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Car Review

Lotus Eletre review

£90,750 - £126,250
810
Published: 03 Jan 2024
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Though this isn’t a familiar Lotus, the Eletre is a very competent attempt at applying Lotus philosophy to a seemingly incongruous product

Good stuff

Steering, body control, the way it disguises weight, interior and tech

Bad stuff

Endless noise about not being a ‘proper’ Lotus, initial brake pedal grabbiness, annoying ADAS

Overview

What is it?

Mildly controversial in the intellectual bin fire of social media, this. Mainly because ‘this’ is the new Lotus Eletre, and it is essentially everything the internet thinks a Lotus should not be; an electric SUV with fat skeins of technology woven through it.

It’s also produced in Wuhan, China, which seems to provoke a strange kind of wrinkle in some people’s foreheads that suggests this final piece of information confirms that a five-seat sporting SUV is indeed the antichrist and will bring about the fall of civilisation by not weighing under a tonne and having a 1.8-litre Rover K-series engine.

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Still, if you can wade through the thick layer of Colin Chapman memes and borrowed outrage, there seems to be a lot of interest in Lotus picking up and trying something new. Presumably something that will appeal to more people than an ICE two-seater with the luggage capacity of a teaspoon.

So what we get is a five-seat SUV with a 112kWh battery, a max of 373 miles of WLTP range (depending on spec), super fast 800-volt charging and some bits of Lotus-ology applied to make it interesting to drive. Loads of tech in there, too.

It’s not pitched as a game-changer, simply the Lotus of SUVs. Which takes more than just a badge and vague gesturing towards dynamic prowess, to be fair.

Hmm. So is it at least fast?

Yes, and reliably so. In the UK we’ll get three levels Eletre, Eletre S and Eletre R. Eletre and Eletre S are mechanically identical bi-motored single-speed SUVs, both with just over 600bp. They’ll hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds and run to 160mph. The Eletre R gets an uprated (and heavier) rear motor with a two-speed ‘box strapped to it to provide 900bhp+ and 0-62mph in sub three-seconds. Also, just wanted to point out that if you say the word ‘Eletre’ enough times, it starts to sound really weird. Eletre. Eletre. ELETRE. 

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Stop that. Lotussusess are supposed to be light though, right? So is it?

Hmm. No. But it isn’t particularly fat either, in the context of an electric car of this size. A 112kWh battery weighs in the region of 650kg, so with the basic Eletre weighing in at under 2,500kg (2,490kg, to be exact), that’s not bad at all. The S and R weigh 2,520 and 2,640kg respectively, for reference. Add a few kilos for options, but that’s where they start.

For context, a Tesla Model X with a 95kWh battery weighs 2,540kg+. So there’s a good bit of thoughtfulness thrown into this platform, which is ‘all new’ according to Lotus, but we suspect is built from elements shared from Geely’s global new platform strategy. Put together in interesting and bespoke ways, sure, and with much aluminium. More in-depth measuring is needed. 

Is it any good?

Well, it’s certainly a conversation-starter. There’s lots of aero, and a drag coefficient of 0.26 is pretty good, with the kind of styling that seems to get more detailed the more you digest it. Including more holes and gaps than you expect.

There’s also an interior that seems to be filled with terrible chintz in pictures (helloooo rose-gold switch option), which turns out to be properly lovely in real life and a swathe of new technology ripe for exploitation from over-the-air (OTA) updates. There’s enough LiDar, cameras and microwave sensors to give Boston Dynamics a migraine, plus much ADAS, connectivity and swish electronica. Shoutout to the lovely KEF Audio stereo system (standard on S and R) with Dolby surround-sound that’s worth staying in the car for. 

And if we’re talking dynamics, they will surprise you - mainly thanks to the steering, which is neat, quick, accurate and talkative as far as these things go. There’s a real easy lope to the way you can cover ground in an Eletre S on a backroad, air-suspension set to ‘Tour’ mode, AWD sticking the grip levels and everything feeling better than it has any right to. Not a hard car to like on an objective level.

Photography: Johnny Fleetwood

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

Yes, it’s built in China and not Norfolk. Yes it’s electric. Yes, it’s a high-riding SUV. But it’s also a really very convincing one

It’s hard not to carry some weight of prejudice into any conversation about Lotus - especially as a British brand so hardwired into the sportscar identity. But the truth is, a company cannot live by niche alone, and Lotus needed to broaden its appeal or it would die. Even if you bear antipathy towards the platform or format, you can at least have empathy for the need for it. Cue the agglomeration into the Chinese Geely Megacorporation (which also owns Volvo, Polestar, Zeekr, Lynk&Co and the London EV Company as well as others). Next step? Do a ‘Porsche Cayenne’ and make a vehicle that’s unpopular with the diehard fans but globally saleable - and these days that means an electric SUV.

The trick here is to roll with the fact that the Eletre has nothing to do with ‘traditional Lotus’, but that doesn’t mean it can’t align itself with Lotus values, and be an interesting aspect of a growing brand. Yes, it’s built in China and not Norfolk. Yes it’s electric. Yes, it’s a high-riding SUV. But it’s also a really very convincing one, and despite all the various arguments arranged against it, it still, just a little bit, has some Lotusness in there. More than enough to take on anything in the sector - including electric luminaries like Tesla.

A Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo would still steal the TG collective heart here, but if you absolutely have to have something with more hip-height, then it works. Maybe it’s just in the steering, or the slightly soft-edged tautness when rowing down a bumpy B-road, but there’s a lot to like here. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn good start.

The Rivals

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