According to Lotus insiders, the next-gen Elise will arrive sometime in early 2011 followed by an all-new V8-powered Esprit in 2012.
The 2011 Elise will likely be built upon an evolved version of the current model's extruded-aluminium underpinnings and continue the same formula that's made the pint-sized sportscar a track day fave, but the Esprit will be a wholly different beast.
An anonymous source spoke with Autocar last week and revealed that the 2012 Lotus Esprit will be based on the Evora's alloy platform, sport longer and wider dimensions and boast a V8 engine mounted amidships.
There's no word on whether that bent eight will be mounted longitudinally or sit transversely over its gearbox a la the Elise, but given the scarcity of FWD-specific V8s (GM's Northstar and the Volvo-Yamaha V8 are the only ones that come readily to mind) it's likely the Esprit will use the former layout.
While the new Elise is all but locked in, the Esprit project is very much dependent on whether Lotus can sell enough Evoras to fund it. The timeline for the Esprit is also at the mercy of the global economic situation, with Lotus likely to delay the Esprit and forge ahead with a far less costly drop-top Evora if the recession persists much longer.
If it launches on time, the Esprit could be Lotus' best hope of gaining a much larger share of the sports car market. The 2+2 Evora should go some way towards shaking off the uncompromising image forced upon the marque by the Elise, but a proper mid-engined V8 sports car should be just the thing to get buyers through Lotus' doors.
Fingers crossed it makes it off the drawing board.