The current line-up of Lotus Cars is about to get a new addition, or so the news vine seems to think, with an upcoming resurrection of the open-top Elan nameplate to trade blows with cars such as the Porsche 718 Boxster and the like.
According to Brit mag Autocar, the all-new Elan will spearhead the company’s ambitious ‘Vision80’ revival plan set to be executed over the next decade. Positioned above the Elise, the two-seat convertible will feature a more spacious cabin, generous creature comforts, and a far more sophisticated ride.
However, these additions will not be at the expense of the more fundamental aspects of the Lotus ethos such as sharp handling and low weight. To this end, the all-new Elan’s (re)introduction also hinges on the development of an all-new platform centred around a rivet-bonded alloy core architecture.
It will carry forward the most desirable aspects from the now-decade old Evora underpinnings but introduce improved rigidity and refinement as well as some degree of modularity to lay the groundwork for other cars, such as the Esprit, to make a return; presumably as their high performance luxury flagship.
Lotus is most definitely in a position of flux after their change of parent company. Geely took over from Proton when the Chinese company took a near 50 percent stake in the Malaysian automaker. Since then, they’ve most notably announced the Evija, a very low volume EV hypercar that they peg to be capable of generating almost 1,500kW - the most powerful in the world, on paper.
Some, including this writer, argue that such a project is overly ambitious for the British sports car brand, known for its no frills lightweight composite machines, to tackle multiple challenging automotive disciplines wholly alien to them: a fully electric powertrain and a car weighing over over 1.6 tonnes (a conservative projection), among others.
A two-seat Elan roadster, however, is much more their speed and would allow Lotus to demonstrate their technical expertise and while flaunting the innovations made possible by through Geely-funded resources. From there, the world might be keener to partake in the storied British marque’s second wind.
After all, an integral part of their 10 year strategy concerns sales, and their goal of finding owners for 10,000 cars annually by 2029 will not be achieved any sooner through riskier projects such as the Evija. A return of the Elan and, perhaps, an Esprit - if done right - will greatly bolster the company’s portfolio and put at ease those who are cautiously optimistic of the company’s near term prospects.
Lotus will also need to invest in more high level aspects of automotive production and infrastructure if it intends to manufacture that many models at the volume intended. A new platform is a step in the right direction, especially because the current Elise/Exige’s underlying structure can trace its roots to 1995, and should streamline costs and operations significantly. Still, there are many more efficiencies to be found and exploited.
As far as the all-new Elan, the car will likely have much carryover DNA with the FWD Isuzu-powered M100 version from the early 1990s and will instead be a truer successor to the 1960s original, at least in spirit. Should this be the case, it’s possible that Lotus will field a car with a front-engine, rear-drive layout for the first time in decades.
Other possible rivals would include the BMW Z4 and the Toyota GR Supra, particularly if Lotus decides to power it with a force-inducted four-cylinder engine. Speaking of which, it’s unclear at this point if the next-generation of Hethel-made cars will use engines developed in-house or continue its sourcing from third parties such as Toyota. This seems very unlikely in the medium-to-long term, but adds considerable cost to the Lotus proposition.
With the automaker now ultimately beholden to Geely’s whims, it’s also quite likely that each new Lotus will be developed with support for electrified powertrains, adding further complexity to a brand that prides itself on the low weight and simplicity of its cars’ analogue inputs and instinctive drive.