Popham says there will be versions of Lotus’s new car that can fit all of the company’s existing price ranges, depending on specification, starting at today’s £55,000 and reaching £110,000 for the best-equipped and fastest. Existing models will be phased out in the medium term but will overlap “for a while” as Lotus monitors and shapes demand for the new car. It’s not yet clear whether a four-cylinder version will be offered, but Lotus looks certain to use the Toyota-sourced, Hethel-supercharged 3.5-litre V6, presently good for up to 430bhp, from current models. Popham says Geely’s willingness to allow Lotus to use rival group engines is “surprising” but very welcome.
“The new car will be our last purely ICE-powered car,” says Popham, adding fuel to so-far-unconfirmed suggestions that sports cars beyond the new model will get another new-design aluminium platform. “All of our future cars will be specifically designed and engineered for electric offerings,” he adds. “It’s the future.”
Meanwhile, Popham & Co have at last found an elegant solution to a decades-old Lotus problem: how to run an engineering consultancy specialising in cutting-edge technology – and thus dealing in other people’s secrets – when you have your own car-making business on the same site.
The new solution is to move Lotus Engineering to a brand new advanced technology centre on Warwick University’s Wellesbourne Campus in partnership with WMG, the former Warwick Manufacturing Group, which is already well known as an international leader in collaboration between academic research, teaching, training and industry. Popham says 130 engineers will move to a region that he describes as “a rich pool of automotive talent”, but there will be jobs for many more as the division builds its portfolio of external projects. Rapid growth is expected.
“Our engineering and R&D strategy is lock-in-step with the government’s vision and broader ambitions for a low-carbon future,” says Popham. Having always been a hotbed of advanced thinking but now with the security it deserved, the future at last looks bright for Lotus Engineering, too.
When we call him Lotus’s most powerful link with the past, we have to hope that Gavan Kershaw doesn’t take offence. But it’s true anyway. Kershaw, Lotus’s director of attributes and product integrity, has the responsibility of ensuring that every new Lotus drives, feels and sounds like the kind of car that Lotus lovers expect. And those expectations have a direct lineage straight back to the special qualities Colin Chapman and his henchmen built into the Elans, Elites and Esprits of the 1960s, when Lotus single-seaters were also winning grands prix.