Forget small steps, Lotus has jumped feet first into the world of electric SUVs.
Yesterday, Lotus revealed that its first SUV, internally known as the Type 132, would be officially called the Eletre. As the brand's first-ever SUV and the first of its accessible EVs (the Evija hypercar is yet to hit the road and isn't exactly a blue-collar hero), this is a very important model for Lotus as it looks to shrug off years of disappointing false starts. Teasers for the car started showing up last year but now it has finally been revealed in all its electric glory. While it subtly references the Lotus Emira in its styling, this is an SUV with a flavor all its own, but is it good enough to take on the Mustang Mach-E, Jaguar I-Pace, and Tesla's SUVs?
Dubbed a "hyper SUV" by Group Lotus CEO Qingfeng Feng, the Eletre "is for those who dare to look beyond the conventional and marks a turning point for our business and brand." The brand's first production five-door rides on Lotus' new 800-volt Electric Premium Architecture (EPA). This skateboard-style architecture comprises a battery with over 100 kilowatt-hours of capacity and two electric motors for effective all-wheel drive. The twin motors generate upwards of 600 metric horsepower (591 hp in our money), although exact outputs are not confirmed. The top speed is 161 mph with a 0-62 mph time of under three seconds. Lotus is targeting a driving range of 373 miles on the WLTP cycle, so expect a slightly lower domestic rating. When you need a recharge, a 350-kW charger will deliver 248 miles of range in 20 minutes.
Adaptive damping, active ride height variability, active rear-axle steering, an active roll-bar, and torque vectoring through braking will be offered too - the latter thanks to massive 10-piston calipers and ceramic composite rotors housed within standard 23-inch wheels with carbon fiber inserts. Four drive modes will adjust steering, dampers, powertrain, and pedal response: Range, Tour, Sport, Off-Road, and Individual.
SUVs are not typically candidates for the most beautiful designs on the planet, and this is no different. Sure, it's striking, but it certainly feels like this could be a relative of the Lamborghini Urus, at least from the front. If its contemporary styling isn't attractive to you, know that this car boasts "the most advanced active aerodynamics package on any production SUV," says Lotus.
The automaker decided to give the Eletre a cab-forward stance, a long wheelbase (118.9 inches), and short front and rear overhangs (total length is 200.9 inches) and says that a signature element of the design is "its 'porosity' - the aerodynamic principle of air flowing through the car as well as under, over and around it." This is evident in the air exit vents in the hood and the areas ahead of and behind the front wheel arches, behind the rear wheels, and at the top of the D-pillar.
Slim light clusters give the front a menacing appearance and feature daytime running lights and scrolling directional indicators. The main lamps can be had with Matrix LED technology and below this is an active grille that can respond to the cooling needs of the electric motors, battery pack, and front brakes. All black components are finished in carbon fiber while the body is made of aluminum. Speaking of those panels, the door handles are flush while the charging port is in the front wing, where the deployable LIDAR sensors are. Further bolstering style and aerodynamic efficiency are cameras in place of wing mirrors, although US-spec models will have to make do with conventional mirrors. For those that get the full package, one mirror takes care of the rear view while a second helps create a 360-degree view, and the third works with the LIDAR system to help with autonomous driving duties.
The rear of the car joins the full-width taillight fad. A split carbon fiber floating roof spoiler channels air down the glass to the active tailgate spoiler, which boasts three distinct angles depending on drive mode.
Inside, one can have five seats or a sporty four-seat layout. An optional (outside of China) panoramic glass roof adds light and contributes to a spacious feel. As for materials, sustainability is key, so Lotus worked with Kvadrat to source man-made microfibers for the primary touchpoints and "an advanced wool-blend fabric on the seats." This is said to be 50% lighter than traditional leather. Hard materials include carbon fiber, but rather than using the traditional weave that is common in the industry, Lotus has recycled the fibers trimmed from the edge of the weave, with these reconstructed into a new matting and then compressed in a resin to create an exclusive, marble-like finish, otherwise known as forged carbon.
The triangular theme seen on the front grille is echoed in the cabin design while the floating rear spoiler is referenced in the floating instrument panel.
Despite such a focus on looks, the cabin is practical too, with a storage tray offering wireless smartphone charging and twin cupholders of various sizes. Even the doors are designed to fit large water bottles while the space between the rear chairs adds a similar setup with a nine-inch touchscreen handling infotainment and adding another access point for wireless charging.
The high-tech feel continues with a "blade of light" that runs through the cabin and is used to communicate information to occupants, much like Volkswagen's ID.Light. The driver's instrument cluster has been streamlined and now measures under 1.2 inches tall. This is repeated on the passenger side and can here show things like music selection or nearby points of interest. In between these two strips is a 15.1-inch OLED touchscreen that can fold flat when not needed. Information from this can also be transmitted to the driver via a head-up display that features augmented reality technology as standard. Audio comes courtesy of British brand KEF's Premium surround sound system with 15 speakers and 1,380 watts of power. Alternatively, one could upgrade to the KEF Reference 2,160-watt system with 23 speakers and 3D technology.
Other highlights include adaptive cruise control and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), many of which Lotus has designed to be improved through over-the-air (OTA) updates. With this, Lotus says the Eletre "supports end-to-end autonomous driving technology and is future-proofed for further development, achievable because of the hardware that's already integrated." Lotus hasn't stated what level of autonomous driving the Eletre provides at present, but expect at least Level 2 to start off with.
The Eletre will be built at Lotus' new facility in Wuhan, China later this year, but Lotus is yet to detail pricing and US availability. Likewise, final power outputs, and even details like weight, will likely arrive closer to the market launch.