Lotus Esprit Concept
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:

Related GalleryParis 2010: Lotus Esprit Concept

Related GalleryParis 2010: Lotus Eterne Concept

Related GalleryParis 2010: Lotus Elite Concept
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Related GalleryParis 2010: Lotus Elise Concept

Related GalleryParis 2010: Lotus Elan Concept

Live photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL