Home » First Drive: Lotus’s 905 HP All-Electric SUV Has the Power to Challenge Lamborghini and Ferrari

First Drive: Lotus’s 905 HP All-Electric SUV Has the Power to Challenge Lamborghini and Ferrari

by multimill
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No car company has ever attempted such a radical reinvention. Until very recently, Lotus, based in Hethel, England, was gluing together back-to-basics sports cars like the Elise and Exige. Now it has launched a tech fest in the form of its all-electric Eletre SUV. And while the British marque took 70 years to build its first 100,000 cars, it now aims to sell that number annually by 2028.

The Eletre is a Lotus like no other: a battery-powered “hyper-SUV” that, for now at least, seems to be in a segment of its own. In terms of performance, it squares up to the Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX. Yet in terms of price, it’s closer to the Porsche Cayenne, which won’t go fully electric until 2026. Fortune favors the brave? We’ll see.

The all-electric Lotus Eletre S.

The base model Eletre and Eletre S (shown here) make 603 hp and are claimed to have a 373-mile range.

Lotus Cars Limited

As Chinese automotive conglomerate Geely—parent company of Volvo and Polestar—now owns Lotus, the Eletre is made in Wuhan, China, rather than a quiet corner of rural England, and our test drive takes place in Norway, where we’ll tackle a road route, followed by performance testing at a private airport. Geely has invested in a new, aluminum-intensive EV platform that will also underpin a smaller SUV, plus a sedan to rival the Porsche Taycan. And when the Lotus Emira is phased out, it could also spawn an electric sports car, too. 

All versions of the Eletre use a 112 kWh battery and twin electric motors to deliver four-wheel drive. The 603 hp base model blasts to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds and can travel 373 miles on a full charge. Step up to the Eletre S and you get the same power-train configuration but more equipment, including 22-inch alloy wheels, soft-close doors, and a superb 23-speaker KEF audio system. 

The all-electric Lotus Eletre S.

All versions of the Eletre use a 112 kWh battery and twin electric motors to deliver four-wheel drive.

Lotus Cars Limited

The top option, though, is the 905 hp Eletre R (opening image). It comes with active anti-roll bars, rear-wheel steering, and beefier motors that allow for a zero-to-62 mph time of 2.95 seconds. As for range, that drops to 304 miles. The Eletre won’t reach U.S. showrooms until early 2024, and Lotus hasn’t confirmed prices yet. However, the range kicks off at £89,500 in the UK (approximately $112,000). 

I collect a key the size of a credit card and locate my Eletre S in the parking lot. It isn’t hard to spot as it’s dressed in Solar Yellow and its body is covered in scoops and spoilers, resulting in a drag coefficient of 0.26—very slippery for an SUV. Petal-style vents in the front grille can open or close to improve cooling or smooth airflow, while the active rear spoiler produces up to 248 pounds of downforce at the maximum speed of 165 mph for the Eletre S.

A close-up of a driver's hands on the steering wheel inside a Lotus Eletre S SUV.

The Eletre offers up to seven touchscreens, including the primary 15.1-inch OLED display.

Lotus Cars Limited

Also somewhat noticeable are the pop-out LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, one at either end of the roof and on each of the front fenders. They’re among a suite of 34 safety sensors and cameras that give the Eletre what Lotus touts as “a true 360-degree view of the world around it”. If and when regulations permit it, this comprehensive system will allow Level 4 autonomy—in other words, the Eletre will be able to drive itself. An Elise certainly couldn’t do that. 

The Elise also didn’t offer 5G connectivity and cutting-edge infotainment. Step inside the Eletre and you’ll discover up to seven touchscreens, including ones for the optional door-mirror cameras, along with a head-up windshield display. The main 15.1-inch OLED screen accesses the navigation system linked to the EV drivetrain, which enables it to predict energy use and precondition the battery before you arrive at a charger. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto weren’t available in our test cars, but an over-the-air update should remedy that before stateside sales get started.

The all-electric Lotus Eletre S.

The active rear spoiler on the Eletre S produces up to 248 pounds of downforce at the maximum speed of 165 mph.

Lotus Cars Limited

The cabin of the Eletre provides the option for a conventional rear bench or two rear sports seats. The individual chairs don’t fold down, however, making this configuration markedly less practical. Overall, space is generous and the quality of materials feels equal to premium European standards. There’s an abundance of Alcantara and ambient lighting, including a “Blade of Light” across the dashboard that can change color to communicate with the driver (if the battery is running low, for instance).

Leaving Oslo in stop-start traffic, the Eletre proves as easygoing as any EV. With 524 ft lbs of torque from a standstill, the SUV presents acceleration that’s effortless and impressively refined. “We took the decision not to introduce any artificial noise,” explains chassis engineer Sylvain Verstraeten. The vehicle also feels very settled on its air suspension, shrugging off the speed humps that litter this first part of our route.

The 905 hp Lotus Eletre R.

The 905 hp Lotus Eletre R.

Lotus Cars Limited

On winding country roads, more traditionally suited to a Lotus, the Eletre acquits itself well. The electromechanical steering can’t offer the wonderful lucidity and feedback of Hethel’s greatest hits, nor is it a match for Porsche’s electric system, but it allows you to place the car with confidence, the chassis responding with neutral balance and huge reserves of grip. I find the default Tour mode offers the most fluid progress on the road. In Sport mode, the Lotus feels restless and unnecessarily abrupt. 

I arrive at the airport and swap into the Eletre R. That mighty 905 hp output outguns even the V-12-engined Ferrari Purosangue, making launch-control starts on the runway a stomach-clenching, borderline unpleasant experience. I’m quietly glad I haven’t eaten lunch yet.

The interior of the all-electric Lotus Eletre S SUV.

With an abundance of Alcantara and ambient lighting, the cabin space is generous and the overall quality feels equal to premium European standards.

Lotus Cars Limited

Soon it’s time for a high-speed slalom and, right on cue, the heavens open and rain starts hammering onto the tarmac. Still, it makes the poise and control offered by the rear-wheel steering and 48 volt active anti-roll bars even more evident. The Lotus instructor in the passenger seat tells me that the Eletre feels more stable than an Emira in such suboptimal conditions. I can well believe it.  

What the Eletre can’t offer is the drama and excitement of a Purosangue or Urus. And while there’s no doubting its point-to-point pace, I feel Lotus could have worked harder to reduce the car’s crushing 5,490-pound curb weight (5,820 pounds for the R). Company founder Colin Chapman, whose mantra was “Simplify, then add lightness”, would likely have agreed.

The all-electric Lotus Eletre R.

The Eletre R (shown here) and other two variants of the model won’t reach U.S. showrooms until early 2024.

Lotus Cars Limited

All that weight inevitably takes its toll on efficiency and, after 120 miles of varied road driving in the S, I record a slightly disappointing figure of 2.71 miles per kWh. At least 350 kW charging capacity means the Eletre can replenish from 10 percent to 80 percent in only 20 minutes.

The Eletre gets Lotus’s reinvention off to a strong start. It’s a talented and convincing EV that will appeal to many people who’ve never heard of Hethel or Colin Chapman. I just hope Lotus doesn’t forget its roots and, in time, uses those SUV profits to develop a truly brilliant electric sports car.

Click here for more photos of the all-electric Lotus Eletre SUV.

The all-electric, 905 hp Lotus Eletre R in action.

The all-electric, 905 hp Lotus Eletre R in action.

Lotus Cars Limited



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