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Five new models remain firmly in Lotus' future as the company this week threw cold water over rumours of ill health.
Disruptive publicity has blanketed Lotus but the fragile sports-car maker now says it's only direction is forward. It has also enforced a closed-book approach to announcing future product - though some grains slip through the floorboards.
The latest is conformation that the five-car line-up is going ahead, with the Esprit the first expected to be launched in late 2014.
In Perth to launch Lotus' latest supercharged Exige S, Lotus Australia marketing manager Alastair Manihera says the $119,900 Exige S will be followed by further variants of the Exige, Elise and Evora.
He also confirmed that Lotus in the UK has ``turned off its PR machine and plans no forward communication''. Pity.
But Mr Manihera says the five-car plan is a definite and that demand is so strong for Lotus product at the moment that the company has opened a second production line.
"We are in full operation and stock is coming through,'' he says. "We have eight road models available and a ninth - the Exige S Roadster - due in Australia later this year. For Lotus, it's business as usual.''
The five models planned by Lotus, displayed at the 2010 Paris moor show and shown to Carsguide at the factory in 2011 are the Esprit, Elite, Elan, Eterne and Elise. The innovative city car, the Ethos, is off the books.
The Esprit is targeted for release late 2014 and wears new engineering including a rumoured 4.8-litre 456kW V8 engine, while the Elise is a new car carrying the old name and the Eterne is a four-door to take on potential rivals including the Aston Martin Rapide.
Funding for the plan was to come from then owner Proton but now has been bankrolled by Malaysian firm DRB-Hicom that bought out Proton's share in January 2012.
Meanwhile, Lotus will import 35 Exige S examples this year and 16 are already sold. The 35 is made up of 25 coupes and 10 roadsters that are expected in Australia in December.
For 2014, Mr Manihera forecasts 120 cars for Australia and 30 for Western Australia. "That's the target,'' he says."Then we have to ensure that the factory can make enough cars for us. There's a lot of people very interested but won't commit until they've driven the car.
"I think also people want to be assured that there's continuity of Lotus product. On the one hand it looks bad if there's no publicity from the factory and that creates rumours but on the other hand, Lotus is flat out making cars.
"The Exige S is the halo car that shows that Lotus is refocused.''
The Exige S Roadster loses the roof, rear spoiler and front splitter and gets a softer leather for the upholstery. The topless version, which will cost about the same as the coupe, is 10kg lighter than the coupe at 1166kg. "It's the best way to dry your hair,'' says Mr Manihera.
"It is limited to a 233km/h top speed (the coupe runs to 272km/h) for safety reasons as it doesn't produce the same downforce as the coupe.''
The supercharged Exige is promoted as the beginning of new Lotus push in Australia. It was shown in Perth to prospective owners - five have already been sold - in a pearl white paint. Buyers will pay an extra $3750 for this coat but will also have to wait.
Mr Manihera says the paint process is complex and takes a long time. "The idea is to drop this paint option until production gets up to demand,'' he says.
The Exige S, which uses the same Toyota-sourced V6 engine as the Evora S - and sharing the Australian Harrop supercharger - pumps the same 258kW/400Nm but the Exige's sub-1200kg weight clips almost one second off the 0-100km/h time, now down to 3.9 seconds.
A three-mode Lotus Dynamic Performance Management (DPM) system allows drivers to switch between Touring, Sport and DPM-off settings. A Race Pack option will offer a fourth mode (Race) for maximum traction, a launch control function and optimised suspension tune.
The Exige S has AP Racing four-piston calipers over 350mm ventilated and cross-drilled front discs and 322mm solid rear discs with ABS.
Lotus road models now in Australia are the Elise 1.6, Elise Club Racer, Elise S, Exige S V6 Coupe, Evora manual and automatic (called IPS), and Evora S supercharged in manual and IPS.
Race-only cars - including Exige V6 Cup, Exige V6 Cup R, Evora GT4 and GTE - are also available for more serious players.
|S||3.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$54,500 – 68,860||2013 Lotus Exige 2013 S Pricing and Specs|
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