New Lotus Eletre electric SUV: Britain’s answer to BMW iX unveiled
The Eletre boasts a claimed range of over 370 miles and a sub-three-second 0-62mph time; production of the electric ‘hyper-SUV’ starting later this year
Lotus, for its entire history a purveyor of lightweight sports cars, has officially entered the electric SUV game. The Eletre serves as the company’s follow-up to the near-2,000bhp Evija zero-emissions hypercar – and its rival for the Audi e-tron, BMW iX and Tesla Model X.
The Eletre isn’t just the first SUV Lotus has produced, it’s also the firm’s first five-door and the first model to debut following the launch of its final combustion-engined model, the Emira. Lotus has expressed big ambitions for its first electric SUV, not just in terms of global sales and revenue, but also in making the brand more accessible to a wider array of drivers.
By doing so, the Eletre is laying the groundwork for a new range of lifestyle EVs Lotus has already announced – but more on those later. While official performance and range figures for the Eletre have yet to be revealed, Lotus is targeting a sub-three-second 0-62mph time and over 370-mile range. The car uses an all-new EV-dedicated platform, with a dual-motor setup making upwards of 592bhp, drawing power from a 100kWh-capacity battery.
The Eletre will be built in Lotus' brand-new factory in China, with production of the 'hyper-SUV' on track to begin by the end of the year. First examples are due to arrive in Europe in spring 2023. Pricing has yet to be announced, but reservations for the Eletre are being taken now.
Lotus Eletre design
While an SUV is a radical departure from the low-slung, two-door Elise, Exige and Esprit sports cars that Lotus built its reputation on, the Eletre does use the latest “carved by air” design philosophy established by the Emira and Evija.
Short overhangs at the front and rear and a three-metre wheelbase are both elements typical of other flagship EVs, and Lotus has combined these with a number of aerodynamic-focused features. For example, there’s a ‘floating’ split roof spoiler that directs air on to the rear spoiler. Plus, there are numerous vents that channel air through the car’s body to reduce wind resistance. This improves efficiency and performance, claims Lotus.
The Eletre measures over five metres nose to tail and stands 1.63 metres tall. Width ranges from 2.1 to 2.2 metres depending on whether the optional digital wing mirrors are fitted. There’s 400 litres of boot space on offer, plus a 77-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet. Lotus says the Eletre will weigh under two tonnes when it hits the road, however the final figure has yet to be revealed.
As well as being eye-catching, the Eletre also features the “most advanced active aerodynamics package on any production SUV” according to Lotus. That includes the active rear spoiler, which deploys automatically at certain speeds, while the front grille can open when the battery pack, front brakes or electric motors need cooling, remaining closed the rest of the time to improve aerodynamics.
The front end also features Matrix LED lights and there’s a full-width light bar at the rear. The car shown here is riding on 23-inch alloy wheels with carbon-fibre inserts, behind which are 10-piston carbon-ceramic brakes – both of which will be offered as optional extras.
Range, performance, battery and charging
Under the Eletre’s heavily sculpted bodywork is an over-100kWh battery that feeds a pair of electric motors – one powering the front axle and another the rear. As a result, not only does the Eletre have all-wheel-drive, but Lotus says power outputs will start at 592bhp, while more potent versions will produce close to 900bhp.
According to Lotus, the Eletre will be capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in less than three seconds, which is quicker than the range-topping BMW iX M60 and close to the over-1,000bhp Tesla Model X Plaid’s 2.6-second 0-60mph time.
An official range figure has yet to be confirmed, but Lotus says it’s targeting close to 373 miles (600 kilometres) on a charge. That would be in line with the iX, which in its longest-range form can cover 380 miles when topped up, as well as the latest Tesla Model X Long Range, which will cover around 350 miles on a charge.
Thanks to 800-volt electrical architecture, you’ll be able to plug the Eletre into a 350kW ultra-rapid charger and add nearly 250 miles of range in just 20 minutes. Charging at home can be done at up to 22kW if you have the necessary three-phase electrics, but if not a regular 7.4kW home wallbox is likely to take close to 17 hours to fill the Lotus’ battery. There are charging ports located on both sides of the car for easier access.
Another performance-orientated feature of the Eletre is torque vectoring by braking, which should help with handling in the five-metre-long SUV. Meanwhile, rear-axle steering should help improve manoeuvrability at lower speeds, as well as stability at high speeds. Air suspension comes as standard, as does a choice of range, tour, sport, off-road and individual driving modes.
Interior and technology
At the heart of the Eletre’s cabin is a 15.1-inch central infotainment touchscreen whose user interface, according to Lotus, allows 95% of the car’s functions to be accessed with three or fewer touches. The central screen is flanked by two slim digital instrument panels: one for the driver and another for the front passenger. On top of those displays are LED strips that change colour to illustrate things like an incoming phone call or changing cabin temperature. The driver also benefits from a standard augmented-reality head-up display.
The steering wheel itself has the same squared-off shape as the one in the Emira. The Eletre’s also houses the controls for the infotainment and adaptive cruise control, while the paddles behind it adjust the strength of the regenerative braking. Interestingly, when you open the door, the front seats and steering wheel move back to help create more room to get in, before returning to their set position once you shut the door.
As standard, the Eletre comes with five seats, but it’ll also be offered with a four-seater layout as shown here. In this version, the middle seat is replaced by a centre console with two cupholders, a wireless charging tray and a nine-inch angled touchscreen to control the infotainment.
One thing you won’t find in the Eletre’s cabin is leather. Instead, Lotus has used microfibres for key touchpoints and wool-blend fabrics for the upholstery, because they're 50% lighter, in addition to employing recycled carbon-fibre trim for hard surfaces.
The Eletre will be available with virtual door mirrors that use body-mounted cameras in place of traditional side mirrors in markets that allow it. These include the UK, as both the soon-to-be-facelifted Audi e-tron SUV and the Honda e city car use this technology. The mirror units also house a second camera for the 360-degree parking display and a third for the autonomous driving systems.
As the most ‘connected’ Lotus yet, the Eletre gets a wide array of advanced driver assistance systems, ranging from adaptive cruise control and road-sign recognition, to lane-keep assistance and collision mitigation. Several of the Eletre’s systems use data from the car’s deployable LIDAR sensors, which remain hidden until they’re needed, protruding from the top of the windshield and rear glass and from the front wheelarches.
This LIDAR technology, combined with other sensors and cameras around the car, should allow for some level of autonomous driving. The Eletre will be able to receive over-the-air (OTA) software updates from Lotus, plus owners can buy new software-based features as well. A dedicated smartphone app will allow owners to check vehicle and charge status, as well as carrying out other functions.
Prices and equipment
While a starting price for the Eletre remains under wraps at the time of writing, we expect it to begin at around £100,000 based on the amount of technology on board, plus the range and performance on offer. The similarly capable BMW iX xDrive50 starts at just over £93,000, while the range-topping iX M60 starts at nearly £112,000.
In terms of optional extras, we do know that the 23-inch alloy wheels and panoramic sunroof seen on the car in our pictures won’t be standard. The Eletre will come with an 800-watt, 15-speaker sound system from British brand KEF, but customers will have the option to upgrade to a 23-speaker setup with nearly double the power.
Future Lotus electric car range
While the Eletre SUV may not be Lotus’ first-ever EV – that honour goes to the near-2,000bhp Evija hypercar – it is the first in a line-up of three electric ‘lifestyle’ models Lotus has previously announced.
Following the Eletre will be a similarly sized four-door coupe in 2023, referred to as the Type 133. This could be a direct rival for the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S. Then, 2024 will see the launch of a smaller SUV, currently codenamed Type 134, that’s expected to compete with the electric Porsche Macan and Audi Q6 e-tron.
Both of these models will use the same all-new ‘Premium Architecture’ platform that underpins the Eletre. All three 'lifestyle' models will also be built in China. Finally, in 2026, Lotus will launch a zero-emissions sports car, which will share a platform with the electric successor to the Alpine A110 and use technology developed specifically for it by battery specialist BritishVolt.
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