2013 Lotus Esprit To Offer Hybrid Options

Not too long ago, critics of Lotus accused the automaker of biting off more than it could chew. After all, Lotus had shown six all-new concepts at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, was on somewhat shaky financial ground and had only a range of aging track-day toys to offer the motoring public.

Today, the company seems to be making a complete turnaround under the leadership of Group Lotus chief executive Danny Bahar. Autocar says that Proton, parent to Lotus, is so pleased with Bahar’s five-year plan that they’ve extended his contract by four more years, into 2016. Proton seems happy to fund both the development of Lotus’ new automobiles and its Formula 1 efforts, so money is no longer an issue, either.

That means that projects like the all-new Lotus Esprit are moving ahead as scheduled, and the halo supercar is on track to debut in 2013. Per Autocar, Lotus will take an innovative approach to the design and marketing of its range-topping sports car.

Base model Esprits will be hybrids, using a V-8 engine designed and built in house, coupled with an electric motor said to produce an addition 100 horsepower. Think of this model as the “mainstream” Esprit, while a faster variant (or variants) will take an entirely different direction.

As Bahar explains about other Esprit models, “There will be no hybrid system, the engine will have more power, but the major performance gains will come from losing weight. The ‘Racing’ versions of each model will always be pure, driver’s cars.”

Take a minute to analyze Bahar’s comments, and they begin to make perfect sense. Offering a luxury and performance focused Esprit base model will appeal to customers who’d otherwise shop Porsche or perhaps Ferrari. Since Lotus will likely sell the bulk of Esprits in this configuration, the hybrid drive system will help pull fuel economy numbers up.

On the other hand, offering lighter and more performance-oriented Lotus models borrows a page from Colin Chapman’s own philosophy of “adding lightness.” If you want the fastest Esprit, don’t expect it to come with amenities such as leather upholstery or automatic climate control.

Such as design philosophy has worked well for the Porsche 911. While most 911s can be ordered with as much luxury content as a buyer’s bank account will allow, hardcore performance models such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS forgo comfort and convenience for light weight and handling, at a commensurately  higher price point.

Will the same strategy work for Lotus? We’ll know for certain after 2013, but we suspect the answer is yes.
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