Sources suggest that Proton's Elise features many of the engineering upgrades that will be required for the Elise to meet US standards in 2007. And for support for the theory that the spy-shotted car is not the Europa but a Malaysian Elise, consider the following:
- The new Europa is to be more of a GT car that "goes like stink", according to Lotus spokesman Alistair Florance. Yet the spy shots floating around on the Web show a car of the same dimensions as the current Elise, with just two seats -- not a GT-style 2+2.
- According to a recent edition of Autocar, the Elise's Toyota engine, which needs high revs to get the best out of it, will be replaced by a 2.2-litre turbocharged Vauxhall engine to provide "a more relaxed driving experience".
- Yet in the US, the Vauxhall powerplant would create big marketing issues since the same unit is being used in the GM Solstice/ Sky/Lighting Kappa-based vehicles, which are similar in size and market to the Elise. Using this engine in a GT car at the top of the model range is therefore unlikely.
- The car has been spotted testing on several occasions with other upcoming Proton models in Malaysia. Why test the car in Malaysia unless you were planning to build it there?
This suggests that that the new Europa is to be built by Lotus' plant at Hethel, while, Proton's new mid-engined sports car has production planned in Malaysia. By producing this model in the same facility that will eventually manufacture the Esprit, the workers get to learn the manufacturing process prior to building the more expensive and likely more complex, Esprit.
So what do we know?
In the Europa, Lotus is promising a car with a more compliant ride, more toys and -- maybe -- a car that the - er - more horizontally challenged will find easier to get into and out of. Despite this, Lotus MD Clive Dopson reckoned that the car will retain the "essential strands of Lotus DNA" to produce a driver focused car.
The Europa's launch, due in Geneva next spring, will follow the Porsche Cayman, which is sure to suck sales from the mid-priced sports car market. It will also fill the gap before the launch of the new Esprit, which is based on the new Versatile Vehicle Architecture (see link below) and is due by the end of 2007.
Our spies are still digging...