Yesterday five new Lotus models were unveiled. They're faster and undeniably impressive engineering achievements, but for some reason they feel a little me-too, a missed effort to do something extraordinary. How would you modernize Lotus?
Our apprehension over New Lotus stems from the ridiculously high regard in which we hold Colin Chapman. The company's founder managed to define every driving purist's dream when he said, "Simplify, then add lightness." We don't need 7-speed dual-clutch gearboxes that incorporate an electric motor for hybrid drive, we don't need all-wheel drive. We don't need 5.0-liter forced-induction 612 HP V8s because, if we had a lighter car, they wouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, New Lotus has all those things.
The decision to corrupt the principles of Chapman to make the New Lotus were likely taken for one, very powerful reason: commercial success. Look at Lamborghini, look at Ferrari, look at Bugatti for christ's sake. They're not working out of a shed in Norfolk and their cars are the most complicated things on earth. The modern supercar driver probably doesn't care about driving experience, he just wants to make his penis look as big as possible without being challenged by a car that would kill him. We understand why Lotus decided to pursue Mr. Baldspot, but we still wish they didn't.
What would we build? First of all, we'd set out to make the cars attainable. A range of $40,00-$75,000 cars that wouldn't be built to a price, they'd just be simple. As the definition of the perfect sports car, the Elise doesn't need to change, ever. We'd hope on the retro bandwagon with a Ginetta G5-like, fiberglass bodied, steel-tube framed recreation of the Elan coupe. A four door? Sure, maybe something along the lines of an E30. No, the cars couldn't be as light as the originals, not only because of modern safety requirements, but because we wouldn't pay for shed loads of carbon fiber.
Would they sell? Who knows, but they'd at least stand out in the marketplace as an original, unique product that'd appeal to the purist and intellectual elitist over lowest-common-denominator chestwigged investment bankers.
What would you do differently?
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