by Karl Furlong
Scan through the 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. What hasn't been lost is performance, as the 905-horsepower range-topping Eletre R 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.
See trim levels and configurations:
The release date for the Lotus Eletre in the USA is scheduled for 2024. It will be coming out in Europe before other major markets.
The 2024 Lotus Eletre's price remains unknown for the USA, but we know what it'll cost elsewhere. In Germany, the Eletre begins at €95,990, which translates to $94,736 at current rates. That increases to €120,990 ($119,409) for the Eletre S and €150,990 for the Eletre R ($149,000).
Rivals will include the BMW iX which will cost an MSRP of $108,900 in M60 guise. One can't ignore the Tesla Model X Plaid either, a 1,020-hp super SUV with three rows which starts at $138,990.
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. As standard, the Eletre comes with matrix LED headlights, an active front grille, and 22-inch 10-spoke forged wheels. Buyers can opt for other wheel designs in 20- or 23-inch sizes. The optional wheels are stunning, measuring 23 inches and with a machine-cut split finish with carbon fiber inserts.
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. A final notable feature is the Electric Reverse Mirror Displays with integrated cameras, replacing conventional door mirrors. However, conventional mirrors are standard. The lower trims have access to carbon fiber exterior bits and pieces.
Moving up to the Eletre S adds an active rear spoiler, privacy glass, and soft-close doors. The flagship Eletre R sits even lower to the ground. You can also spot this one by its black badging, gloss black wheels, high-performance tires, and a Carbon Fiber Pack.
At launch, the Lotus Eletre's colors include Natron Red, Galloway Green, Stellar Black, Kaimu Grey, Blossom Grey, and the vivid Solar Yellow. There will also be different brake caliper colors, including red, green, or black for models in the USA. You can choose to option your Eletre with black exterior trim and black badges, but these come standard on top-spec models.
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 on 20-inch wheels. The wheelbase measures 118.9 inches.
With certain options, the specs above change somewhat. The width with the Electric Reverse Mirror Displays is 84 inches, and the height rises to 64.4 inches with the larger 22- or 23-inch wheels. On 20s, the ground clearance is 7.3 inches, while on 22s or 23s, it's 7.6 inches.
Curb weights range from around 5,490 pounds on the base model to 5,820 lbs on the top model. It was telling that, at launch, the automaker made no mention of how much the Eletre would weigh - 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. There are three distinct models: Eletre, Eletre S, and Eletre R. The first two models each use a single-speed setup and have outputs of 603 horsepower and 524 lb-ft of torque. Directing power to all four wheels, these models will go from 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds before reaching a top speed of 160 mph. Passing power is exceptional, with under 2.2 seconds required to get from around 50 to 75 mph (80 to 100 km/h).
The model that most will be talking about is the Eletre R. This one makes a substantial 905 hp and 726 lb-ft, and with its two-speed powertrain, it'll blast its way to 62 mph in 2.95 seconds. Here, the 50-75 mph dash takes less than 1.9 seconds, and the top speed rises to 165 mph, enough for Lotus to tout the Eletre R as the fastest dual-motor pure electric SUV in the world. The top speed is 2 mph faster than the Tesla Model X Plaid.
There are five driving modes 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. Still, with torque vectoring, it should handle as well as can be expected for a big, heavy EV.
For the Eletre R, a Track mode is standard. When selected, the SUV's ride height is lowered while both the dampers and anti-roll control are configured to prioritize sharp dynamics. For the quickest blasts with launch control, Track mode fully opens the active grille, and the Lotus Dynamic Handling Pack is also inclusive for the Eletre R.
Lotus is said to be working on new technology that will let customers drive the Nurburgring autonomously, although this seems to defeat the hands-on purpose of experiencing this circuit.
All versions come with a large 112-kWh battery, and this allows the Eletre and Eletre S to attain a 373-mile maximum range based on the WLTP cycle and with 20-inch wheels. For the more powerful Eletre R, the range drops to 304 miles. However, EPA range and MPGe ratings are likely to be less than this when those figures are published.
Using rapid charging at up to 350 kW, the battery can be replenished from 10% to 80% in only 20 minutes. Put another way, those charging speeds are enough for almost 250 miles of range. It 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 2,160-watt system replaces that in the Eletre S.
Standard features, at least in other markets, will be 12-way power front seats, wireless phone charging, and four-zone automatic climate control.
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 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. For markets that don't yet allow this LiDAR tech, it can be added at a later stage via integrated over-the-air updates.
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. Lotus has also introduced a new green alternative to leather which is said to last even longer than the real deal.
The cargo space of the Lotus Eletre is 21.6 cubic feet with four seats and 24.3 cubes with five seats, making it 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. In all, six interior colors will be available. Coupled with striking ambient lighting, it definitely makes a statement.
The most popular competitors of 2024 Lotus Eletre: