Revealed: Lotus’s secret hyper saloon Type 133

Revealed: Lotus’s secret hyper saloon Type 133

With the Type 133, Lotus is going head to head with the Porsche Taycan as it targets unprecedented sales success.


NEXT BIG THING


For years, business as usual at Lotus was just about surviving, foraging an existence off 1000-odd sales of its ageing sports cars. But since China’s Geely took over, Lotus has felt unreal, like a feverish dream.

First there was the Evija electric hypercar, the creation of a cross-continental R&D machine, then news of a Wuhan factory with a 150,000-unit capacity. Then 2022 heralded the Emira V6 sports car, and the first glimpse of the Eletre crossover SUV. Three all-new models in three years, compared with an 11-year hiatus from Evora to Evija.

But it’s 2023 that will make these dreams tangible, increasing your chances of actually seeing a Lotus on the road from time to time. Truth be told, Emira production is only now beginning to scale up, having been choked by the world’s supply-chain issues. The 2.0-litre version, with its AMG-sourced four-cylinder engine, should debut in the spring. That’s also when the first Eletres are due – assuming China’s capricious Covid policy doesn’t interrupt the Wuhan plant.

So if things go to plan, Lotus volumes in 2023 should be between 10,000 and 20,000 units. Hitting that peak would be production 12 times greater than the dark days.

But the new-model momentum isn’t going to stall. Yet another all-new Lotus will be unveiled in 2023, likely towards the end of the year, with sales beginning in 2024. At this point, we know it only by its type number, 133 (every Lotus auto project gets one).

Type 133 will be the flagship of New Lotus, a four-door saloon with coupe-like curves positioned slightly above the Eletre (which costs from £89,500 in the UK). Think of T133 as Lotus’s rival for the Porsche Taycan, a vehicle that is no stranger to Hethel given the engineers’ need to comprehensively benchmark what is – for now at least – the world’s most dynamic four-door EV.

The T133 runs on a rejigged and lowered version of the Eletre’s skateboard-style architecture. That embeds its battery in the base of the chassis, to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. The Eletre has a 112kWh pack, which is close to the architecture’s limit. Assuming Type 133 can package a similar amount of kWh, and with its smaller frontal area, a range beyond 400 miles is on the cards.

Also in common is Lotus’s electric motor design, which combines the controller and the driveshaft-linking reducer to keep the unit as compact as possible. The Eletre deploys a motor on both front and rear axles for all-wheel drive, with the standard and S model yielding 450kW (603hp), while the R spins out 675kW (905hp).

The 133 is expected to have a similar, three-tier range at launch: strictly rear-wheel-drive models may come in time. Expect the base saloon to be priced just under six figures. The design team is establishing the new Lotus family look, and Type 133’s form will clearly mix cues from Evija and Eletre. Expect to see a repeat of the electric hypercar’s ‘porosity’, with air ducted through the bodywork for aerodynamic reasons. Prototype mules display a swept-up shoulder line and rear glass similar to the Eletre’s, and there will be some intricate surfacing to disguise the mass of this big four-door.

The 800-volt electric architecture will enable serious direct current charging for rapid pitstops. Other tech in the armoury includes rear-wheel steering to boost agility, air suspension, sophisticated adaptive damping, active anti-roll and torque vectoring to put the power down cleanly. All of this should ensure Type 133 delivers true Lotus ride and handling.

Lotus describes the Eletre as a hyper SUV, believing it to be in a performance league unmatched by rivals such as the BMW iX M60. Certainly the R’s 2.95sec 0-62mph time is almost a second quicker than the BMW’s. But Type 133 will need to go even faster if it’s to eclipse the Porsche Taycan Turbo S – but that’s the goal for this hyper saloon.

A mind-boggling aspiration; Lotus beating Porsche at its own highly evolved game – really? But that no longer seems to be such a fever dream for the Norfolk sports car maker turned serious global player.


NEED TO KNOW

  • What is it? The next Lotus, after the Eletre electric SUV
  • Tech? Eletre-derived 112kWh battery, twin-motor, all-wheel drive; rear-drive, single-motor may follow
  • Aimed at? Porsche Taycan buyers
  • When can I have one? Revealed late ’23, on sale ’24

Profits with honour

It’s probably time to stop beating Lotus with a Colin Chapman-shaped stick. Yes, the company was built on his pillars of lightness and simplicity. And yes, we all wish we owned an Elise. But tomorrow’s Lotus cannot be that company, and would be foolish to try to turn back the clock and make cars only for the Chapman fan club.

Today’s Lotus – the company that makes both the Emira sports car and the Eletre electric SUV – is in the process of moving on. And we should too.

Porsche is clearly a very good model. It honours its heritage by bringing a bit of 911-derived magic to electric saloons and two-tonne SUVs. And it makes huge profit

13:16
1145
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie