145 mph Lotus M100 Preview

England’s Sports Car Builder Teams Up With The General

By Greg Raven
VW&Porsche magazine

Group Lotus plc is on the move. With financial backing courtesy General Motors, Group Lotus has bought out its United States distributor and is planning an aggressive campaign to both burnish its high-tech image and sell more cars in the colonies.

Currently, Lotus sells one model in the United States, the Turbo Esprit. Squeezing 215 hp from its DOHC, 4-valve four-cylinder 2.2-liter engine, the Turbo Esprit has the best brake specific power figure of any car imported into the United States. The Turbo Esprit is sold with a two-year unlimited mileage limited warranty and an eight-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Lotus hopes to expand its product line-up with two new cars. The first, now known as the M100, will be an entry-level car set to launch in mid 1989 at a cost of $25,000 (1986 dollars). The M100 will be a front-engine, two-seater built on a special chassis with no backbone. Zero-to-60 performance is reported to be 6.8 seconds, with a 145 mph top speed. Lotus plans to sell 3000 M100s yearly.

To fill out its stable, Lotus will then work at bringing its no-holds-barred super car to market by mid 1991. This mid-engine V8 will scoot from 0-to-60 in 4.3 seconds, with a 190 plus mph top speed. The as-yet unnamed super car will be constructed from composites (like those used in the Lotus Formula One car) and will feature active control suspension instead of springs and shocks. If $120,000 doesn’t sound like too much for all this (and more, knowing Lotus) you’d better get your place in line early. Lotus plans to sell only 120 of them in the United States the first year.

In addition to building cars, Lotus provides research and development for many other automotive firms around the world, much as Porsche does with its Weissach design center (Lotus, in fact, has described itself as being a smaller, faster, and more innovative Weissach!). For example, Lotus has nine ride and handling projects and seven turbocharger and supercharger projects among its 45 projects currently underway for its 17 clients.

The Lotus Formula One effort is separately owned, with Group Lotus plc maintaining a sponsorship relationship. There is some cross-engineering between the two, however. With the turbo Honda V6 engine and hot-shoe Ayrton Senna, Lotus seems to be the one to watch in the upcoming Formula One season.

Although usually thought of as an innovator, Lotus (along with other British manufacturers) has benefited from the major improvements in quality control taking place at Jaguar. Lotus has now taken steps to ensure that its own quality control is top notch, as well.