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Wednesday 22nd June 2011


Lotus Poised To 'Twist Key' On Esprit's New V8

Hi-tech, compact and light - in-house 4.8 V8 offers up to 620hp

New Esprit V8 - 570hp will  be standard
New Esprit V8 - 570hp will be standard
Lotus engineers will press the starter button on their in-house V8 engine prototype for the first time on August 17th, as development forges ahead on the company's ambitious new model development plan.

The engine will appear first in the new Esprit and will be running in anger in test mules towards the end of this year, we're told, so keep your eyes peeled for an odd-looking Ferrari 458 being thrashed around the Fens. (The powertrain will be installed first in a 'competitor' test mule while development continues on the Esprit chassis/body in white, they say.)

Speaking yesterday, Lotus engineering chief Wolf Zimmermann revealed some important new details of the 'modular'-style engine that will likely form the basis of all Lotus (i/c) powertrain developments for the foreseeable future - potentially in both V6 and inline four cylinder configurations.

'R' and 'Superleggera' will get 620hp
'R' and 'Superleggera' will get 620hp
We're promised a high tech, compact, lightweight 4.8 litre unit that's good for between 570hp and 620hp in normally aspirated guise. (It's also capable of being a 'stressed' chassis unit for motorsport purposes - although as we understand it this won't be the case in the new Esprit where it appears first.)

The engine will be 40 percent smaller than the Toyota V8 first mooted for the new Esprit (in fact the Toyota engine wouldn't even have fitted in Lotus designer Donato Coco's Esprit concept shown at Paris last year - the wheelbase was too short), helped in part by being dry sumped. At 170kgs 'naked' it's also a whopping 80kgs lighter than the Toyota unit, and has an architecture 'perfect for a supercar, and not optimised for a sedan', says Wolf. The unit is 612mm long, and looks very much like a race-type engine, he tells us, with a 180 degree flat plane crank and a rev limiter set to over 9,000rpm.

A few more details of the new Esprit were discussed yesterday too, during a presentation that was part of the new company's refurbished test track opening ceremony but really designed to 'put a few nuts and bolts' on the five year plan outlined at the Paris show last year.

Car will be evolution of Paris concept
Car will be evolution of Paris concept
The Esprit is still on schedule to be unveiled at Geneva in 2013, (the design is being evolved around the Paris show concept), and three versions are being engineered simultaneously - coupe, full convertible and one with a glass roof.

The engine will be mated to a 7 speed DCT gearbox, and the target weight is 1460kgs - which is where McLaren got to with the carbon chassis'd 12C. Work is also progressing on a hybrid Esprit using wheel hub motors and batteries from a US partner - Wolf didn't want to say too much about this one, 'patents pending', etc.

The new Esprit wheelbase is 2650mm, and the interior package is focused 'to give the driver pleasure, not the co-driver'. The aluminium chassis's engineering layout will be frozen by August. Specs will include forged aluminium wishbones, 6 pot front and 4 pot rear callipers with carbon ceramic brakes, and the electronic dampers will feature both 'standard' and 'race' modes.

As well as the standard Esprit, Wolf hinted at a couple of planned uprated versions - including an R spec model which would get the 620hp version of the new V8, and a 'Superleggera' which will get the R performance package and a raft of additional weight-saving measures.

'Lightness' remains a key value
'Lightness' remains a key value
Talking about 'lightness', which has traditionally been a Lotus watchword, Wolf described the difficulties of keeping the brand ahead in an area that every rival now concentrates on equally.

'If we make the body in white the same way as the Evora, we can get it down to 335kgs, which didn't even meet our own 300kgs target. Today we're at 250kgs but we're aiming for 230kgs'. (For comparison, the Ferrari 458 BIW is 264kgs, he told us.)

Performance targets for the Esprit are unsurprisingly similar to the 12C and 458, so expect 0-100kmh in 3.4secs, 0-200kph in 9.0secs and a 328kmh maximum. Oh, and the projected asking price remains around the £123k mark.

According to Wolf, the project is racing ahead to the tight schedule laid out last year:

  • Kick off - Oct 2011
  • Concept Initialisation Gateway - Feb 2011
  • 1st Evaluation Prototype - Apr 2012
  • 1st Validation Prototype - Feb 2013
  • Launch - March 2013

The Lotus engineering chief also offered a few new details on the new Elite due in 2014, a front-engined 2+2 that shares the Esprit's V8, its rear transaxle gearbox (with torque tube) and around 50 percent of the supercar's other components.

He promises excellent packaging in a car offering genuinely 'usable' rear seats, from a wheelbase of 2700mm that's just 20mm longer than the two-seat Mercedes AMG SLS.

Elite will share new V8 engine...
Elite will share new V8 engine...
...and have usable rear seats
...and have usable rear seats
Author: Chris-R

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