Lotus Elite prototype
The announcement a new Lotus Elite will be unveiled at the Paris Auto Show gave us cause to take a look back at the history of the car. This new one will actually be the third Lotus automobile to bear the Elite nameplate.
The first Lotus Elite ran from 1958 to 1963. A two-door/two-seat coupe, the car ran a 1.2-liter in-line four-cylinder engine that made 75 horsepower. And while that may sound mild, the car weighed a mere 1,100 pounds. Colin Chapman, the mind behind Lotus, used an all fiberglass monocoque to achieve the light weight for which all Lotus cars are still known. That car enjoyed a production run of 1030 units.
The second generation Lotus Elite (known as Elite II), introduced in 1974, ran through 1982. The first Lotus to offer seating for four, this version of the Elite also ran a fiberglass body, but featured a steel backbone chassis. With a curb weight of only 2,535 pounds, performance was more than adequate; despite the fact the car ran only a 142-horsepower 2.0-liter four at introduction.
And now comes word of the Lotus Elite III, slated to go on sale in 2014. This time a 5.0-liter V-8 sourced from Toyota, (reportedly the same engine the Lexus IS-F enjoys) will endow the car with a reputed 612 horsepower. Given Lotus never builds a heavy car, this new Elite stands poised to rewrite the pecking order of the four-place super car genre.
The 2+2 seater (based on a modified version of the Evora platform) will offer a retractable hardtop and will be available with a KERS-style hybrid system that allows for added boosts of electric power. Offering nearly six times the horsepower of the last Elite plus the ability to run the car open , the fruit of the new Toyota/Lotus relationship looks to be very sweet indeed.