First Look: 2015 Lotus Eterne

2015 Lotus Eterne

The final slot in the revised Lotus portfolio is reserved for a four-door sports car named Eterne. There is a tenuous historical precedent for a four-door Lotus. During General Motors' ownership of Lotus, a Vauxhall Carlton sedan was sent to Lotus for a fairly intense transformation that transformed it from a stale sedan into a veritable four-door sports car. Lotus badging and wider wheel arches hinted at the Cartlton's incredible 176-mph top speed, which was made possible by a twin-turbo I-6 engine and six-speed ZF manual transmission borrowed from the (Lotus-engineered) Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1.

Eterne will use the same front-mid engine position as the Elite, and therefore have identical powertrains. The Lexus-derived supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 will be available in either 542- or 611-horsepower forms, while the only transmission choice is an epicyclic gearbox with integrated electric motors and an optional KERS system. If the KERS system is selected, a push-to-pass style button on the steering wheel can briefly boost power by 49 horsepower. The epicyclic gearbox has been designed to power the rear wheels, but all-wheel drive will be an option after launch. A top speed of 196 mph is projected, along with a 0-62 mph time of 4.0 seconds.

Lotus tries to split the difference between Porsche's Panamera and Aston Martin's Rapide by attacking the Rapide's performance and the Panamera's looks. The Eterne is 196.9 inches long, which is about an inch longer than the Panamera and an inch shorter than the Rapide. Eterne will be the tallest of the group at 56.3 inches high, and at 74.8 inches, it's also the narrowest. The curb weight will match the Panamera at 3968 pounds for a non-hybrid mode, far less than the Rapide's 4396-pound curb weight.

There's not much to say about the Eterne's interior because it hasn't been designed yet. We expect the sedan to use the proprietary infotainment solution that Lotus is rolling out across the rest of its cars, as well as seating for four adults. Rear seating should be as spacious as those in the Panamera, as Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar finds the Rapide's back seats too compromised for passengers. Lotus is diligently working to shed its age-old perception of building cars that are too difficult to enter and exit.

With some luck, the Eterne will allow Lotus to reach a global volume of 8000 sales per year. Pricing is anything but concrete at this point, but Bahar does expect the Etern to cost roughly £120,000 when it goes on sale in the spring of 2015. To reach its lofty volume goal, Lotus needs to find a subcontractor to build both the Elite and Etern, as the Hethel assembly lines are reserved for mid-engine cars. While Lotus hope to be able to sell as many as 8000 cars each year, the company has planned to be profitable at 5000 sales per year. The plan is incredibly ambitious, given the fact that Lotus currently only sells about 2400 cars each year.

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