Lotus chief promises upcoming SUV will be true to brand

Lotus isn't the first sports car manufacturer getting into the crossover game. It's just the latest, and perhaps most surprising. That's because the British automaker made its name by keeping things as light as possible, and SUVs are anything but. Still, the company's chief executive is adamant that the crossover will be very light... and very Lotus.

Speaking with, Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales asserted, "If Colin Chapman was alive I believe he would have done" a crossover. That's a pretty bold claim made in the name of the man known for his featherweight sports and racing cars, but Gales may not just be blowing hot air.

"It will be the size of a Porsche Macan but only 1600kg, and will be the most agile and fastest of that class on a track," Gales told TG. "It's logical for us to make one in the Macan segment - the rest are all two tons, even a BMW X3. They take a normal car platform with big tires and brakes and transmission. We will use a four-cylinder engine."

Keeping it light will be a vital part of the equation for Lotus, but it won't be all. It'll also have to bring up the quality, because quirks that owners might forgive in a sports car might not be tolerated to the same extent in a more mainstream product. Fortunately, Gales has been working on that ever since he took charge of the company just last year.

He'll have that much more time to get it right by the time the crossover hits the Chinese market in 2019 or 2020. The vehicle is being designed principally for that market, and will be built locally. The design and engineering work is being carried out, however, at the company's headquarters in Hethel, England. Two designs are reportedly being considered, each with signature Lotus design traits to convey the image of light weight, with a profile reminiscent of the Elite four-seater from the 1970s. If the model proves a success in China, it could make its way back to the UK and Europe, though North American availability remains a question mark, and Lotus spokespeople have been cagey at best about plans to expand their US offerings.

Gales also told TG that the crossover will end up only helping the company's sports car offerings, not hurting them. Increasing its quality will be one part, but developing more robust components (like air conditioning systems) will be another. At very least, it will help Lotus stay profitable and fund future sports car projects that may not be possible based on their own revenues alone. It worked splendidly for Porsche, after all, and the hope is that it will do the same for Maserati, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin (to say nothing of Jaguar, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce) as well, as a growing number of sports car (and British luxury) automakers gravitate toward crossovers.

Hopefully we won't have to wait too long for Lotus to release its next batch of sports cars, though. Gales also hinted at plans for two new performance models on their way. Having just revealed the new 3-Eleven last week, Gales said he already plans a 4-Eleven that sounds like it'll be even more extreme. And a roadster version of the new Evora 400 is also said to be in the works, with a pair of carbon fiber roof panels to keep the weight down. Sounds like Chapman would at least approve of those ideas.

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