Lotus Eletre – the Necessary Evil
Let’s get this straight from the outset – there is a lot I dislike about this Lotus. Many, many things. In fact, when I read the press release and drank in the stats my blood boiled, expletives were shouted and I went a little numb down my left side. This isn’t a Lotus, I told myself, it’s all wrong, it looks like an Urus, it’s….it’s…..it’s……probably the perfect car for them right now. <sigh>
Starting with the name – very clever eh? All Lotus cars start with an E and this sounds a bit like ‘Electric’ which is handy because you won’t find any petrol, diesel or other combustible fuel in the Eletre – only electricity powers this thing. So when I said that there’s a lot I dislike about it, funnily enough, the powertrain isn’t one of those things – it’s 2022 and I’d have been most surprised if it wasn’t an EV. No, what has annoyed me most is that the Eletre is just so… predictable. It’s a huge SUV with a huge battery and generic styling and that is totally normal and expected these days, I just hoped Lotus would do something different.
You see, the Eletre has what Lotus say is a 100+kWh battery – that’s big. That’s Tesla Model S big, Mercedes EQS big, and big means heavy. Just to give you an idea, that 100kWh battery probably weighs over 600kg on its own, which is a huge amount of weight. It also has rear-wheel steering, air suspension and is physically bigger than the outgoing Range Rover in length and width. So I really have trouble believing Lotus when they say it weighs less than 2 tonnes – it would be near-witchcraft levels of vehicle design and engineering to achieve that. But surely if anyone can, Lotus can, so there’s still hope.
For now we’ll start with the looks – now obviously looks and styling are subjective, one person’s beautiful can be another person’s horror show – but to these tired old eyes the Eletre is a fairly good effort at an SUV shape with some interesting details, but it’s far from pretty and, especially in the yellow of these pics, looks a lot like the Lamborghini Urus. Size-wise it’s hard to judge in images, but let’s not be shy about this – the Eletre is big. Huge. Massive. It’s 5.1m long and 2.2 metres wide, for context that’s the same length and width as the new Range Rover, but Evoque height. It’s also, coincidentally, almost identical to the Urus dimensions.
The designers of the Eletre say it has been styled around the aero, which is easy to see when you drink in the details as there are a LOT. There’s a pronounced ‘beak’ at the leading edge of the bonnet, with what look like headlights above – these are actually just the daytime running lights though, the actual headlight units are below the beak, hidden from view until in use. The large black expanse in the centre hides a whole lot of cleverness too, there are intakes next to the headlight units that direct air in and out of the bonnet vents, side intakes direct airflow to the wheelarch and out of the door vents, it’s all designed to keep the drag coefficient down without having to resort to a bland teardrop shape to aid aero and help range (looking at you, Tesla Model X).
At the bottom of the front end sits a very interesting bit of aero tech, in front of the radiator that cools the batteries and motors there’s an intricate set of ‘interconnected triangular petals’ that open when cooling is required and close when not, to keep that aerodynamic smoothness. They look great and it’s a real bit of theatre to see them open and close, but I have to worry about the longevity of such intricate mechanical workings right at the front of the car – though maybe lifespan isn’t something we’re supposed be thinking about with these gargantuan EVs.
There’s a deep sculpted section to the front doors, where the aero shoots air up the sides of the car, which does help to break up the expanse of metal, but this in turn makes the doors thicker, making the overall car wider. Being 22mm wider than a new Range Rover means that you’ll really struggle through the smaller width restrictions we have on our city streets, certainly worth considering given that’s where a lot of these will be used. At the rear there’s a neat split spoiler arrangement at the back of the roof, there’s a large diffuser at the bottom and there’s a light bar that runs the full width of the rear. That light bar runs into another vents at either side, which takes pressure and airflow from the rear wheel well. The car in these images is running on 23-inch alloys, which should give you an idea of scale.
So obviously being an EV there’s a whole lot to digest here, but Lotus are also using the Eletre as a showpiece for the next gen of tech. First up, the powertrain.
The Eletre sits on an all-new platform which they say is developed exclusively for Lotus, but as they are owned by Geely who also owns Volvo and Polestar we can expect it to share a lot of components with them. It features a 100+kWh battery, which means the Eletre has a claimed range of 373 miles. For such a big car that’s very impressive and is in no small part thanks to the relatively low weight and highly effective aerodynamics. It comes with the ability to rapid charge at a 350kW charger, which should add 250 miles range in just 20 minutes – that is proper fast charging. 250 miles range in the time it takes to nip to the toilet and grab a coffee and a sandwich is what the people are asking for.
The Eletre is 4WD and has a power output ‘starting at 600hp’. We don’t yet know whether it’s dual or quad motor, but purely on a weight basis I think it has to be dual motor, one front and rear. There will be a higher power model too, with a rumoured 750hp, which is inevitable but somewhat boring as there really isn’t much involved in adding more power to a motor. The ‘base’ 600hp model is aiming for a sub-3 second 0-62mph time though, which means Lotus really are serious about the whole 2-tonne thing. We’ll see I suppose! Being a Lotus you’d really hope it had exceptional handling too, and the lower weight will certainly aid this, along with the battery weight being low giving a low centre of gravity. It comes on air suspension and has rear wheel steering too, which should aid the dynamics – hopefully Lotus can tune the air suspension to be able to provide their deft handling while also giving a comfortable ride though as the fact remains that this is a large family SUV so needs to be comfortable.
Lotus are definitely being brave on the tech front too, for an all new car made in a brand new factory (in Wuhan, China, entirely powered by a dynamo attached to Colin Chapman spinning in his grave). There’s a level of autonomous driving tech on the Eletre which comes with LiDAR tech that works with the cameras to give the field of view required. The interesting thing is that generally the LiDAR sensors need to be large to work well, and hiding them within the car leads to compromises. But Lotus has decided that the LiDAR sensors only need to be there when in use, so they basically ‘pop up’ in the front and rear of the roof and in the front wheel arches. It’s an interesting approach and one that again aids aerodynamics, once again I wonder on the longevity of such systems though.
The interior of the Eletre is an interesting prospect too. Up front the design is absolutely stunning, with a minimalist dash and lots of lovely curves, cutouts and storage all mixed with some innovative materials. There’s the obligatory huge screen in the centre of the dash, with a smaller display showing vital info ahead of the driver (and passenger, should you option it). But thankfully Lotus has stated that they don’t feel current haptic touch technology is good enough yet (hallelujah!!!) so we have a good selection of toggles and buttons on the centre console to control the climate controls. This is great to see, functionality winning over cost savings for once and there’s a nice selection of buttons on the steering wheel too. In markets where they are allowed, the mirrors are cameras with screens placed in the doors, hopefully they work better than those in the Audi e-tron.
In the rear there’s a load of legroom thanks to the enormous 3 metre wheelbase and it can be had with 3 seats across the back, or 2 reclining seats with a centre console and screen. Now this is where one big issue arises when talking about practicality – the boot. The Eletre boot is quoted as 400 litres – without being too rude that is absolutely appalling. A VW Golf is 390 litres. The similar size and shape Urus is 620 litres. A Range Rover is 800 litres. A BMW iX is 500 litres. Put simply, that really just isn’t good enough – if you want to carry five people to go on holiday for a week, you’d struggle to fit all their luggage in the boot, and don’t even think about adding a roof box unless you want to halve the range.
One more point of consternation – Lotus mention a lot that the Eletre is a unique car, carving its own segment. But really it sits with at least two current models – the BMW iX M60 is very similar in range, size, price etc as is the Tesla Model X. Kia is bringing out the EV9 soon too, which is a Range Rover sized EV. So yes, Lotus might be the only one focusing on low weight but there are certainly rivals to consider.
So, the Eletre is impressive, with big range, fast charging and a huge footprint. And it’s aimed directly at the Chinese and US markets where bigger is better so we here in the UK don’t really matter. But for me it’s all just a bit too… conventional. I really hoped Lotus was going to do something different for their practical EV, something wild and ‘out there’. Like a medium sized crossover with a 50kWh battery, proper light weight and super fast charging. Or a small, sporty EV hot hatch. But the fact remains that the Eletre, with its £100,000 price tag (probably £120k when specced up) is the car that Lotus needs right now as it will sell in big numbers in the intended markets, making them lots of money and enabling future development. Think of it as Lotus’s Porsche Cayenne – a cash cow that funnels money into other, cooler EVs and sports cars. As I mentioned at the start – a necessary evil.