• Sep 30, 2010
Lotus Esprit Concept - Click above for high-res image gallery

It's been a while since something took us by surprise at an auto show. Usually we've seen the pictures and read the press releases a few days ahead of time, so there's nothing new revealed we weren't already expecting. Until today. We were expecting Lotus to reveal a pair of new Evora models, a new front-engined GT called the Elite, and if we were lucky, maybe the new Esprit. What we got was something much, much better.

As we arrived at the Lotus booth here at the Paris Motor Show, we spotted a total of five cars under cover. Perhaps a concept and some new versions of existing cars? What proceeded to happen was something entirely unexpected. Lotus CEO Dany Bahar addressed the crowd, announcing that Lotus would be entering a new era. In a matter of minutes, the wraps were pulled off the Esprit, Elan, Elite, Elise and Eterne concept cars, each time with a gasp from the crowd as the next concept's name was announced. This wasn't just the introduction of a few concept cars. We were witnessing the complete and utter revitalization, rebranding and rebirth of a legendary car company.

Lotus Elise and Elan concepts – Click above for high-res image galleries

With this new lineup of cars, it's easy to see that Lotus wants to play with the big boys – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Aston Martin. Bahar had announced last year that this was the direction the company would take, but we didn't expect it to happen so soon or all at once.

One question still has to be asked, though. Is this direction the right one for Lotus? We can appreciate all forms of performance cars, but is there enough room for Lotus to edge its way into each of these target markets? Can the Esprit conquer the McLaren MP4-12C or the Ferrari 458 Italia? Will buyers go for a Lotus Elite over the Ferrari 599 GTB or the Aston Martin DBS?

Lotus Elite and Eterne concepts – Click above for high-res image galleries

Lotus has long been the master of lightweight, nimble sports cars, and many will undoubtedly say that the company should stick to the same cars it's been building for the last decade. After all, what would Colin Chapman say about a Lotus coupe that weighs over 3,600 pounds? And a grown up Elise? Then there's the styling. As usual, we're split down the middle here at Autoblog. Half of us love the styling, while the other 50 percent thinks it looks too generic. In the end, only time will tell whether Lotus fans will like the direction the company is headed.

There's quite a bit of information on each vehicle, so click the links below to learn more about them.

You can also browse through our live galleries of each concept:

Live photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      This new design direction is simply gorgeous.

      Sure makes Porsche look stale (and there's one in my garage, so I would know...)
      • 3 Years Ago
      SEND THIS PAGE TO Marcus Drake USA via marnov_07@yahoo.com -apply to Drake Marine UnLtd client list that increase yr sales from 800 to 1250 for SELECT GROUP /approval DANY BAHAR or WOLF ZIMMERMANN
      • 4 Years Ago
      well all BMW's look the same.
        • 4 Years Ago
        True(ish) but the BMW's weren't all introduced on the same day. Viewed side-by-side the cars have a strong familial similarity, but also clear differences. I think the same is true of this crop of Lotuses (Loti?), but by unveiling them all at once, the similarities are catching more attention because we aren't used to the look of any one of them to serve as a reference point for the others. Also, the size / wheelbase / equipment level differences aren't as evident in pictures.

        Personally; they've grown on me quickly, but they don't scream 'Lotus.'

        Also, as Porsche has garnered a loyal following with the 911, I think Lotus could have done something a little more angular and wedge-like with the Esprit.

        I do understand what they're trying to do though: While my first instinct is "Lotus builds small light sports cars" the fact of the matter is, while they've done that better than anybody, they've also shown it's pretty hard to make a going concern of doing so. Hence the cascade of ownership changes & rescues over the years.

        If you think about it, while the looks are similar, the products don't overlap:

        Elise - Pure sports car, small, simple & light
        Elan - Medium 2+2 (just an Evora rebodied to the new corporate face is my guess)
        Esprit - full-on performance/sports with amenities (911 competitor)
        Elite - GT (luxury sports coupe in the Aston tradition - Astons aren't lightweight)
        Eterne - 4D Sedan version of the GT
      • 4 Years Ago
      And the money for funding the tooling, and production of these vehicles is where?
        • 4 Years Ago
        In Malaysia courtesy of Proton Motors. Same folks funding the Lotus F1 team.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly what i was thinking! I love lotus but they don't have the best financial history. Is Proton really willing to put this kind of money into lotus? If they do they can turn a great name into a great brand.

        On another note why reuse the name Elan? It dosn't have the best reputation. or are they hinting this one will be front wheel drive and out preformed by a miata?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think this is fantastic, i like all models even the city car, and its true the elise, esprit and elan looks like something lamborghini could come up with, but better. count me in as a customer if i win the lottery.
      • 4 Years Ago

      "One question still has to be asked, though. Is this direction the right one for Lotus?"

      What direction would that be? According to Autocar, Lotus has lost money for the past 15 years with it's "direction." I think anything that makes money for the company is a good thing. It's not like they're Honda, attempting to embrace a new era with half-hearted products.

      That being said, these look pretty generic. The Elise is the best resolved. Everything else, honestly, is bland. Good. It's just...once you get passed the initial shock of all of these debuts, you kinda realize there's not much character to the designs. They look nice, yes, well proportioned, of course. But Lotus seems to have designed all of these without answering the question that has plagued them for the past decade:

      "what is Lotus?"

      Just my .02.

      • 4 Years Ago
      I thought the Evora was a sign of things to come (and I really liked the Evora). I had no idea it go this far. These new cars look nice, but at a glance they redefine rebadging. They all look almost exactly the same. It's they're all special editions of a single model line.

      Not a huge fan of the direction Lotus is going. I guess their niche was getting a little too tight for their wallets. R.I.P. Lotus of ACBC. I'm sure the new Lotus will be quite successful, but I'll be waiting in line for an Exige or Elise before I buy one of these (If i even had the dough yet).
      • 4 Years Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Simply stunning. Also, this makes the most sense; whatever you may say about Lotus's heritage, it simply wasn't working out financially, so they needed to change the game completely - now, I'm glad they did.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't get me wrong, I like the design, but they do all look alike.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the designs. I really like the 3/4 rear shot of the Esprit.

      Like Autoblog, I do question what Colin Chapman say about a Lotus weighing over 3,600 pounds. Even the V8 Esprit had a curb weight under 3000lbs. Ultimately though, I have a feeling that to get the volume Lotus seems to want they have to add features and therefore weight.

      • 4 Years Ago
      So pretty.
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