- lotus said an official farewell to its exige, elise, and evora sports cars in a grand photo op at the specialty automaker's hethel, england, factory.
- the three cars were responsible for almost half of all lotuses ever sold.
- but the future looks bright, with new sports cars, sedans, and suvs coming.
lotus rolled out the final three examples of a trio of cars that represent almost half the company's total production ever: the elise, exige, and evora. together they made up 51,738 sales and kept the company going through good times and bad. but the three will be no more, lotus says, as the company plunges ahead into an electric future.
well, electric except for the mid-engine emira, which is based on a modified version of the same platform and will be powered by a familiar toyota-based 3.5-liter gasoline engine or an amg 2.0-liter four. that comes out next spring, followed by the all-electric evija hypercar. more on those at a later date. right now we come not to bury the es, but to praise them.
the elise, exige, and evora were built over the course of 26 years in hethel, u.k. the elise and exige shared the same "small car platform" that carried the opel speedster/vauxhall vx220 and the very first tesla roadsters, of which 2005 were built between 2007 and 2012. so it was a big day in hethel. the evora was on the big car platform.
as with any photo op, every executive in the building came out and made a speech. here are a few excerpts.
"first of all, i would like to thank the lotus team who have worked on the elise, exige, and evora over the years and who are now transferring to emira and evija manufacturing," said managing director of lotus cars matt windle. "i would also like to convey enormous gratitude to all the customers of the elise, exige, and evora over the last 26 years for their passion, enthusiasm, and support."
that would be you, dear customer, because only lotus loyalists would be reading this article past the first executive quote. he continued:
"these customers have given our 'three es' true cult status—usually reserved for long-out-of-production classics."
russell carr, design director at lotus cars, added a personal note, saying: "these iconic cars have not only played a huge role in lotus's 73-year history but have also been ever-present in my daily life. together with the lotus design team, i have lived and breathed these cars for over 26 years. we will miss them, but a bit like christmas, once it's over, the excitement for the next one starts to build—and that's what's happening now at lotus with the evija, emira, and forthcoming type 132. 2022 is going to be a great year as a new lotus generation swings into action."
the type 132 that carr mentioned is a new electric suv from lotus scheduled for a world premiere this spring.
the three es were important not just because they were fun to drive but for their technological advancements over the years, including an early industry use of extruded and bonded aluminum, parts that were squeezed out and glued together.
"the impact of these three cars has been spectacular over the years, technically, structurally, and dynamically," said richard rackham, head of vehicle concepts, who was vehicle architect on the lotus elise and part of the team that pioneered the new tech. "but all technologies and innovations move on and, if you had asked me of my proudest moment four years ago, i would have, without hesitation, said the elise chassis. however, this has been usurped by our new project leva architecture [lightweight electric vehicle architecture] for our new range of electric sports cars, starting with the type 135 in a few years' time. this is now the zenith of lotus architectures as it has moved the technology game so much further. there is a lot to look forward to."
the type 135 he refers to is the closest successor to these three now-retired cars. it is due in 2026 and will ride on lotus's new e-sports architecture that will be shared by all future lotus sports cars. that architecture will be based around a lightweight rear subframe holding both batteries and motor(s). the structure itself is more than a third lighter than that used for the gasoline-powered emira. lightness is essential, given the current weight of battery packs. the one in the coming evija electric hypercar will tip the scales at more than 1500 pounds. batteries in coming lotus evs can either be piled up vertically, as they will likely be in the sports cars, or laid out under the floor in the longer-wheelbase vehicles.
so let's get our lotus product plans straight here, in roughly calendar order: emira mid-engine gasoline-powered sports car, evija electric hypercar, type 132 suv, type 133 four-door coupe, type 134 crossover, and type 135 electric sports car. maybe. we've been promised lotuses before (cough—dany bahar—cough).
but we are here to praise the es: elise, exige and evora.
"from 1996 to 2000, the first-generation elise and exige sports cars were built in a small assembly hall at hethel alongside the lotus esprit," lotus noted. "those assembly lines, which were installed in 2000, will be dismantled and replaced with all-new state-of-the-art facilities in support of the all-new emira factory. full emira production begins in the spring, after the prototype and test phases currently underway are completed, taking lotus sports car production into an exciting, high-tech and semi-automated era, and increasing capacity up to 5000 units per year on a single shift pattern."
and those last three lotuses you see parked above?
"the last examples of the elise, exige, and evora models are reserved for lotus's growing heritage collection," lotus said, adding specifics about the three in the photos. "joining the collection will be the last elise, a sport 240 final edition finished in yellow and the last of 35,124 cars; the last exige, a cup 430 final edition in heritage racing green—number 10,497; and the last evora—a gt430 sport finished in dark metallic grey—the last of a production run of 6117."
farewell, es, we hardly knew ye. actually, we knew ye pretty well, and enjoyed each and every mile we put on ye, even though our kidneys and other internal organs may disagree.