000 at the current exchange rates.
Not only are we anxious to hear that Lotus still has some fight left in it, but we are also ecstatic to hear that the Esprit may return in impressive form and at a relative bargain. Stay tuned!
A few weeks ago, it was rumored that the new generation Lotus Esprit had been axed. Many were upset upon hearing this, but that sadness may be short-lived. During an interview with British magazine AutoExpress, chief operating officer of DRB-HICOM, Aslam Farikullah confirmed that Lotus’ future is safe and that we will indeed see a new Esprit on the roads.
The problem is that the Esprit will be the only model to be produced, while the other four models previewed at the 2010 Paris Auto Show have been axed. He didn’t confirm when the Esprit will be launched because the company is now focusing on getting the quality right on the current Elise, Exige, and Evora models.
"We have to be realistic and get the basic fundamentals of the business right. Then we will look at the next products. We are excited about the future and plan to grow the business."
He also confirmed that all Lotus models will still be produced in the UK, despite the company’s new Malaysian owner.
Lotus hasn’t exactly had the best run in the past few months, so it’s not surprising that the company is canceling its plans for all future models, including the one model that was thought to be the sole survivor of Bahar’s plans: the long-rumored new generation Esprit.
The new Esprit was previewed by its concept version back at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, while the company was still in the hands of the controversial Dany Bahar. Now that Bahar is gone, and DRB-Hicom is running the show, most of Bahar’s concepts have been given the heave-ho. All that is supposedly left now is the Elise, Exige, and Evora. These models were originally on the list of axed models, but have since received a reprieve. At least for now.
The Evora is the only relatively new model in Lotus’ line-up, having just been launched in 2008. The Elise and Exige have been on the market ever since 1995. This means that Lotus’ new plans to drop the Esprit will begin the company’s new era with an old lineup. Hopefully, they have plans in place to change that.
It’s two days short of a month since we last mentioned Dany Bahar and Lotus in the same sentence, but we knew the silence couldn’t go on forever. While we await the outcome of the potential wrongful-termination lawsuit Bahar is allegedly planning, Lotus continues to rid itself of any signs of Bahar.
This de-Bahar-ing of Lotus began with the scrapping of all but one of his concept cars, much to the joy of Lotus purists, and has now moved into an almost personal attack. Lotus is now auctioning off Bahar’s company car, which so happens to be a fully restored and customized 2002 Esprit V8.
It features a custom pearlescent white paint job, Nova OZ wheels, center-exit exhaust, custom rounded taillights, and a Final Edition Esprit rear wing. The interior is bespoke too, featuring leather and SuedeTex throughout.
The front brakes feature 4-piston AP Racing calipers, while the rear brakes are Brembo-built. The engine and transmission were both rebuilt less than 1,000 miles ago, despite only having 36,000 miles on them to begin with. On top of the Sport350 “High Boost” ECM mod, we suspect that both the engine and transmission have some internal modifications, so it likely punches out much more than the 350 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque it did from the factory.
This entire restoration was commissioned by Bahar and carried out in a Lotus factory, likely on Lotus’ dime – surprise, surprise. Is it any wonder why the company is in such a financial hell right now?
Anyways, in an effort to raise a little capital, Lotus is now auctioning off this rig to the highest bidder via its UK dealerships. NADA lists a high-retail value of $60,300 on the 2002 Esprit, but we assume this one will fetch closer to the $80,000 range with all of its custom work.
We’ll keep you updated on the final auction results.
When Lotus chose to pull out of the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the same show that the struggling car company released five new concepts at two years ago, we had a sneaking suspicion that this was the calm before the model-trimming storm. It looks as if our suspicions were true, as according to reports, Lotus has cut out all of Bahar’s brainchildren, with a possible exception being the revamped Espirit.
As we always say, sports car lovers are a fickle bunch. They know what they like and do not deal well with changes. Ferrari and Lamborghini lovers want fat sports cars with even fatter engines, whereas Lotus lovers want svelte and nimble machines that they can toss around at will. The models that Lotus has axed were very fat, by Lotus standard, and were not warmly received by enthusiasts.
Also scrapped in the process was the crazy notion that Lotus would produce its own engines for these new models. If the consistent lapping of Lotus-powered vehicles in INDYCAR isn’t enough of a deterrent for Lotus building their own engines, the sheer cost of the project is.
This is all clearly a cost-controlling measure by DRB-Hicom and Lotus to try and save the failing company, but it does have a bit of the undercoating of a jab to Bahar’s ribs. Regardless of the possible shot at Bahar’s ego, this is just one of the many necessary evils that Lotus has to go through to get back to being a profitable business.
Another necessary evil is the fact that Lotus will have to lay off 50 contractors hired to work on these new projects, which were part of Bahar’s “Five-Year Plan.”
Lotus and DRB-Hicom have submitted a new business plan to their creditors in hopes of getting some leeway in their debts and maybe freeing up some loan money to help inject some life into Lotus. We certainly hope to see Lotus back near the top of the boutique automaker list and we’ll keep a keen eye on this situation with many more updates likely coming your way.
It’s going to take a while before Lotus finally drops the new generation Esprit on the market, but until then, the previous generation Esprit is still getting tons of attention. The V8 version produced between 1996 and 2004 delivered a total of 354 HP and was capable of hitting a top speed of 175 mph. It was limited to only 1237 units, and one of those units caught the attention of Cam Shaft.
The tuner started with tweaking the V8 engine, adding adjustable cases by Forge inside the turbo compressor pumps, a self designed compressor cooling system, and two 100-cell structure catalysts. As a result, the V8 engine now delivers a total of 492 HP and can hit an impressive top speed of 189 mph. The 0 to 60 mph sprint time has been improved, from the standard 4.9 seconds to 4.3 seconds.
The transmission is also new: the old 5-speed gearbox by Renault has been replaced by a new 6-speed Dog-Engagement gearbox equipped with a longer total ratio. The car was also equipped with a new breaking system for 350 sport models (from 2000 series) with AP racing 4-bucket device and perforated brake discs with a 330 mm diameter to match the speed-up.
With Lotus having to cease production completely for the past 60 days as a result of its sale from Proton and acquisition by DRB-Hicom, production has finally resumed. Fingers crossed; this could be the start of a much needed recovery for the ailing brand.
Even though we knew production would resume eventually, we are very surprised that it’s happened so soon, especially after reports surfaced just days ago that DRB-Hicom was already looking for a Chinese buyer to take Lotus off their hands.
Up to this point, Lotus has more than $316 million in debts and in order for these debts to be overcome, Lotus has to decrease production costs significantly and increase output. If these two strategies cannot be met, then we can’t see how Lotus can be a viable business in the future.
Autocar is reporting that production will restart at the beginning of May, when Lotus hopes to pump out no less than 44 cars weekly with the Elise, Exige, and Evora all being produced yet again. The most exciting news to come out of this revelation however, is that development of the upcoming Esprit supercar should resume including development of the brand new V-8 engine it’ll feature. This new V8 is being developed completely in-house and will deliver between 550 - 570 HP.
Finally, Dany Bahar confirmed that DRB-Hicon is not actually looking to sell the flailing brand off to the Chinese stating, “It’s just not true,” he says. “There is no fire sale, no selling process and no bidding. If there were, lots of strange people would be here doing inspections and due diligence, but there is nobody. Besides, I have no authority to sell the company. That’s a job for the shareholders. I am just an employee.”
When Proton announced they may sell Lotus to a large Malaysian industrial
conglomerate (DRB-Hicom), everyone knew the future of the Esprit supercar would be in danger, and everyone was right. During a recent interview with British magazine, EVO, Lotus boss Dany Bahar announced that development of all future models, including the Esprit has been suspended.
As a result of the sale, Lotus is taking an NBA type break with a three month "lockdown" - meaning that only normal trading activities could be continued. Translated, this means that the production of the current models will continue at a reduced level, but the development of the future models has been delayed. This decision obviously affects customers because the official market launch of the new Exige S and Evora GTE have been delayed, and we won’t get to see the production Esprit until early 2014.
"This difficult period for Lotus finishes at the end of March and that’s
when we will know then whether DRB-Hicom will want to continue with our
business plan," said Bahar. "I really hope they will but I cannot call it at the moment, it’s still 50:50."
Thirty years ago, when James Bond pulled up in an Esprit S1 in The Spy Who Loved Me and an Esprit Turbo in For Your Eyes Only, Lotus execs had big, shit-eating grins on their faces. When the famous spy dropped the contract with Lotus, these same execs began scrambling to figure out their next step. That next step came with a buyout from Proton in 1996, but things haven’t gotten much better and Proton may be ready and willing to snip the cord and let Lotus become someone else’s problem.
It took Proton 15 years and zero profit to come to terms with the fact that the Lotus purchase wasn’t a highlight of their business plan. After all, Proton builds sedans and taxis, while Lotus builds sports cars and wants to compete with makers like Ferrari and Porsche, so the oil and water scenario comes to mind. Now Proton is in trouble itself, and investors such as Gan Eng Peng say selling Lotus may just be what they need to get back in gear, but they’ll have to find a buyer first.
As of right now, no one has stepped up to make an offer, which isn’t all that surprising considering Lotus doesn’t stand to make a profit until the new Esprit comes out in 2014. Lotus Chief Executive Officer Dany Taner Bahar (formerly a Ferrari executive) backs up that statement saying he’s confident Lotus can become profitable by 2014. Of course, that will be really hard to do unless they get some financial backing sooner rather than later.
Does anyone have millions of dollars they would use to bet on the success of the new Esprit?
Lotus seems to be taking their "five-year, five model plan" very seriously and the new generation Esprit set to be released at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show will be the model to set that plan in motion.
New details about the future supercar revealed that the Esprit will, in fact, be offered in two versions. A base model will combine a 100 HP electric motor to a normally aspirated V8 engine and a more powerful version will drop the hybrid system and focus on weight-saving measures.
"There will be no hybrid system, the engine will have more power, but the major performance gains will come from losing weight," said Bahar. "The ‘Racing’ versions of each model will always be pure, driver’s cars. There will be never be anything unnecessary on them, and we will use materials such as carbon fiber."
Sales for the new Lotus Esprit will begin in Europe in Summer 2013.