Suddenly, the Tesla Model X—yes, that Model X, the electric SUV with the wild articulating doors—looks old and boring. Following hard on the heels of the impressively engineered mid-engine Emira, the all-new Lotus Eletre, which goes on sale in Europe and China in 2023 and is tentatively scheduled for release in the U.S. in 2024 or 2025, is a sharp and focused take on an electric powered high-performance SUV.
Here are the headline numbers: The Eletre (it’s pronounced ee-let-truh, and apart from the obvious play on “electric,” the word apparently means “coming to life” in some eastern European languages) and is catchier than the model’s pre-reveal codename “Type 132. ” Lotus will launch the SUV with a dual-motor powertrain producing at least 600 hp fed by a 100-kWh battery. Lotus says the Eletre will zing from zero to 60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 161 mph.
Claimed range on the European WLTP cycle is about 373 miles, which translates to about 332 miles on the tougher EPA test. And the Eletre’s 800-volt electrical architecture means the battery can be topped up to deliver 248 miles of range in 20 minutes when the car is hooked up to a 350-kW charger.
The Eletre is one of the most radical Lotus cars in history and showcases the future direction of the storied British brand under the ownership of Chinese automaker Geely, which also owns Volvo and Polestar and has a 9.7-percent stake in Mercedes-Benz. Under Geely, Lotus will be producing nothing but electric vehicles by 2030 and is expanding its sales operations to markets around the world, including the U.S.
The Eletre is built on the all-new Lotus Electric Premium Architecture (EPA) developed jointly with Geely. Lotus says for the EPA, which is different from the Electric Sportscar Architecture (ESA) it is working on with Renault’s Alpine brand, and that the setup can be easily adapted to accommodate different battery sizes, motors, component layouts and intelligent driving technologies.
In addition to the 100 kWh battery and compact dual motors with integrated controllers and reducers, the Eletre version of the platform gets a multi-link air suspension and continuously variable damping all round. Active ride height and active anti-roll bars, along with rear-wheel steering and torque vectoring will be available as options on the Eletre, along with 23-inch alloy wheels
The Eletre will have a staggered tire setup, using Pirelli PZeros measuring 285/35 up front and 325/30 at the rear on the 23-in wheels shown here. Though this is the tallest and heaviest car in the company’s history, the chassis has been tuned to deliver the dynamics expected of a Lotus, says vehicle attributes and product integrity director Gavan Kershaw.
“Dynamically, the Eletre has been developed to deliver everything you would expect from a Lotus—outstanding ride and handling, highly communicative steering and exceptional driver engagement,” Kershaw says. “From a performance perspective, we know the world is watching so there has been an obsession with getting everything just right.”
Four different drive modes—Range, Tour, Sport and Off-Road—adjust steering and accelerator pedal response, along with damping rates and powertrain output. And Individual mode will allow drivers to mix and match some settings to suit their personal driving styles.
Of Course, There Will Be Driver Assists
Beyond its electric powertrain, the Eletre is awash with advanced technologies, the most striking of which is the world’s first deployable LIDAR system. The four LIDAR units, one at the top of the windshield, one at the top of the backlight, and one on each front fender, are hidden when not in use, thus preserving the Eletre’s svelte appearance.
Those LIDAR units not only support many of the Eletre’s driver assistance systems but will also enable “end-to-end” autonomous driving capability. What that means, says Lotus, is customers will be able to use their smartphone app to request their Eletre to drive to them autonomously from a nearby parking space, and then autonomously repark itself at the end of the journey.
Lotus says further autonomous driving capability can be added via over-the-air software updates, as (and when) allowed by local market regulations. Many of the Eletre’s other driver assist systems will also be able to have their features and capabilities enhanced via over-the-air updates.
Big Lamborghini Energy
Designed under the direction of Ben Payne, head of design at the Lotus Tech Creative Centre in Warwickshire, England, a facility overseen by former Volvo and Geely design chief Peter Horbury, the 200.9-inch long and 64.2-inch tall Eletre has a cab-forward stance that recalls mid-engine Lotus sports cars, and sculpted aluminum panels teased out over a 118.8in wheelbase.
For context, the Eletre has 2.1 inches more space between the axles than a Tesla Model X and is 2.6 inches longer overall and 0.8 inches lower. This is not a small Lotus.
The aggressive front graphic features daytime running lights mounted high at the leading edge of the bodywork above a full-width black section that conceals the recessed headlights and hidden vents that direct air up and over the hood and past the front wheels. Below that is an active grille made up of a series of interconnecting triangular panels that open to feed air into the radiator when the electric motors, battery pack and front brakes need cooling.
The side view is dominated by the heavy sculpting of the front door to allow air to flow from the vent on the trailing edge of the front fender, and a pronounced haunch over the rear wheel that rises to meet a roofline that gracefully falls away from the steeply raked A-pillars. The floating D-pillar features an integrated air blade.
The rear is dominated two large vents that are bridged by a thin light bar, and a roof spoiler system that comprises two carbon fibre winglets cantilevered from the roof cant rails. The winglets function just like a conventional, full-width roof spoiler, guiding airflow down the backlight and on to a spoiler that deploys out of the tailgate at speed. Lotus says eliminating the centre section of the roof spoiler has not only saved weight, but also allows the rear-facing LIDAR to deploy when needed.
All those vents recall the design language of the 1972-hp electric-powered Evija hypercar Lotus unveiled in 2019. There’s function behind the form, says design chief Payne: Channelling air through the car – something Lotus describes as ‘porosity’ – as well as over, under and around it helps make the Eletre more efficient in terms of its range, speed and performance. To our eyes, the SUV at first seems to wear a little Lamborghini in certain details, but the overall effect is softer and more elegant than the brutal Lamborghini Urus.
Lotus Show You the Inside
Lotus interiors have long tended towards being functional rather than premium. The Eletre changes all that.
Available as a five-seater, or in the optional four-seat configuration shown here, the Eletre features premium, highly durable man-made microfibres on the primary touchpoints and an advanced wool-blend fabric on the seats. The hard surfaces are carbon fibre, the fibres trimmed from the edge of woven carbon fibre mats used elsewhere by Lotus and reconstructed and compressed in a resin to create a marble-like finish.
The dash has a light blade that runs the full width of the car and changes color to alert occupants to incoming phone calls, changes in cabin temperature, and changes to the battery charge status. There’s no big instrument binnacle behind the steering wheel. Instead, a 1.2-inch-wide panel just below the light bar shows the driver key information. A similar panel on the other side of the dash shows the front seat passenger entertainment and location information
Between the two panels, at the center of the dash, is a 15.1-inch OLED touch screen. Lotus says 95 percent of the Eletre’s functionality can be accessed with no more than three touches on the screen. Even so, certain key controls, such as drive selection, climate control temperature settings, audio adjustment, and adaptive cruise control actuation, can also be controlled via simple, easy to use analog switches. The OLED screen automatically folds flat when not in use. Information can also be displayed to the driver via the standard augmented reality head-up display.
Standard audio system is from British premium manufacturer KEF and features an 800-watt, 15-speaker setup. Those wanting even higher fidelity sound in their Eletres can upgrade to the 1500-watt, 23-speaker KEF Reference system that features the first application of the company’s high-performance speaker and subwoofer design in an automotive audio system.
The Eletre represents a momentous point in the history of Lotus, says managing director Matt Windle. “This car has the soul of a Lotus and the usability of an SUV,” he says. “We’re confident it will delight performance car customers and offer a distinct alternative to the segment’s established players.”