Lotus Elise at Frankfurt Motor Show
Possibly the world's most advanced sports car was unveiled at the IAA (Frankfurt Motor Show) on September 12 - the new Lotus Elise. Featuring a futuristic, yet practical and proven, epoxybonded aluminium spaceframe chassis clothed in a stunning composite body shell, Elise is small, strong, ultralight, efficient, very fast, and great fun to drive - the next generation pure supercar, from Lotus.
Tony Shute, Program Manager for Elise, lists the criteria for the concept:
A dramatic, small, simple two seat convertible sports car with timeless looks, performance, safety, and driver satisfaction - "the most fun on four wheels" Performance, efficiency, and low emissions through low weight Ease of manufacture and assembly, affordable cost of ownership Development of forward-thinking proven solutions that would also benefit other carmakers
He notes "We started with this concept, shared and encouraged by Mr. Artioli, in January 1994. We put together a small, cross-function team, working to these guidelines. The results so far speak for themselves - we like to think Colin Chapman would have approved".
The Lotus Elise is the first of a new breed of supercar - small, high-tech, and simple, yet with satisfying performance for the young-at-heart enthusiast. Light weight, efficiency, and driver satisfaction have been the hallmarks of classic Lotus sports and competition cars since 1948 when Colin Chapman built his first design. Today, Elise puts these elements into sharp focus, delivering exciting performance with a high power-to-weight ratio by achieving low weight rather than high power. Such low weight (only 675 kg) benefits braking, handling and steering response, and also cuts down fuel consumption. This has a positive effect on the major problem beginning to face carmakers world-wide - emissions of carbon dioxide.
But high performance is only one element of the package - the stunning and distinctive appearance of Elise is the work of the Lotus Design team, led by Julian Thomson. The curvaceous shape is not just attractive but also aerodynamically effective, thanks to a package developed in the wind-tunnel which includes chin and tail elements working with an (optional) underbody diffuser, in line with current motorsport thinking. The vehicle layout itself is influenced by motorsport practice, yet is driven by the needs of series-production manufacturing. The interior too follows this theme; for example, the adjustable driver's seat is nearer the vehicle centre-line than the passenger seat, which itself is fixed in the rearmost position. The overall result is a high-performance package with the driving precision of a
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race-car, the ride and handling for which Lotus is renowned, and a simplicity and ease of manufacture which clients of Lotus Engineering require today.
Lotus engineers, working with Hydro Aluminium Automotive Structures and other forwardlooking suppliers, have developed a high-strength spaceframe structure of epoxy-bonded aluminium extrusions; a first for production road cars. The structure weighs 65 kg yet meets required safety legislation with excellent durability and torsional rigidity. The extrusion process is used to produce many other cost-effective and elegant parts, such as the pedals, suspension uprights (both subjects of new Lotus patents), and the side intrusion beams. The drive to apply innovative solutions to achieve light weight has also brought about another first for production cars - the use of aluminium metal matrix composites (MMC) brake discs. This technology, developed by Lanxide, has previously only been used on competition cars but is now a production-ready process with proven component durability.
Oliver Everett, Head of Sales & Marketing for Lotus Cars, sees a wide appeal for Elise: "We plan an initial production volume of 700 units per year, at a base price in the UK of under £20,000 (in Germany, under DM50,000). When we begin deliveries in mid-1996, there will be many enthusiasts who will no longer have to dream of driving their own Lotus - Elise is aflordable and exclusive. Even before its announcement, our dealers across Europe have already taken numerous deposits. Our future customers will not be disappointed".
Hugh Kemp, Program Director, described the crucial role of key suppliers: "We built an integrated team comprising our design group, key suppliers, and our manufacturing and sales experts to ensure we delivered the program in record time. With the help of Hydro Aluminium Automotive Structures, Ciba Geigy, Rover, Lanxide and Alusuisse, our engineering specialists have achieved a radical new approach to vehicle architecture."
Rod Mansfield, Managing Director for Lotus Cars says "This car typifies what Lotus has done best for almost forty years, yet looks into the future. Elise delivers what our customers want - the ultimate in driving satisfaction".
Romano Artioli, Chairman of Group Lotus and of Bugatti Industries, summed up: "We set a clear objective in the briefing of our engineers and designers: it was essential to create a new Lotus which reflected the genius of Colin Chapman. The team has delivered a real winner, ahead of its time, in true Lotus tradition.
"Naturally, Elise features the latest thinking in styling, aerodynamics and ride, yet it is a true Lotus. Its ultra-light design is intended to meet all world-wide requirements for safety, comfort and emission and noise control. Its stunning lines have been penned by our inhouse stylists who have justly earned respect as world leaders. The appeal of this model is not limited to its looks; throughout the project I have been delighted by the Lotus engineers' ability and enthusiasm in achieving such a lightweight vehicle. They have applied technologies of the future with simplicity and purity of design.
"The result is an advanced race bred high-performance sports car with distinctive new styling which delivers the most fun on four wheels. In short, it is a winner for Lotus, which was created not only with great expertise but also with great passion. It is for this reason that I chose to name it after the great love of my life who came into this world at the same time, my grand daughter...ELISE."