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New Lotus: Distinctive, Mid-Engined, 2+2 Sports Car


17th July, 2008

Lotus Project Eagle

The first all-new car from Lotus since the Elise in 1995 will enter the sports car market in 2009, following its British debut next week.

The new car, which is currently known by its project name ‘Eagle’, is a more holistic offering than the Elise and Exige models that have been popular with track day enthusiasts. The car, the name for which will be announced on 22nd July, is designed for people who desire exotic sports car characteristics of stunning design, exclusivity, dramatic proportions and performance.

Project Eagle also offers real-world usability and a unique sense of occasion.

Powered by a 3.5-litre V6 producing 206 kW, the new car employs innovative lightweight chassis technology to ensure visceral all-round dynamic performance, in keeping with the great Lotus tradition. Even in the very early stages of development testing, Lotus ride and handling engineers report that it is faster around the demanding Nurburgring circuit than the Elise and more stable at speed than the Exige.

Inside, Project Eagle cocoons occupants with a sumptuous leather surfaces with contemporary high-tech features. With driver focussed instrumentation the driver sits in cockpit-esque surroundings. The dash boasts details such as flush-mounted controls that glow with blue LED haloes and a stylised speedometer and rev counter ensuring that controls are both attractive and accessible.

Styled in-house by Lotus Design, the Project Eagle’s sleek, sophisticated and attention-snaring lines disguise its ability to accommodate passengers in the rear of the cabin, giving the car the external characteristics of a small, nimble sports car whilst belying its internal space. As well as being sold in a 2+2 configuration, the car will also be available as a two-seater, the space in the rear being allocated to luggage storage. Other derivatives are also planned for the future, including a convertible and a high performance version.

Deliveries of Project Eagle will begin in the (northern) autumn 2009. Production of 2,000 units of the handcrafted cars are planned for each year.

Mike Kimberley, CEO of Group Lotus plc, had this to say about the new model: “Project Eagle is the biggest milestone Lotus has achieved since the Elise was 'born' 13 years ago. We are currently working at broadening the appeal of the Lotus brand through an aggressive 5-year model plan of which this car represents the first exciting step.”

Project Eagle in detail:

Project Eagle is the first of three new models included in the CEO’s (Mike Kimberley) five year strategic business plan initiated in October 2006 to support Lotus’ growth.

A design language of dynamic lines and fluid surfaces that flow from the ‘Lotus-mouth’ and over the length the car’s toned form are unmistakably modern to the car’s driving 'persona'.

On Project Eagle they are complemented by the distinctive wraparound visor screen but have been subtly tailored to suit the more sophisticated character of the car, optimise high-speed aerodynamics and artfully disguise the unique 2+2 layout. The cab forward proportion combines with 'muscular' haunches and optimised intake detailing to instantly inform the viewer that this is a serious mid-engine sports car. Elsewhere a Lotus philosophy for combining function with beauty is evident in the downforce generating, top exit radiator vent, rear diffuser and rear wing.

Inside the car the forms echo the exterior with fast moving surfaces that wrap around the cockpit cosseting the occupants, the contrast colour band that flows from the instrument cluster and sweeps around the cabin highlights this theme. “We recognise that ‘touch’ not only assists with driving enjoyment but also conveys messages about quality and therefore great attention has been paid to all the areas where the driver interfaces with the car.” Carr explains.

Figure hugging adjustable sports seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel instantly communicate the driving potential of the car. Project Eagle employs premium quality material and finishes to provide an exclusive, British handcrafted ambience that is unique in this price segment. Modern, precision engineered aluminium inserts and hi-fi quality, edge-lit switches are brilliantly juxtaposed against the traditional contrast stitched leather panels.

Everyday convenience is catered for through ergonomically located touch-screen SAT NAV, remote release glove box, storage bins and integrated ‘cup holders’.

In a world launch by partners Alpine, Project Eagle boasts a truly cutting edge in-car entertainment and navigation system. The multi-media system features a 7-inch touch-screen providing advanced audio, satellite navigation, Bluetooth hands-free telephone and iPod connectivity functions; the screen also serves as a monitor for Project Eagle’s optional reversing camera. The satellite navigation element of the system has a removable hard-drive, allowing users to programme it from the comfort of their home or use it as a roaming satellite navigation unit and MP3 player.

The Alpine audio set-up is one of the most sophisticated automotive systems in the world. Called IMPRINT and using MultEQ sound enhancement technology, it is able to cancel out imbalances in the sound caused by different areas of the cabin – window glass, for instance, produces echoes, while carpets suppress mid-range frequencies – resulting in amazingly crisp, clear, undistorted sound reproduction wherever seated in the car.

A bespoke progressive air-conditioning system developed by Bergstrom is standard on all models, while on-board tyre pressure monitoring will be either standard or optional depending on model and market. And in deference to the American market in particular, a module in the headlining will accommodate automatic garage and gate opening remote controls.

Interior space and accommodation
The rear seats of 2+2 versions of Project Eagle are intended for children or smaller adults on short journeys. To maximise comfort in the rear, there is foot-room under the seats in front, while both back seats feature ISOFIX mountings for secure child seat fitment.

When unoccupied, the rear seats provide a convenient stowage area for briefcases and jackets, adding to Project Eagle’s appeal as an everyday car.

The boot, which ingeniously features a fresh air cooling system to reduce the effect of heat ingress from the engine bay, will accommodate a set of golf clubs.
A two-seater derivative of Project Eagle is planned and will have a luggage shelf in the back replacing the two rear seats.

Lotus’ Project Eagle conforms to all regulatory standards and in addition boasts additional safety features; Lotus aluminium chassis technology applied to Project Eagle’s provides the car with immense inherent strength, particularly in regard to side impacts and a tubular steel seatbelt anchorage frame that also acts as a rollover structure.

Anti-lock brakes are standard on all models, as are traction and stability controls; these systems have been specially developed in co-operation with Bosch to provide enhanced safety features whilst maintaining performance characteristics.

Under the bonnet
For Project Eagle, Lotus has a chosen a modified Toyota 3.5-litre V6, presumably to contain cost pressures.

At the time of unveiling, full performance figures for the new Lotus will not have been compiled on a production specification car, however Lotus has a further six months of development to conduct before Project Eagle is available to test drive.

While for Lotus top speed is of less importance than stability at speed, early indications suggest a maximum speed of 256 km/h; the 0-100 km/h is estimated at sub-5 seconds (prototype figures).

Australian availability

A local release is expected in 2010. Although numbers are expected to be quite small.

Other Lotus content: here.

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