Lotus is a company in desperate need of a spark. Lotus CEO Jean-Mark Gales seems to have put the company on the path to profitability through improved internal processes and dealer networks, but new models are needed if the company is to continuing growing. That spark is probably coming in the form of a Lotus SUV positioned as a rival to the Porsche Macan and Audi Q5.

Speaking about the new model with Autocar, Gales promises the potential model will be lighter and faster than anything else in its class and offer unparalleled driving purity. “At present, there’s nothing on the market that fits the description,” says Gales. “Our car will drive beautifully. It will be supple and comfortable but the emphasis will be on handling. It will be the lightest and fastest of its class on the track.”

Continue reading to learn more about Lotus’ future crossover.

Why it matters

Development is still in the very early stages, but the new Lotus SUV will likely be a crossover in the mold of the 2015 Porsche Macan. It’s expected to be lower and wider to lower its center of gravity, and styling will be an evolution of current Lotus design language, establishing a clear link with the company’s sports cars.

It’s expected to be lower and wider to lower its center of gravity, and styling will be an evolution of current Lotus design language, establishing a clear link with the company’s sports cars.

It’s anticipated to weigh almost 450 pounds less than it rivals, thanks to a steel monocoque chassis, aluminum body panels and forged alloy components. Gales recently reaffirmed Lotus’ partnership with Toyota, so Toyota powerplants similar to the current 1.8-liter in-line four and 3.5-liter V-6 are a near certainty. Four-wheel drive will be optional, but will be calibrated for on-road performance rather than serious off-roading. The Chinese government is appealing to carmakers for more hybrids, so its possible we’ll also see a hybrid version with an electric motor powering the rear wheels.

If the idea of a Lotus SUV conjures images of Colin Chapman spinning in a Lotus 7-shaped coffin, then consider this: The new model could very well be the highest-selling Lotus in company history. The target is China, where demand for small, sporty SUVs is going through the roof.

Porsche is on track to move 30,000 Macans there and could increase it to 50,000 in the next few years. That figure alone dwarfs Lotus’ current total output. The company sold over 2,000 cars in 2014 and will probably clear 3,000 in 2015. Gales’ current goal is to exceed 10,000 units worldwide by the end of the decade, and the new SUV will be crucial to hitting that mark. Initially, the SUV will only be available in China, and once demand is met, in Japan and Europe as well.

U.S. sales are unlikely because of our more restrictive regulations, but regional availability is inconsequential to Lotus aficionados. The real implication here is that if the new SUV is successful, Lotus can reinvest the increased cash flow to reinvigorate and expand its sports car lineup and begin developing replacements for the Elise and Evora.

U.S. sales are unlikely because of our more restrictive regulations, but regional availability is inconsequential to Lotus aficionados, because....

As commitment to its future in China, Lotus will also establish a factory in southeast China where the new SUV will be built. It’s a joint venture between Lotus, Malaysian parent company Proton and Goldstar Heavy Industries, a Chinese consumer electronics and automotive engineering company. But Gales stresses this is not the beginning of a move away from Lotus headquarters in England: “We have always said that the company’s headquarters will be right here in Hethel, where the cars are designed and the sports cars are built. We are not exporting one job to China. In fact, we are currently hiring more people to cope with expanding sports car production.”

This isn’t the first time Lotus has considered an SUV. Shown at the 2006 Geneva Auto Show the APX (Advanced Performance Crossover) was never intended for production, but rather as a showcase for Lotus’ platform technology, which involved alloy casting and aluminum beams that allowed chassis width and length to be easily altered. Then there was the very similar Youngman-Lotus T5, which debuted in Beijing in 2012, during a now-defunct partnership between Youngman and Lotus.

There’s lots of work to do, but Gales wants the new SUV to be launched in time for the 2019 model year. “Let’s get the design right, then make a prototype,” Gales told Autocar. “Let’s make it beautiful and very light. Then we’ll have an SUV like nothing else in the world.”

2006 Lotus APX

2006 Lotus APX
- image 42613

Read our full review here.

Source: Autocar

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