Dear 001,

The man who bought the company (Victor Kiam) has been ensuring that enough money gets pumped into Lotus to ensure a fabulous 3-model line-up by 2006/2007 starting with the rebirth of 007's favorite submarine, the Esprit.

Just like Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin, Lotus have been working on a new chassis technology called VVA (Versatile Vehicle Architecture) but unlike Fords subsidiaries, the boys from Norfork in England have been developing other interchangeable building blocks allowing them to make different cars from the same systems, front engine, rear engine, transverse or in-line engines, way ahead of the opposition.

What that means is...

An inline mid-engine 2-seater Esprit in the 2005’ish timeframe. An inline front engine 4-seater Excel Coupe in sometime in 2006-07 and a transverse mid-engine 2-seater Elise in 2006-07

First to arrive will be the Esprit replacement, a very lightweight, strict 2-seater cloaked in a stylish body with some family resemblance to the Elise but with a new Lotus trademark, ie, "sharks gills" for engine cooling vents behind the doors. In a change of strategy, from the start, Lotus is building an interior cabin structure that fits drivers, then designing a body to go around it, so the esprit will be a "very comfortable" car indeed (by supercar standards). What will power this 200+mph monster is still undecided, some say a turbo-charged BMW M5 engine, others say a development of the existing 3.5-litre V8 that was last used in the old Esprit.

Whatever, performance and handling to shame all supercars is Lotus aim. With a super strong structure, the option for a Ferrari GTS style removable roof is being explored for the first time too. The "E" naming system will continue, though the Esprit development car is called Elvis, this probably will not be its production name! Expect a debut at the 2005 Geneva motor show, where the original first appeared in the 70's. Expect a £75,000 ($135,000USD) price tag.

Following a year later comes the front-engine Excel replacement, once regarded as the best handling car of its type (beating the old Porsche 944's in it's day).

Again, based on the VVA platform, it is intended to be a proper 4-seater, equally aggressively styled as the Esprit but keeping a strong family resemblance. Lotus intend to produce a smaller, less powerful motors for the Excel, probably a blown and unblown versions of the current 3.5-litre V8, endowing the car with sufficient power to see off most of the competition, ie, Nissan Z350, BMW M3 etc. With a super strong structure, insiders say a convertible is possible, and market forces suggest that experimentation is already in had to produce a rag-top. Exceptional road manners will be this cars selling point. Expect this on sale in 2006ish, priced at around £45,000 to £55,000 ($81,000USD to $99,000USD) at launch.

Lastly, because it's just been revised by Lotus in the last couple of months, the final model to use the VVA systems will be the replacement Elise. It will remain a transverse mid-engine car as it is now, and it's styling will follow the new family theme. Better interior space will be the main benefit of the new car when it appears in 2008. For it's baby model (and main seller) Lotus will continue to out source the engine, and as Toyota have some interesting developments of their own going on too - a good engine/gearbox option should not be too difficult to locate. The idea of using GM parts (as Lotus currently builds their VX220) has been quashed and that partnership is soon to end completely. This new baby Lotus is expected to move the handling/performance envelope to another level when it arrives, just like the current car has done.

You will need to be patient, as this pocket rocket will not be in the showrooms until 2008, though it will be a bargain at £27,000 to £30,000 ($49,000USD to $55,000USD) for a car that will humble a Ferrari 360 on a back road.

How do you like them apples?

Take care,

Professor Victor Van Nostrom

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