From scale model...
...to full size prototype at Frankfurt
and then the London Motor Show with some rather distracting models...
Lotus have really got the bit between their teeth now, and the news just gets better and better for fans of the marque. The Elise has been a major success, the radical 340R a great demonstration of their ability to produce a special car in a very short time, and here now the Lotus M250, an exciting concept car which could slot nicely into the Lotus range between the Elise and the Esprit.
Fans have been desperately seeking information on the new model for the last few months with sketches appearing in Autocar but detail thin on the ground. PistonHeads was delighted to be the first to reveal more about the car.
For the M250, Lotus have developed the innovative chassis technology used to build the Elise. Although designed from the ground up it uses the same technique of extruded units of aluminium bonded together to give strength with lightness. Several options are being explored for body construction including the use of aluminium and composite materials, which would be incredibly light yet very strong.
Keeping the weight down has been a priority, allowing a moderately powerful engine producing 250bhp to deliver the performance that should compete with cars costing twice as much. Top speed has been electronically governed to 155mph with efforts concentrated on delivering the best power delivery at lower speeds.
Lotus Car's Managing Director, Graham Peel:
"If we decide to build the M250, it will be the best handling car ever from Lotus. Throttle response will be superb and the car will feel agile and truly special to drive. It will sound great, have a first-rate gear change and excellent ABS-assisted brakes.
There are some obvious styling cues from the Elise and 340R, with the venting and headlights being the most obvious.
A wrap around windscreen similar to the visor on a helmet has been worked into the cabin forward design. Overhangs are short and the emphasis has been placed on a balanced aerodynamics rather than a very low drag coefficient, including careful management of undercar airflow. Large wheels are fitted to the concept car, with 18" at the front and an enormous pair of 19 inchers at the rear.
Russell Carr, Head of Styling and Design at Lotus, explains: "The M250 blends sensuous lines with contemporary, crisp design elements, to give it what we like to refer to as attitude."
PistonHeads spoke to Andrew Hogg, the M250's "Project Champion":
Intended as more of an everyday car than the Elise, the M250 will have luxury items as befits as car in the price bracket. Air conditioning, central locking and electric windows can be expected.
Being a Lotus, don't expect any driver assistance aids such as traction or stability control though. Lotus prefer to engineer a responsive and well behaved chassis from the start. Power steering is included however.
If the car does go into production then it would appear in the dealers showrooms in the first half of 2001. Around 3000 a year would be made. And the name? Speculation remains. The popular rumour is 'Emas' but Lotus are keeping tight lipped about that.
Pitched between the Elise (£26,590 for the 111S) and the Esprit (£40,125 for a GT3, £50K+ for a V8) we should expect it to be priced in the high £30K's.
Rivals in that price range will include the TVR Tuscan and BMW Z3M Coupe. The market benchmark always is always quoted as being the Porsche Boxster.