Rumours of a Lotus-badged SUV have been circulating for some time, and Gales has hinted on a number of occasions that a new passenger range is on the cards.
This week, speaking with the UK’s Autocar, Gales revealed that Lotus is not only working on an SUV, but that its development is the company’s highest priority.
There’s plenty of sense in that commitment: with the global SUV market on fire, the segment represents a clear path for building the sort of revenue needed to breed a new generation of Lotus sports cars.
Nowhere is that SUV obsession stronger than in China, and Lotus is preparing an all-new factory in the middle kingdom specifically for the new high-riding car’s production.
Gales is all too aware of the average enthusiast’s views on dedicated performance brands expanding into passenger cars and SUVs, but he promises buyers can look forward to “a real Lotus” that will be “the world’s first lightweight SUV”.
“At present, there’s nothing on the market that fits the description. Our car will drive beautifully,” Gales told Autocar.
“It will be supple and comfortable but the emphasis will be on handling. It will be the lightest and fastest of its class on the track.”
The new SUV is expected to enter production in 2019 - suggesting we can expect to see a concept in the next year or two - although Lotus is still in the process of securing manufacturing rights in China.
There can be little doubt however that a sporting SUV would quickly become the Malaysian-owned British brand’s best-selling model.
That success will come mostly through the Chinese market, where a hunger for foreign brands and SUV models has combined to give Porsche’s new Macan a sales rate that should see it top 30,000 units this year in that country alone.
Gales said that a European launch is still under consideration, while a debut in the US appears unlikely at this stage.
Full details for the new model are still some time way, but Gales said that along with a focus on lightweight construction, four-wheel-drive capability will likely also appear as an option.
Likewise, powertrain details are not being shared - and in fact are still under consideration - but Gales told the magazine that units similar to the Toyota-sourced 3.5 litre V6 and 1.8 litre four-cylinder mills in the brand’s current models are likely.
And, yes: with Lotus owned by Proton, buyers can expect to find a few shared components in the new SUV.
“There may be some Proton parts, of course, but that’s nothing unusual,” Gales told Autocar. “You can find VW parts in a Lamborghini.”
Of course, Proton isn’t quite Volkswagen, but, then, Lotus isn’t quite Lamborghini.
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