by Karl Furlong
Scan through the lengthy Lotus press release of the new Eletre SUV, and there's one figure you won't find anywhere: weight. Over 25 years after the featherlight Lotus Elise was launched, it seems even Lotus hasn't fully come to terms with how fundamentally things have changed over this period. The Eletre is a giant compared to the little Elise, and its heavy battery pack means it'll be far heavier, too. But electric SUVs are all the rage right now and even Lotus has entered this arena, building the Eletre on an all-new Electric Premium Architecture platform. What hasn't been lost is performance, as the nearly 600-horsepower Eletre is capable of hitting 62 mph in under three seconds. It also looks ready for a brawl with the Lamborghini Urus, never mind Tesla. Let's find out if a heavy electric SUV can possibly be worthy of the Lotus badge.
The 2023 Lotus Eletre's official release date remains unknown, but it's confirmed that the SUV will go into production in China later in 2022. Based on this, it's possible that customers in the USA will have to wait until late 2023 or even early 2024 for the SUV. Lotus has yet to confirm when the Eletre will be coming out, though.
The 2023 Lotus Eletre's price remains unknown at this point but don't expect it to be affordable. About as big as a Lamborghini Urus and with performance that'll see it run the Tesla Model X Plaid close, we'd be surprised if the Eletre started at anything under $120,000 MSRP. BMW's iX can also be considered one of its rivals, and the M60 variant will cost $105,100.
Especially when finished in retina-shattering yellow, the Lotus Eletre exterior's resemblance to the Lamborghini Urus is unavoidable. It's certainly not subtle with its cab-forward stance, short overhangs, and a short hood that Lotus says is reminiscent of its sports cars' mid-engined layout.
Elements of the design link the full-electric Eletre to the Emira and Evija such as the front leading edge, the layering of the surfaces, and the full-width ribbon light at the back that curves into the air outlets. The black roof makes the Eletre appear a lot sleeker and lower than the average SUV. An active tailgate spoiler has three deployment angles depending on the driving mode, and above this is a 'floating' split roof spoiler. The optional wheels are stunning, measuring 23 inches and with a machine-cut split finish with carbon fiber inserts. A final notable feature is the Electric Reverse Mirror Displays with integrated cameras, replacing conventional door mirrors, though these are unlikely to be available in the US.
The Lotus Eletre's colors include yellow and what appears to be Nimbus Grey, but the full palette hasn't yet been revealed.
The Lotus Eletre's dimensions are anything but compact. At 200.9 inches in length, it's over five inches longer than the BMW iX. Including the door mirrors, the width is a substantial 87.8 inches, but it's low to the ground with a height of only 64.2 inches. The wheelbase measures 118.9 inches.
Perhaps for the first time ever for a new Lotus, the automaker has made no mention of curb weight. That's likely because the 2023 Eletre is the brand's heaviest model ever, despite the liberal use of carbon fiber and aluminum to reduce the EV's heft.
Two powerful electric motors, one at each axle, power the new Lotus Eletre SUV. Exact outputs have not been confirmed but Lotus does say that its first SUV makes at least 591 bhp. Performance is phenomenal, with a 0-62 mph time of below three seconds and a top speed of 161 mph. That makes it similarly quick to the ballistic Tesla Model S Plaid (0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds) which has three motors and 1,020 hp; based on this, it seems Lotus has succeeded in keeping the Eletre's weight down.
There are several driving modes - Range, Tour, Sport, Off-Road, and Individual - and these adjust the sensitivity of the steering, powertrain, throttle response, and dampers. A five-link rear suspension, standard air suspension, active rear-axle steering, and a low center of gravity should contribute to excellent ride and handling, although we don't expect the same level of agility found in far smaller Lotus vehicles.
Equipped with a battery of at least 100-kWh, Lotus estimates a maximum range on the WLTP cycle of 373 miles. EPA ratings will likely be closer to 300 miles, but that's still acceptable considering the performance on offer. Capable of charging at 350 kW, around 248 miles of range can be added in only 20 minutes. The Eletre can also accept 22 kW AC charging.
The Eletre's cabin looks like little else. It's a mix of racy materials, cool ambient lighting, and many functions predominantly managed via a massive touchscreen. This OLED landscape screen found inside measures 15.1 inches in size and automatically folds flat when not needed. Instead of a traditional gauge cluster, there's a slim strip measuring less than 1.2 inches that communicates vital information. A similar strip is replicated on the passenger side. The standard sound system is a 15-speaker system from British brand KEF with 1,380 watts of power, but a 23-speaker system is available with 3D sound technology.
The Eletre's array of technologies doesn't begin and end there. It is also available with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and traffic sign information. It comes with a world-first deployable LiDAR sensor mounted on top of the windscreen, with another sensor of this kind on the front wing. These sensors enable partially autonomous driving technologies, which can be updated over the air. Lotus claims eventually Level 4 SAE autonomy will be available.
The Lotus Eletre's seats are a big talking point; there are four individual seats, although a traditional five-seater layout is standard. There is no third row as this is a high-performance SUV, not a Cadillac Escalade alternative. A fixed panoramic glass sunroof fills the cabin with light, and Lotus has utilized materials like wool-blend seat fabrics, man-made microfibers, and carbon fiber. The cargo space of the Lotus Eletre is unknown, but it should be one of the most practical vehicles to wear the Lotus badge. As can be seen from the pictures, the Lotus Eletre's interior can be finished in some outlandish colors like bright reds, or more subdued greys. Coupled with striking ambient lighting, it definitely makes a statement.
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