Big price, but big potential for Lotus’s little FIA-approved racecar
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This is a mighty big car. Billowing and
magnificent on the outside, palatially spacious inside. So it seems kind of
optimistic that a 3.0-litre V6 engine will be enough to make it feel like a
quick sporty saloon. Or like a Maserati.
But this is no ordinary V6 engine. It kicks
out a mighty 410bhp, and thanks to a pair of turbos and direct injection, is
making a largely lag-free 406lb ft by 2000rpm. Those are, in Top Gear technical
jargon, a whole lot of torques. And they’re spread right around the rev dial.
The new engine is closely related to the
terrific V8 that Maserati introduced when it launched this new QP a few months
back. Turbo systems, combustion chambers, injection and variable cams, yes
they’re similar. But it’s not just a V8 minus two cylinders. They went to the
trouble of giving it a 60 degree V angle instead of the V8’s 90 degrees, because
with a six, 60 degrees evens-out the firing intervals and makes it smoother.
Sure enough there’s great mechanical
refinement, but mostly you’re hearing the rocking deep exhaust system under
power, and its artillery pops on the over-run. This power unit has the sort of
charisma the rest of the big luxury pack don’t countenance.
Maserati claims it’ll get to 62mph in 5.1
seconds. We suspect that for the initial portion of that run, the back tyres
would be smoking. In snaking roads you’ll want to play with the eight-speed
autobox via the paddles, but beware an annoying delay on high-rev upshifts.
On a dry road, traction isn’t an issue. We did
a bit of mucking about on a track, and sure enough tidy rear-end skidding is
available. But you’ll need a lot of space: it is truly a big car.
Still, for wintry use, there’s also a 4WD
version. Don’t get too excited: it’s not coming in RHD, because it’d not sell
enough. It’s an electronically distributed system, mostly avoiding sending
drive to the front until needed, which simply means the steering and agility
aren’t affected. It doesn’t add much mass either. But at the track, the 4WD
version does feel slightly more inert than the 2WD. And anyway, the ESP on the
RWD car is very well calibrated.
It’s a car that understeers slightly unless
you provoke it, has nice accurate steering and generally feels pretty agile for
such a big boat.
So the performance, the sound and the handling
are all capable of cashing the cheques written by the extrovert and wonderfully
engaging styling. Good.
Most of the time it’s a good luxury car too,
as £80,095 would lead you to hope. The space really is limo-like, and the seats
and materials feel plush. By using a nicely responsive high-res touch-screen,
the layout is clean but comprehensive enough. The suspension does a decent job
of cushioning away big bumps, but there’s an annoying little judder over
smaller stuff. All-in though, the feelgood factor flies high.