Lotus Exige S roadster
Niche British brand Lotus is expected to re-enter the New Zealand market next year with the Lotus Exige S Roadster, the lightest six-cylinder production soft-top around,
New Zealand and Australian distributors Ateco Automotive says the Exige has been been developed for Europe and Asia, but prices and specifications for the Downunder market will be announced next year. Sydney-based Ateco Automotive public affair manager Edward Rowe wouldn't comment further.
It's the first time an Exige model has been offered with a factory-fitted soft-top roof. The Exige S runs a Toyota-sourced supercharged 3.5-litre V6 that propels the 1100kg car from zero to 100km/h in four seconds, zero to 162km/h in 8.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 233km/h.
The Roadster will come with a choice of gearboxes: a six-speed manual unit or Lotus' Serial Precision Shift (SPS), a paddle-operated automatic with manual mode. Lotus says the SPS gearbox is lighter and more compact than a normal torque-converter transmission.
The car comes with two different suspension settings - standard for everyday use and a hunkered-down Race Pack with a launch control mode for the track. In typical Lotus fashion, the Exige S is a lesson in minimalism and functionality, although buyers have the choice of a go-faster stripper or one with a more swept-up interior.
Outside, Lotus calls it a fine balance of beauty and the beast, saying the drop-top adds new style to the Exige's already muscular contours.
The Exige S Roadster is just one variant in Lotus' planned new range of six models over the next few years, including a replacement for the celebrated Esprit, a new Elise and a four-door coupe to rival the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide.
Lotus will cancel contracts with its existing global sales network in July, part of a plan to overhaul the entire company within the next five years.
It is expected to announce its new dealer network later this year. Lotus wants to move upmarket, targeting brands such as Aston Martin, Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari.
Lotus boss Dany Bahar, who has been head of the company since leaving Ferrari in October 2009, said: "Our new range will be world class, innovative, pioneering and green. They will be efficient with respect to the environment. And in terms of social acceptance.
"We will continue to follow performance through lightweight, but that doesn't mean that our cars must weigh less than 1000kg. It means they are the lightest in their class. That is what performance through lightweight means to us."
Lotus will challenge Ferrari for high-revving supercar honours when it unveils its home-grown 4.8-litre V8 engine in the new Esprit.
The engine has been bench-tested at Lotus' headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, where it delivered 425kW at around 9000rpm and 540Nm at upwards of 3000rpm.
But Lotus' chief technical officer Wolf Zimmermann has hinted that it can deliver about 470kW at 9400rpm and around 575Nm between 5500 and 6000rpm.
Such output would give Lotus bragging rights over Ferrari's 4.5-litre V8, which revs to a maximum 9000rpm in the 458 Italia coupe and Spider convertible.
Zimmerman is excited about the V8's potential. "It is a simple design that I believe will be the best high-performance production V8 on the market," he said.