You’re looking at the most powerful production car ever: the new Lotus Evija. Just 130 will be built, with deliveries starting in the second half of 2020, and it promises to set new benchmarks in terms of performance and track capability. The Evija is all electric and all carbon-fiber, and it makes a staggering 1,972 horsepower (2000 metric hp). Forget zero-to-60-mph statistics, as they seem almost irrelevant, and try to wrap your head around this: Lotus says the Evija (say “EVE-eye-ah”) will accelerate from zero to 186 mph in 8.6 seconds. A Bugatti Chiron needs 13.6 seconds to reach the same speed.
This is a whole new world for Lotus. And I’m not just talking about the aesthetics, performance, and price of the $2.1 million (plus local taxes) Evija. Of course, the numbers are extraordinary but for a British journalist like me, the exclusive London venue, the pomp, and the attention to detail in the planning of the unveil event is like no Lotus launch that has gone before.
Usually, an invitation from Lotus involves copious cups of tea, some biscuits, a powerpoint presentation, and then a cheery wave as you leave the factory in Hethel, Norfolk, in the latest Elise, Exige, or Evora. This time it’s laser-light shows, string quartets, canapés, and champagne at the Royal Horticultural Society in Westminster. Chinese manufacturer Geely—who bought a majority stake in Lotus in 2017—clearly saw huge potential and expertise in the perennially on-the-brink manufacturer, and now it’s investing heavily in Lotus’s future. The Evija might not be a traditional or attainable Lotus but it’s a statement of intent. A relaunch. In the words of Lotus Group CEO Feng Qingfeng, “a solemn promise to reinforce and strengthen the brand.”
The engineers at Lotus, you sense, can scarcely believe their luck at working on a project like this. Louis Kerr, the chief engineer of the project, simply describes it as “once in a lifetime” and has clearly relished the challenge. They’ve been working on the project for just 20 months but have developed an all-new carbon-fiber structure that eschews subframes and instead features a semi-active and Multimatic-supplied inboard suspension that bolts directly to the tub. The monocoque itself is built by Modena-based carbon-fiber experts C.P.C. Srl and weighs just 284 pounds. The 2000-kW lithium-ion battery—developed in a joint venture with Williams Advanced Engineering—sits directly behind the passenger cell and is on display just like an old-school internal-combustion engine might be in a Lamborghini or Ferrari. The Evija features four electric motors supplied by Integral Powertrain Limited, and each wheel is independently controlled, opening-up all sorts of torque-vectoring opportunities.
All of this combines into those tasty numbers. A top speed of more than 200 mph, zero to 60 in fewer than three seconds, a curb weight of 3704 pounds, class-leading structural stiffness, a charge time of 18 minutes with a 350-kW charging station, and a range of 270-miles on the NEDC cycle. Although maybe not when you’re using all 1,972 horsepower. There are several driving modes—including Eco, City, Tour, Sport, and Track—which alter 20 parameters, and Lotus says the liquid-cooled EV powertrain will cope with a lap of the Nürburgring without any performance degradation.
The architecture also affords an amazing freedom in terms of styling and the creation of downforce, perhaps most obviously in the huge side intakes and “3/4 venturi” solution that creates masses of negative space at the rear of the car. Lotus call this “porous design,” and likes to say the car is carved by the air. So far it’s being shy about quoting actual downforce figures, but claim the numbers will be equally mind-blowing when they release them later in 2019.
So while we might be waiting eagerly for a new generation of affordable and lightweight Lotus sports cars, for now we’ll have to make do with drooling over the Evija. It’s a stunning-looking car in person and the simple, minimalist interior treads a fine balance between a sense of lightweight engineering and focus without straying into faux motorsport territory.
After 20,000 hours of simulation the first prototypes are now complete and soon Lotus’s testing team will start honing the setup and discovering for themselves what nearly 2000 horsepower feels like away from a computer program and in the real world. Gavin Kershaw, the lead test driver for Evija, is rather looking forward to it. “It’s so exciting,” he says, “but I want to make sure we don’t get so carried away by the technology that we use it to fix problems, or define the driving experience. We need to get the basics right, then we can explore what’s possible with torque-vectoring and all the other technology.”
Kershaw is a real enthusiast and a heroic driver—a ridealong lap around the old, bumpy Hethel test track with him at the wheel of an Exige will live long in my memory—and despite embracing this new world of technology and performance, he wants to ensure the Evija is first and foremost a real drivers’ car and a real Lotus: “I reckon if you can throw it at a corner at 80 or 90 mph,” he begins with a broad smile, “confident that you can slide it all the way out, we’ll have nailed the setup.”