Lotus M250
The Launch

M250

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Launch
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From scale model...

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...to full size prototype at Frankfurt

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and then the London Motor Show with some rather distracting models...

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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.

  • Mid Engined
  • 250 bhp, 3.0 litre V6
  • 6 Speed gearbox box
  • less than 1000kg
  • 0-60mph in less than 5 seconds
  • 0-100 in less than 11 seconds

Construction

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.

Power

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.

elise-side-vent.jpg (7786 bytes) m250-side-vent.jpg (14919 bytes)
Side vents air similar to Elise's. Not just a styling feature, these help cool the mid mounted engine, all the more important with the larger V6.

Styling

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’."

340-front-vents.jpg (6970 bytes)
Lotus are enjoying continued success with group (including Lotus Engineering) profits last year mounting up to around �10million. A �7million R&D centre is about to be opened at the Norfolk headquarters. This will include two design studios, advanced technology workshops and CAD stations.

The engineering arm of Lotus is now responsible for the design of engines in 10% of all Europe's new cars.

 

m250-front-vents.jpg (12233 bytes)
Front venting similar to 340R's

PistonHeads spoke to Andrew Hogg, the M250's "Project Champion":

Q Was a 2+2 considered?
A Briefly, but a 2+2 doesn't now fit with Lotus philosophy. Lotus are engineering pure sports cars and a 2+2 would be considered as carrying undesirable "extra mass".
Q Will the car be produced in the USA?
A The UK and Europe are the initial markets for the car. However the possibility of a US derivative should certainly not be excluded. Lotus are keen to emphasise that this car fills a new niche and will not overlap or replace the Esprit range.
Q Was a convertible body style considered?
A The construction techniques are similar to those of the Elise with the strength in the underlying chassis. Therefore other body styles are still feasible.
Q Is the engine a brand new engine?
A The production of a completely brand new engine is an expensive business and therefore a more sensible economic route is to source a drivetrain from elsewhere and modify it to suit the needs of the M250.
Q How practical would the M250 be?
A The packaging of the M250 is a step on from that of the Elise and there will be "more usable space" in the car.
Q Will the car be produced?
A Reaction will be gauged over the next few months before a decision is made.

 

Features

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.

Availability

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.

  Lotus
M250
TVR
Tuscan
Porsche
Boxster S
BMW
Z3M Coupe
Engine Lotus developed 3.0 V6 TVR Designed straight six 6 cylinder
boxer.
3.2 straight six
Power 250 bhp 360 bhp
(~400 bhp option)
252 bhp 321bhp
Weight < 1000kg ~1000kg (estimated) 1295kg 1404kg
0-60mph < 5 secs (expected) ~4 seconds 6 secs 4.9 secs
0-100mph < 11 secs
(expected)
< 10 seconds
(expected)
14.2 11.7 seconds
Top Speed 155mph (governed) 180+ mph
(estimated)
161mph 160mph
PistonHeads
Verdict
Undoubtedly a drivers car which will have an excellent chassis and performance achieved through fine engineering. 360bhp of smooth inline 6 makes this car fantastically quick in a straight line. Styling is groundbreaking but too extreme for some. The removable roof and rear window will appeal to those wanting the wind in their hair. The sports car for people not passionate about sports cars? Fast car with quirky looks and different pedigree to the British cars make it difficult to pigeon-hole who it appeals to.

 

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