This year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK saw Lotus celebrating its 75th anniversary. The revered Geely-owned sports car brand did so in style. Having one of the largest stands at the event, Lotus lovers were able to get close to the latest models, while learning more about them with in-house expert representatives.
The stand showcased the world debut of the four-cylinder Lotus Emira – the most powerful four-cylinder Lotus sports car ever – which joined the all-electric SUV, the Eletre, alongside the Evija, an all-electric hypercar.
Frankie Youd spoke to Ben Payne, chief creative officer, and Simon Lane, director, Lotus Advanced Performance, to discuss the models showcased at the event as well as the electric future of the Lotus brand.
Frankie Youd (FY): How is this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed going?
Ben Payne (BP): It’s going well, so far. We have a large stand and we have quite a big presence from the Eletre which is a new product for us, the first lifestyle product for Lotus and an all-electric SUV. It is the first time for a European or UK customer to be able to get in the car and experience it properly. We also have it running up the hill as well.
We also have the Emira here; people are quite interested in that. So far, it’s been super busy and we’ve got quite a good presence here with a very big stand making a lot of impact, and a lot of digital content is also available.
Simon, could you highlight some key features of the Lotus Emira?
Simon Lane (SL): I’m a sports car fan, so I love the Emira, it’s an amazing car. I hope at some point I have one as a daily driver; it’s like a Swiss army knife on wheels!
On the Emira, I think my favourite feature is that you can still get a manual gearbox on the V6. I’ve had a V6 for a couple of weeks and it’s just so much fun! The way that the gearbox operates, the way that Gavan Kershawhe has achieved the vehicle attributes and engineering on it, the way that they’ve located the gear lever – it’s brilliant.
The fact that we are still producing one is great, as so many manufacturers now have walked away from that.
Ben, could you discuss the Lotus Eletre?
BP: It’s a big step forward for the brand. We have taken Lotus away from the revered tradition of making lightweight sports cars to the first lifestyle products. It’s a way that we’re going to engage with more customers and broaden the brand appeal away from just a two-seater sports car.
What we have on show is four or five seat version of this new hyper SUV which is a fully electric product. It’s kind of the first step on our journey to becoming a fully electrified brand.
We showed the Evija in 2019, which is the first electric product for Lotus, and these are the first mass produced EVs that the brand is going to produce. It’s the first step in that journey to becoming a completely electrified brand.
It’s still very much a high-performance product. It has the core DNA of Lotus in terms of ride, handling, dynamic capability, and it is also extremely powerful and versatile. The ‘R’ model has 905 horsepower – it’s quite a serious piece of kit.
We also look at performance as a 360-degree solution. With the right charging infrastructure, it’s extremely fast charging, and the digital and intelligent capabilities of the car are next level as well. It’s a very complete package that Lotus is delivering. Aesthetically I think it’s a very appealing product.
It obviously won’t feel like a super lightweight sports car, but for a vehicle in this SUV category, it’s as nimble and dynamic and capable as I think anyone can achieve. It’s a wonderfully engaging product to drive.
What would you say to an existing Lotus customer who is maybe hesitant on making the switch to an EV model?
BP: I think we should embrace it; we all need to. We need to improve things for the future of the planet.
This is just the next step in technological advancement as well. Lotus is always trying to be at the forefront of engineering solutions, to implement technology and create something engaging for the customer.
We’re bringing what is the latest generation of technology and putting a bit of the Lotus magic over that. They should come and have a look at what we’re doing and engage with it, and I think they’ll see within the realm of the EV, we are doing the right things for our brand and bringing that to life.
Also, performance-wise, you can do a lot with EVs, and I think the performance that we have with our electrified line-up that is coming is just stunning. I think people will really enjoy driving the cars and they’ll reap the benefits of being able to do that in a guilt-free way. That’s what it’s all about. Performance without having to feel that you’re having a negative impact on people and the planet.
SL: The future of Lotus is electric. That’s not something to be scared of; I think the future of the industry is going to be electric.
If you look at our Evija hypercar, that car demonstrates just how exciting an electric future can be. I’ve been out in that car many times; it is by far the fastest thing I’ve ever been in. Although I love the sound of an internal combustion engine, like any car enthusiast, the sound that car makes is incredible. It’s addictive and great fun.
We’ve really worked hard to make sure that it’s still drives like a Lotus, and I know that is exactly the same with Eletre. Yes, it’s a large SUV, but as the road test reports say, the car is still a bona fide Lotus. It handles like a Lotus should do for the type of car it is.
I don’t think people should be worried about the future. The biggest challenge with electrification in the UK is [charging] infrastructure. For people that are fortunate to have a home with a driveway, they can install a charger. I think most of them are going to find it more convenient to not go to a petrol station.
There’s a great future there and for all of our children not to be breathing in noxious gas and pollution in towns. The other thing about driving these cars is that you really notice there’s that instant power. There’s no lag, you get maximum torque immediately.
The acceleration in the Evija in the ‘track’ setting is 2,011 horsepower, 1,700 NM of torque, it accelerates from 0-100 to 9.1 seconds. I’ve done that a couple of times, your body is expecting the car to change gear and to have that lag, and then the next gear doesn’t happen. It doesn’t, it’s just the surge of power.
There are lots of great advantages with electrification. Not least, how we’ve been able to package the aerodynamics on these cars. In the Evija the way we’ve used the air to go through the middle of the car, in these huge Venturi tunnels – we couldn’t have done that with an internal combustion engine because the prop-shaft would have been in the way. It’s allowing us to package the car completely differently.
What are the next steps for the brand?
BP: This is quite a big event for the Lotus Eletre. It has already delivered with customers in China and now it’s coming to European customers and it’s going to be in markets all over the world as well. These cars are designed as global products and they are going be rolled out everywhere.
In terms of next steps, there’s a lot going on in quarter three and four for the brand. There will be another product launch coming. It’s a big year for Lotus. It is our 75th anniversary – we want to mark that seriously. I think you’ll see a few other big statements coming from the brand, but it is too early to give you any more detail on that!
SL: I joined the business at beginning of last year to set up Lotus Advanced Performance, which is our special operations house. Prior to this Lotus didn’t have a dedicated special ops area, so we are responsible for everything from the Evija hyper car, the Evija X – projects like that.
We have another very special car that we’ve been working on since the beginning of last year, which we’re going to reveal at Monterey Car Week in about a month’s time. I look after all those things, the performance options, performance accessories, and also bespoke options for our customers. At the moment bespoke options are only available on the Evija, but next year we are going to launch that for the Emira and the Eletre. We’re not just playing in the hypercar marketplace, we’re here to stay.
The plans for the technology are incredible. We have announced the 500Kw robotic charger; we are first to market with a charger that plugs itself in. The technology in the app that’s going into the Eletre is amazing.
From a car company to go from building 600 cars last year to having plans to take us up to around 150,000 cars a year in a few years’ time, it’s quite a journey to be part of.
Out of all the models, what is your all-time favourite Lotus vehicle and why?
BP: That’s difficult and there are two answers to it. The best project from a personal point of view is always the next car because as designers we are always trying to push ourselves to keep going forwards, and always supersede whatever we’ve done with something better.
I’d say the next project I’m working on is the best Lotus, and we can’t talk about that because it’s still highly confidential!
I think with the current product line-up, I’m responsible for the Eletre project from start to finish. I think that’s a big achievement; it’s a big stretch for the brand and I think we’ve done a great job of trying to create a compelling proposition for customers old and new.
If I look historically at Lotus, I think one of the things that I always refer to is the Lotus Mark 1 Esprit. I think it’s a seminal product; it still stands out now for being something that was utterly futuristic in its time, and it resonates today.
As an inspiration piece for me, I tend to look at road cars more than all the track cars, but I think the challenges of creating a customer facing road car are more difficult. The Mark 1 Esprit is an amazing piece of work. It’s an amazing piece of automotive art, but from my personal perspective, what comes next will be the best motors I’ve ever worked on.
SL: I just sold it! I did have my dream car but for various reasons, I had to sell it. I always wanted a Lotus Esprit GT3.
I saved and saved and waited for one, and I bought one in a Norfolk mustard yellow, with sports seats in it; they had the colour coded yellow.
It’s just a timeless shape, the GT3 out of all of them is really the one to have, it’s lightweight and great fun.