LA 2007: Lotus blossoms from Elise/Exige to Eagle to Esprit
This week in LA, veteran Lotus development engineer Roger Becker told the assembled press about the changes we'll see in the Elise and Exige for 2008. He also talked a bit about some of the changes happening at the factory and even gave us some info about new models in the company's future.
The biggest recent news for Lotus was that the Elise SC and Exige S were given an optional power boost via a Magnuson-developed supercharger that raises horsepower from 190 to 218 or 240 depending on the application. Other changes were made to all 2008 model year cars in the lineup.
Aside from upgraded brakes and a few other tweaks, the biggest changes came inside, where a new security system has been installed that for the first time ever allows a single key for Lotus owners. As a nod to American driving habits, TPMS and a new information display were also added, because as Becker put it, we aren't too aware of when a tire is going down and need to have it pointed out. That line was delivered without missing a beat and expertly showed a typically dry British sense of humor. Funny guy. Follow the jump for individual model news and to hear more about the upcoming Eagle and Esprit replacement too!
Starting at the front right corner of the booth and moving clockwise, we'll explain the current product range for 2008. The new Exige S 240 is the supercharged Exige S with 240HP. Easy enough to understand. The supercharger making this extra power was specifically designed to be compact and work efficiently without needing an intercooler, a necessity in these mid-engine cars. That brings us to one of the biggest external changes on the car. The supercharged Exige S 240 will be most noticeable because it uses a larger roof scoop that comes right to the windshield header in order to feed more air to the back. While the weight jumps to well over 2,000 pounds (2,077 actually, but hey, it's a Lotus), the 0-60 sprint drops to four seconds flat.
Next up is the Elise SC. Due to a lack of roof scoop, the power is dialed back a bit to 218HP on the supercharged Elise SC. Other than that, it basically gets the same interior and brake upgrades. Even with "just" 218HP on tap, the 0-60 time is listed at 4.4 seconds for this 1-ton rocket. Left center in the display sat the Exige S Club Racer. Basically a supercharged Exige S, with the smaller roof scoop, it has about the same HP rating as the Elise SC, but also has some unique visual cues and interior bits to make it more appropriate for weekend club racers.
At the back of the booth sat a bright red Elise California with a special interior that splashed a bit more material across the normally naked metal. That material happened to be an eye-popping white and red, in a combination that can only be pulled off in a sunny state like California. Becker joked about how tough it was to keep it clean while being developed in Hethel. The Elise California and regular Elise are the only non-supercharged cars in the fleet for '08 and soldier on with 190HP. Becker admitted that the superchargers are purely designed for Americans who are obsessed with more power. More zaniness from this hilarious Brit. Prices for the lineup range from $46,000 for the base Elise to $68,000 for the Exige S Club Racer.
Last but certainly not least, sitting at 2 o'clock in the display was the pure race 211. Although we always thought the name came from This is Spinal Tap, where the custom amps the band uses can be turned all the "to eleven," (2-11, get it?), it is in fact an homage to the classic Lotus 11 racer of yore. While we can't get one of these for anything but the track, Becker recounted how Britain allows these types of cars to wear tags under certain programmes, just to remind us that not everything is better in the colonies.
Becker took a few minutes to talk about some personnel changes the company has made to help grow the brand. Extending and strengthening the dealer network and making the assembly line more efficient were the keys. And then he let loose some info about the much-anticipated new Eagle and Esprit models. He told us that the Eagle is currently still soaring and obviously hasn't landed, but he hoped to have it on display at next year's LA Show. That car sits on a new mid-engine platform and will feature a V6 engine and 2+2 or 2+0 seating. It will also be the basis of the future Esprit replacement, which will use a V8 most likely.
That would give Lotus a three car lineup that runs from 4 to 6 to 8 cylinders and covers a wide range of classes. All of the cars will be pure Lotus, with an emphasis on light weight and phenomenal handling and balance rather than mega horsepower ratings. While the Eagle should land late next year, the Esprit will most likely appear at least a year later. We can hardly wait.
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