Can a niche automaker take on the behemoth that is BMW?
Colin Chapman famously described the Lotus ethos thus: Simplify, then add lightness. Company bosses nowadays would probably change that to "Diversify, then add electrification." One may not necessarily agree with the direction that Lotus has taken in revealing an electric SUV, but just as BMW and Porsche were once heavily criticized for straying from their core principles, Lotus, too, is looking for new ways to guarantee its future, beginning with a full-scale push towards electrification. The Lotus Eletre is the first of four new mainstream EVs to be revealed by the company, and with almost 600 horsepower on tap, we couldn't help but notice that its output is very close to that of the similarly tech-laden BMW iX M60. So which is better? Let's find out.
The Lotus Eletre is said to reference the Evija hypercar and Emira sports car in its styling, but we think it looks like a Lamborghini Urus crossed with some sort of Geely. Nevertheless, the design elements integrated into the styling have been integrated so as to improve the efficiency of the vehicle. It measures 200.9 inches in length (nearly five inches longer than the BMW) and boasts a vented hood and front fenders, as well as additional vents in the D-pillar and aft of the rear wheelhouse. These elements along with active front grille shutters, flush door handles, and carbon fiber inserts in the wheels all work together to reduce aerodynamic friction. As for the overall appearance, there's no denying that the floating roof spoiler, active tailgate spoiler, massaged hood, and athletic profile all make this a truly striking vehicle, and those illegal-in-America wing cameras just put the cherry on top.
The iX may not boast "the most advanced active aerodynamics package on any production SUV" as the Eletre does, but while Lotus does not disclose the Eletre's drag rating, the iX has a best-in-class drag coefficient of just 0.25 Cd. At 195 inches long, it's a little smaller than the Brit. Since the front of the iX needs no grille, its stylized kidneys act as an "intelligence panel" that houses cameras, radars, and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS); the Lotus uses deployable LiDAR that pops out when needed. BMW says that the overall shape of the vehicle was intended to maximize range, as is evidenced by electric door handles that fold away. This car also features sporty design elements like a roof spoiler, faux diffuser, and massive wheels (21 inches to the Eletre's 23 inches), but it's less resolved of a design. Both SUVs will turn heads with ease, but the Eletre is the one we'd rather look at on the drive every morning.
Lotus gives you the option of a traditional five-seat layout or a more luxurious four-seat setup. Whichever you choose, sustainable materials abound with recycled carbon fiber for decorative elements, man-made microfibers for the primary touchpoints, and "an advanced wool-blend fabric" for the seats that is 50% lighter than traditional leather. A floating center console houses two customizable cupholders, a wireless charging tray, and additional storage. Ahead of the driver sits a narrow 1.2-inch instrument display which is mirrored on the passenger side. Sandwiched between these is a 15.1-inch OLED touchscreen that can fold flat when you don't need it. A similar setup is found in the rear (if you have a four-seat layout), with this again boasting cupholders, wireless charging, and a nine-inch infotainment screen that can also fold. Along with a communicative "blade of light" in the dash and two orchestral audio options, plus the promise of up to Level 4 autonomous driving coming soon with over-the-air updates, the Eletre is a tech powerhouse.
BMW makes do with far fewer screens and stops at Level 2+ autonomy. The cabin of this car, although also offered in fascinating new colors and finishes, feels far more conventional while the Eletre feels like more of an occasion. BMW employs a 12.3-inch screen for driver information with this connected to a 14.9-inch central touchscreen display that, disappointingly, looks very much like an afterthought. That said, the system is iDrive 8 which features a rotary controller. This should make navigating menus far easier, as the Lotus alternative almost exclusively makes use of touch inputs. The iX also offers two high-end audio setups, one of which boasts as many as 30 speakers, wireless charging, and a number of additional BMW common features, but they're not enough to amaze one after seeing the Eletre.
We think the BMW will be far more ergonomic and luxurious, but the Lotus looks better, offers more innovative technologies and design ideas, and will probably be more spacious. 2-0 to the Brits.
The Lotus electric SUV rides on the automaker's new 800-volt Electric Premium Architecture, a skateboard-style platform with a battery mounted in the floor and boasting over 100 kilowatt-hours of capacity. Lotus is yet to give us specific details concerning power outputs on offer, but we are told to expect at least 591 horsepower from two electric motors. With both axles powered, the Eletre claims to sprint from 0-62 mph in under three seconds and on to a top speed of 161 mph. As for range, Lotus is aiming for around 373 miles on the WLTP cycle, so we should expect a real-world range of around 300 or so. Recharging via a 350-kW charger will give you 248 miles of range in around 20 minutes.
In the corners, this car may have added complexity to and subtracted purity from the Lotus range but its adaptive damping system is joined by active ride height variability, an active roll-bar, active rear-axle steering, and torque vectoring through the brakes. Those features should add up to a decent driving tool, while 10-piston calipers and ceramic composite discs will help bring the beast to a stop with ease.
The BMW iX M60 is capable of up to 610 hp and 811 lb-ft of torque in Sport Mode, making it more powerful than the Eletre. Lotus has not revealed the weight of its new SUV, but we suspect that it's lighter than the 5,769-pound iX, as the German can only do 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds and is limited to a top speed of 155 mph. With a 111.5-kWh battery pack (106 kWh usable), the M60 variant manages around 280 miles on a charge (EPA), and a 195-kW charger will recoup 80% charge in 35 minutes.
BMW also promises that a low-mounted battery pack will offer outstanding handling. And with adaptive air suspension, a double-wishbone front axle with a five-link rear axle, electronically controlled shock absorbers that can regulate air supply to each corner of the vehicle in milliseconds depending on loads, speed, steering angle, and more, this looks like it'll keep that promise.
However, we can't help but think that Lotus will do a better job in the corners, not just because of its heritage and expertise in chassis tuning, but because this BMW is bloody heavy. Munich may have better headline figures, but Lotus is winning the war.
Pricing and specifications for the Lotus Eletre are yet to be revealed, and we don't yet know when the Eletre will arrive in the US, but British media outlets have reported that the automaker is targeting a base price of under £100,000, or around $131,500. The BMW iX M60, on the other hand, has just been officially confirmed to start at $105,100. Fully loaded, you'll spend under $116,000. Neither car is cheap, but we're sure that what Lotus is calling the "world's first hyper-SUV" will not avoid premium pricing for even a single option.
On the whole, the BMW iX looks like the more accessible car, especially with an entry-level xDrive50 model that starts at just $83,200. It's also going to have better after-sales support and likely a more ergonomic cabin. However, the Lotus is sexier, faster, and capable of going further. It may not be what Colin Chapman ever dreamed of, but it's still a world-beater, and that's something to celebrate.