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Car Review

Lotus Eletre review

£90,750 - £126,250
810
Published: 31 May 2024
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

There’s a lot going on here, but the best thing about the Eletre is that largely, it feels like there isn’t. So let’s start with the basics of the chemical motivation. The big 112kWh (107kWh useable) battery has the cells arranged directly in the structural case rather than in separate modules, meaning that the pack itself can be more energy dense for the volume. Basically it’s a physically smaller battery with the same wallop.

It’s cooled and heated, can charge at up to a peak of 350kW thanks to an 800-volt system (rather than the more usual 400-volt) and offers an entirely reasonable 373 miles of WLTP range for the base Eletre and S. Less for the heavier and faster R, which also gets a two-speed ‘box on the rear axle to produce some startling sub-three-second 0-62mph times. Which are reliably electric-fast, though largely unremarkable in that once-is-enough way that electric sticks a launch.

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I don’t care about ‘unremarkable’. Give me some speed numbers.

In our hands this Eletre R hit 60mph in 2.94 seconds and 100mph in 6.15s. The quarter mile took 10.77s at 133.9mph. This is riotously fast. It’s not as quick off the line as Porsche’s Taycan Turbo S (we haven’t yet put numbers on a new Taycan Turbo GT), but once beyond 60mph, it’s faster. Same applies to Ludicrous-enabled Tesla Model S’s: this is faster. In fact it’s as rapid as most mainstream supercars: McLaren 570 or GT, Audi R8 V10 Plus, 991-gen Porsche 911 Turbo.

And, very rare for an EV, it has the brakes to cope. Repeated high speed stops failed to perturb the R’s optional carbon ceramics, which stopped the SUV from 100mph in under 90 metres (only five metres or so further than the aforementioned supercars), 60mph in 33 metres. Just one thing: the optional 10-piston brakes cost £11,999…

Let’s get back to propulsion and mechanics.

The motors and inverters and coding black magic are inside one unit, the packaging neat. Suspension is twin-chambered air, aluminium multi-link with various driving modes (Tour, Range, Sport, Off-road, Individual – and the R gets an extra Track mode) and there’s decent spread in the dynamics. Though the S we drove on-road and for a good long while felt largely front-biased most of the time, the R we spent a week with in the UK had better dynamic balance.

Similarly, the brakes in the first cars we drove exhibited an annoying grabbiness on the first 10 per cent of the pedal travel that feels like it’s got something to do with the brake regen blending. That seems to have been improved since launch and the good, strong and consistent stoppers are impressive.

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So that’s the hardware…

Getting there! There’s also active anti-roll control, torque vectoring by braking, and active rear-wheel steering, all networked to try and act like none of them exist. And weirdly, from 20-85 per cent of the operational envelope, they do. The Eletre S manages to work with its own weight so that it feels at ease going very quickly, without the usual heave-ho one associates with big-mass electric SUVs. Nope, it’s not a housefly and needs some attention, but lovely steering and decent body control mean you can pick a line and stick to it without hedging your bets with the steering all the time and adding inputs during the corner.

In fact, it’s only in extremis that the Lotus changes character. Push too hard and it’ll generally just understeer, feeling very safe and front-wheel drive-biased. The R ups the ante further, copes with more, but you come away from it impressed rather than in love. It’s absolutely crisp and competent, but not emotionally binding.

How are comfort levels?

The ride quality is testament to the world-class work done by Lotus’s dynamics experts. It’s firm, no question, but also compliant and composed. We’d be curious to sample a car shod on smaller low-drag 20in wheels, which is also the version with the optimum range. The visually imposing Eletre might look under-nourished on those, though, and we suspect most buyers will trade efficiency for aesthetics. Even on big wheels it’s quiet inside (there’s active sound compensation), does a more than passable impression of a luxury SUV: it’s just that, while you’d be happy cruising for hours, the car can’t. Charging punctuates the experience.

The regular Eletre does without the 48V active anti-roll bars and rear steer (they’re an option on the S, standard on the R), but still contains its mass with spooky authority. Only when you give it everything on a damp road in Sport mode do you sense the rapid-fire intervention of a trillion lines of code. But really, if you want to drive a 2.5-tonne electric SUV like a Lotus Emira, you’d buy a Lotus Emira. Most of the time the Eletre is highly capable, unflustered by sudden inputs or changes of direction, and precise.

And as an overall driving experience?

Honestly, the Eletre is probably the best-handling electric SUV in this sector, though that’s working within the confines of the raw physics. In terms of what we’ve tried, the S has nice neutrality, good grip, a solid feel and absolutely enough pace (0-62mph in 4.5s), without being hugely exciting. The R is a little more bold in the balance, has enormous thrust, accurate responses and far crisper handling than you’d imagine.

What about when the charge starts to run out, what’s that like? 

Charging is pretty good, actually. The 800-volt system has a 350-volt DC ability, but that’s what it peaks at, rather than its average charge rate. Stick it on a decently-rated charger from 10-80 per cent and you’ll only be paused for 20 minutes. More laterally? You’ll punt 74 miles of range into the car every five minutes-ish on a big enough charger.

Weirdly, the Eletre has a 22kW AC charger as standard, so if you do find a big three-phase domestic supply it’ll top off the big battery in sub-six hours, but not many people swan around with industrial three-phase in their home garage.

On a more usual 7.4kW domestic electric car charger, expect it to take around 17 hours to charge from flat to full. 107kWh battery don’t forget, so don’t go expecting to arrive home one evening, and leave home the following morning with 100 per cent charge. There’s also an app, smart pre-conditioning, the usual sat-nav plotting for en-route charging and the rest. It’s actually a pretty solid effort from Lotus: no big holes here.

Does the claimed range stack up?

Lotus claims 373 miles on a full charge, but we saw a maximum of 313, on a chilly but hardly sub-zero day. On a run that combined B-road and motorway, we were averaging 2.4mi/kWh (not outstanding, but we’ve seen worse) in the S, which we’d expect to rise closer to 3.0 on a warmer day. Still some disparity between the real world and the laboratory, then.

The R, meanwhile, seemed to settle at about 2.0-2.2mi/kWh when cruising, which took a dive when you indulged the 905bhp.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

675kW R 112kWh 5dr Auto [4 Seat]
  • 0-622.95s
  • CO20
  • BHP905.2
  • MPG
  • Price£126,250

the cheapest

450kW 112kWh 5dr Auto
  • 0-624.5s
  • CO20
  • BHP603.5
  • MPG
  • Price£90,750

the greenest

675kW R 112kWh 5dr Auto [4 Seat]
  • 0-622.95s
  • CO20
  • BHP905.2
  • MPG
  • Price£126,250

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