Leaked patent images show a rather shapely thing.
There has been talk of a high-riding, high-performance sports-utility vehicle (SUV) from UK specialist marque Lotus from as early as the mid-noughties, identifying the massive market potential such a vehicle would have far earlier than some of its contemporaries. At the Geneva motor show in 2006, the Norfolk firm showed off the APX concept, an SUV-styled product that most certainly captured the attention of the global media, who waited anxiously for what would have been a pivotal model in the history of the company.
Financial turmoil then ensued, with former Lotus boss Dany Bahar being put through the ringer for various money-related issues, ultimately resulting in his departure from the company. The SUV project, along with several other concept cars that the company presented, ended up getting shelved.
Some three years ago, former Malaysian prime minister (and then-chairman of Lotus’ former parent company PROTON) Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Lotus had had the SUV project in development since 2014, with its primary focus on the Chinese market. Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales further fanned the SUV flames by saying that the Lotus SUV would be “better than arch-rival Porsche Macan,” a strong statement given Porsche’s experience in the luxury-performance SUV market and the polished presentation of the Macan.
Of course, the APX concept would have been interesting back in 2006, but design and consumer demands have moved on considerably since then. The emergence of patent images of what appears to be a Lotus SUV, broken by Dutch publication Autovisie, have certainly furthered the rumour mill along, suggesting that perhaps the Lotus SUV is now closer to market than ever before.
Lotus itself was recently added to the Geely portfolio after the Chinese conglomerate bought a majority share in the brand (as part of a bundle in their investment into PROTON), meaning that there’s plenty of money to be spent developing what could go on to be a cash-cow for the brand, based on the sale performance of other SUVs in this segment. Previous reports have suggested that the Lotus SUV would hit the market featuring the same 3.5-litre Toyota-source petrol V6 (as used in the Evora), though the engine range may grow to meet customer demands as well as to comply with international emissions standards.
“Adding power makes you faster on the straight. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.” — Colin Chapman, Founder, Lotus
In keeping with established Lotus practices, the SUV is expected to be some 200kg lighter than the Porsche Macan S that it’s targeting, while it’s also suggested that there may be a hybrid powertrain on offer somewhere (thanks to strict Chinese emissions regulations). Should the SUV prove successful, the same platform could then be adapted into a four-door saloon car, as previewed by the Lotus Eterne concept that wowed the world back in 2010.
New owners Geely are immensely confident in the Lotus brand, with board member Carl-Peter Foster saying that the marque enjoys a strong following thanks to an unwavering commitment to the brands’ fundamentals. While they presently sell between 1,500 to 2,000 cars annually, Geely expects to be able to grow that number considerably even with the existing portfolio of vehicles, while adding more to the lineup provided they remain true to the ethos of being both light and engaging.
Geely themselves are certainly going head-on into the performance sector, with the runaway success of Volvo resulting in the ‘rebirth’ and repositioning of Polestar as a stand-alone brand, which showed to the world its very first bespoke product, the Polestar 1, earlier this week. With Lotus expected to enjoy synergies under the Geely umbrella, it isn’t impossible that the company will be lending its performance engineering expertise to its sister brands, while enjoying access to technologies developed by Volvo and Polestar to push itself forwards. Could this be the rebirth of Lotus in the making?