This is bound to upset the purists, but everyone else will turn their heads and drop their jaws at this SUV. Its looks relegate mean that even the Lamborghini Urus looking like something cute enough to be in a petting zoo. And yet things are different to other supercar SUVs, and the Lotus has a clear conscience – the Eletre is electric.
In the company’s squeaky clean and surprisingly empty new factory in the infamous city of Wuhan, the Eletre is the first of three models to roll off the assembly line. With the exception of car like the Lotus Carlton and Cortina, this is the first Lotus with four doors, with five seats, a folding rear bench and an electric motor.
The Eletre is – at least in Lotus' opinion –the world's first electric hyper-SUV. Only comparatively sober cars such as the BMW iX or the Audi SQ8 E-tron get close, and they appear comparatively practical and pragmatic.
Lotus Eletre performance, battery and charging
But above all, Lotus lures with an excess of power and performance. Even in the basic model, the two engines have a combined 600 bhp and catapult this huge car to 60mph in less than five seconds. And the top-of-the-range version delivers an insane 900bhp and drives into an exclusive ‘sub 3 second’ club that is mainly home to super sports cars.
If you leave your foot on the pedal for long enough, you will soon have more than 165mph on the digital speedometer. Other e-SUVs will have disappeared long before – as will your range.
The energy for such performance is provided by a battery with more than 100 kWh, supplying power at 800v – that’s twice the usual voltage. It should provide enough range for around 373 miles if you are not testing the top speed, but it will also allow quick charging pit stops. Because the Lotus can take up to 350 kW from a DC plug, in optimum conditions and with the right charger you could add 250 miles within 20 minutes.
Helping the efficiency is the Lotus' unique aerodynamics. Although the car appears to be shaped like other SUVs at first glance, it uses what Lotus has named ‘porosity’, with tunnels and scoops which mean air flows through the vehicle to reduce drag in areas such as the wheelarches.
Lotus Eletre aerodynamics and handling
In addition, it uses active aerodynamics, with vents which open and close depending on the need for cooling or cornering downforce. If the car is being driven hard, vents at the front will open to channel cooling air to the brakes and motors. If they are not needed, then the vents close to reduce drag.
The car is also not as tall as most other SUVs – at 1,630mm it is lower than a Nissan Qashqai, despite being longer and wider than the new Range Rover.
But what about the handling? If anyone can make a heavy beast like this corner with verve, it will be Lotus. The standard air suspension with roll compensation, variable all-wheel drive with torque vectoring and rear-axle steering do provide at least a hint of the fun you can have with an Elise. It can't overcome the physics of such a big car, but it is the best handling SUV you can buy.
The air suspension system allows up to 75mm adjustment for the ground clearance; this car not designed as an off roader, but it will sink down to reduce drag at motorway speeds, or raise up if you are on a rough track. You need a surface as smooth as a baby's bottom to fully exploit its potential, but the electronics cleverly provide an experience that even petrolheads will appreciate.
Lotus Eletre practicality and technology
But Lotus know that driving pleasure is no longer the only criterion for buyers at this end of the market. The Eletre will be an everyday car rather than just a weekend toy, after all. The interior banishes the competition from Italy and Germany to the Stone Age, in terms of style and technology.
That extra length in the body, and the lack of a conventional engine and transmission, also mean the Lotus has enough space for a family of four. There is the choice of a five seater or four seats and a more luxurious feel, with a centre console between the passengers that houses extra technology and storage. The luggage space is big enough to cater for most families too, although it is not huge by SUV standards.
Although Lotus’ heritage and expertise in engineering means the Eletre is certain to be good to drive, in the not-too-distant future, customers will be able to sit back and let the electronic co-pilot do its job. It is packed with self-driving tech including the world’s first deployable Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system. These pop-up sensors will enable the car to spot hazards, and they are incorporated into pods which are only visible when in use. Some of the self-drive capability is not expected to be usable when the car is first launched, but has been incorporated to make the car future proof.
Lotus Eletre verdict
Lotus says the Eletre is the first in a new range of “premium lifestyle performance electric vehicles” which will be built at an all-new production facility in Wuhan, China. The first customer deliveries will begin in summer 2023 starting in the UK, Europe and China.
Arguments will rage about whether it is a 'real Lotus' but it is an astonishing engineering achievement which will convince even more buyers to move away from petrol. It also seems like something of a bargain considering the performance on offer.