New boss gives Lotus Evora 400 a hurry-up
The Lotus Evora 400, which debuts at the Geneva motor show on March 3 ahead of sales in August, marks a push upmarket for the acclaimed but slow-selling 2+2 sports car.
The new car, lighter by 22kg, is the firm's first serious model launch since the leadership appointment nine months ago of seasoned automotive executive Jean-Marc Gales.
The maximum speed is 300 km/h and acceleration 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. This enables the new Lotus Evora 400 to lap the challenging test track at the Lotus Headquarters in Hethel an incredible 6 seconds faster than the previous generation Evora.
The new Evora 400 features a completely re-engineered supercharged and charge-cooled mid-mounted 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 4410Nm of torque.
Gales said it was "no coincidence" that the 400's power output exactly matches that of the Porsche 911 Carrera S.
Sales in the UK of the current Evora have slumped below those of the entry Elise and track-focused Exige sports cars, but Gales is banking on renewed interest in the revised car.
It's a big part of the man from Luxembourg's plan to push international sales from 1403 in the 2013/14 financial year to 3000 in the 12 months ending March 2016.
A year later Lotus will be in profit, Gales predicts. "It's something we haven't done consistently in over 20 years. We basically never did it on the car side," he said.
As he pointed out, Lotus has lurched from one financial disaster to another, but it really was at crisis point following the sacking of former Ferrari marketing executive Dany Bahar in 2012.
In the three years to the end of March 2014, the Malaysian-owned maker lost more than £300 million ($612 million) and sales of the ageing line-up were moribund.
Now Gales, a former head of the Peugeot-Citroen brands, looks to be finally turning around the firm.
Last September he told Telegraph Cars that success meant driving up sales of the current range and in the last 10 months wholesales of cars to an expanded dealer network are up 63 per cent to 1718.
The Evora 400 will lift that further by being US-compliant with side airbags, to enable sales to begin again there at the end of the year, while a roadster version is planned for next year, Gales said.
A reveal of the supercar before Geneva has shown Gales has addressed criticisms that the Evora was lagging behind rivals such as Porsche in perceived quality, especially in the interior.
The new Sparco seats were beautifully trimmed in Scottish leather and the dash elements are now appealingly Germanic than quirkily Norfolk.
The car looks more aggressive. The wide air intakes on the new front bumper as well the prominent diffuser and 3in exhaust all help distance the car from the "Daddy Elise" styling of the 2009 original.
Other criticisms addressed include narrower sills on the aluminium tub for more graceful entry and exit, as well as improved ventilation for faster demisting. Equipment is better too, with satnav, leather heated seats, rear parking camera and a limited-slip differential on the manual models.
Gales said every improvement sprung from talking to customers.
"You give customers what they want then you can increase the price," he said.
He's also taking cost out. One of Gales' innovations is to strip down all three models and display each individually-priced part on tables in what he dubs the tear-down room.
Parts prices are then questioned and cheaper, ideally lighter, items are sought as long as quality is maintained.
"It's basically never been done before [at Lotus]," he said.
He's making manufacturing less complex, again saving money but also speeding up production.
For example the Evora's paint colours are reduced from 25 to 9, with refreshingly simple names like "Evora silver".
-Telegraph Group Ltd