Lotus Elite: The Most Powerful Lotus Ever

This is the the Lotus Elite, the new "compact" convertible GT sports car we been told to expect from the close-to-our-bossom blossom-named-brand. What we weren't expecting? A folding hardtop, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and an unheard-of-for-Lotus weight. Beefcake!

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Ten days ahead of the Paris Motor Show, where Lotus is set to reveal the "dawn" of a new era, they've revealed "a first taste of what's to come" — the all-new 2014 Lotus Elite.

Lotus is touting this as a "chic and elegant" — yet "compact" — convertible GT 2+2 sports car with a folding hardtop. Although there's no interior shots yet, you can just make out the rear seats in the profile shot, along with a huge gently sloping centre console, which doesn't appear to have a gear lever.

And here's the new new thing for Lotus — there will be no manual option. Instead, you'll have a choice of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission — or buying a Ferrari 599. Why a Ferrari 599? Because that's the performance competition. Seriously.

Despite the lack of gear-rowing, this Lotus looks like it'll be fast. It has a mid-mounted 5.0-liter V8 engine behind the front axle producing around 542 bhp, or 611 bhp in the R-tuned version. Combine that with 530 lb-ft o' torque and Lotus predicts the Elite will hit 62 mph (100 km/h) in about 3.6 seconds. That's faster than the Lotus 2-Eleven and is far and away the most powerful Lotus ever built. There's even talk of a Formula 1-style KERS-like hybrid system providing short bursts of an extra 50 bhp. That's good. Because apparently the new Proton-led "dawn" for Lotus is breaking over the set of The Biggest Loser as it'll weigh in at 3,600 lbs. — almost two Lotus Elises!

We guess you get what you pay for because this'll be expensive –- even for a Lotus -– at around $180,000 (over twice as much as an Evora). But that's still $30k cheaper than a Ferrari California. Plus, you'll get the power of a 599. Not too shabby if you ask us.

Proton will oversee a highly-ambitious 10-year development plan worth $1.2 billion, which will try to bring Lotus in direct competition with Aston Martin, Maserati, and others. "Lotus can't survive as a niche brand," said Lotus CEO Dany Bahar. "It needs to be more appealing and has to exceed its rivals with better quality, class-leading emissions and performance at a better price."

Still, we lament the lack of a manual and the new bigger-is-better Cartman-sized Lotus. But hey, more power, right?