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Lotus rebirths GT-inspired two-seater Europa

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February 23, 2006

Lotus rebirths GT-inspired two-seater Europa

Lotus rebirths GT-inspired two-seater Europa

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February 24, 2006 Lotus is preparing to launch its new Grand Tourer, the Lotus Europa S (bottom right), at next week’s Geneva Motor Show. Code-named Sepang during its development, the new GT signals the re-birth of the Europa model name, last used by Lotus in the early 1970s (top right). No longer will the outrageous fun and exhilaration of driving a true Lotus require Lotus customers to make such significant compromises when it comes to the practicality of living with their 'pride and joy' on a daily basis. The purity and simplicity of the Lotus Elise and Exige ranges is now perfectly complemented with the arrival of the new Europa S - a car which stays true to the Lotus philosophy of 'Performance through light weight', but recognises that for some, the Elise and Exige experience may sometimes prove just a little too 'extreme'!".

The new Lotus Europa S, a Grand Tourer (GT) inspired two-seater, will provide Lotus customers a spectacular sportscar with significantly enhanced levels of touring and cruising capability, as well as higher levels of practicality and refinement to complement the simplicity of the Lotus Elise and Exige models.

The Europa S follows the core Lotus philosophy of performance through light weight, enabling this refined and high-performing GT car to weigh a mere 995 kg, making it class- leading in this respect. This low weight has been obtained through the clever use of advanced and high-tech materials including an extruded and bonded aluminium chassis, composite body panels and a very advanced composite energy absorbing front crash structure.

When compared to the award-winning Lotus Elise, the Europa S has a larger boot / luggage compartment and easier cabin access, resulting from lower chassis sides and a higher roof line. Combined with a full leather interior, Satellite Navigation, driver and passenger airbags and carpets all as standard, Lotus has created a "Business Class" driving experience which remains true to the Company's design philosophy.

The new mid-engine coupe will deliver high levels of performance from a high torque (263 Nm or 194 lbft at 4200 rpm) 2.0-litre turbo engine producing 149 kW (200 hp or 203 PS) at 5400rpm.

The Lotus Europa S achieves around 90% of its maximum torque at only 2000 rpm to give class-leading levels of acceleration from low engine speeds, propelling the car from 0 - 96 km/h (60 mph) in around 5.5 seconds, and 160 km/h (100 mph) in around 14 seconds. Maximum speed is approximately 225 km/h (140 mph). Being a Lotus, the Europa S has a competitive power to weight ratio of 201 hp / tonne (204 PS / tonne or 6.68 kg/kW).

The introduction of a GT-inspired car, represents both an important and unique addition to the Lotus product range, as Clive Dopson, Managing Director of Lotus Cars, explains: "The launch of the Europa S re-affirms our position as an innovative player in the highly competitive sportscar marketplace. It allows Lotus to extend its product appeal beyond our traditional customer base, and provides yet another demonstration of the key Lotus brand attributes and high levels of quality for which we are particularly proud."

Trevor Houghton-Berry, Head of Commercial Operations for Lotus Cars explains further the positioning of the Lotus Europa S: "No longer will the outrageous fun and exhilaration of driving a true Lotus require Lotus customers to make such significant compromises when it comes to the practicality of living with their 'pride and joy' on a daily basis. The purity and simplicity of the Lotus Elise and Exige ranges is now perfectly complemented with the arrival of the new Europa S - a car which stays true to the Lotus philosophy of 'Performance through light weight', but recognises that for some, the Elise and Exige experience may sometimes prove just a little too 'extreme'!"

Full production of the Lotus Europa S is scheduled to commence in July 2006 at the award-winning and world-class Lotus manufacturing facility at the Lotus Headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, UK.

The project and testing programme

The Lotus Europa S went from concept to production in just 28 months. This rapid development was down to the capabilities of the Lotus Engineering and Lotus Manufacturing divisions.

Extensive testing was conducted around the world in hot and cold climates, high humidity, city and urban environments as well as on the freeways and autobahns around Europe. Also used was the demanding 4 km (2.25 mile) Lotus test track and the roads around the Hethel headquarters - regarded by many as some of the world's most demanding with an almost unique variety of surfaces and conditions.

However, engineering a vehicle is only one of the challenges to developing a successful product. The Europa S was developed for manufacture by the team responsible for what is regarded by many as the finest niche vehicle and low volume manufacturing facility in the world. This manufacturing facility, based at the Lotus Headquarters in Hethel, England currently produces 4000 to 4500 cars per year (with the Elise and the Exige). The Europa S will reach maximum volume rate in late Summer 2006 after a steady volume ramp up starting in late Spring 2006. Volumes are expected to be in the order of 500 cars per year but this figure is flexible and volumes can be rapidly altered to meet demand when required.

Lotus Manufacturing and Supply Chain

Lotus uses a worldwide network of high quality suppliers who not only have excellent products, but are also willing to work with Lotus to produce components specifically designed and developed to meet the exacting requirements of a Lotus vehicle. With the Europa S programme, special attention has been paid to broadening this supplier network in South East Asia, resulting in the body panels for example, being produced in Malaysia through a new partnership between Lotus and a leading local aerospace manufacturer.

Such activity has been strongly supported by Proton, the parent company to Lotus, who continue to provide assistance in this region. Lotus remains committed to using environmentally friendly high solids water based paints, and each car is carefully inspected to ensure an "A1" class finish.

Each car goes through a number of quality checking stages before being delivered to the customer - these quality standards are world class - Lotus was the first vehicle manufacturer and engineering consultancy in the world to be awarded the prestigious QS9000 which is linked to ISO9001/2000.

It is this attention to detail that lead to Lotus to be awarded the prestigious 'World Class Manufacturer of the Year' award in 2005. Each Europa S will take about three days and 130 man-hours to build.

Tony Shute, Head of Product for Lotus Cars explains the concept behind the new product: "The Europa S has allowed Lotus to exploit its extensive capabilities in developing a sophisticated GT-inspired car which successfully complements the range of existing cars. The 'Grand Tourer' concept underpinning the Europa S provides the driver with a refined environment, incorporating innovative styling features which do not compromise the superior performance and handling that is synonymous with the Lotus marque."

Chassis

The market and customer requirements for a GT-inspired car are quite different to the current range of Lotus cars, the Elise and the Exige. Therefore the challenge for the Lotus engineers was to design a car that could be constructed around the extruded and bonded Aluminium chassis - similar to that used in the Elise and Exige - but which also incorporates significantly enhanced levels of practicality, refinement for the occupants and increased touring and cruising capability.

The chassis for the Lotus Europa S weighs just 68 kg while maintaining high levels of stiffness and strength. To make access to the cockpit easier for driver and passenger, the sills, when compared to the Elise and Exige have been lowered by 40 mm (1.6 inches) and reinforced to maintain chassis stiffness. Again, when compared to the Elise and the Exige, the door glass is 50 mm (2 inches) higher giving a total door opening access for the driver and passenger of an additional 90 mm (3 _ inches).

The engine is mounted to a lightweight and strong, galvanised steel subframe. The lightweight steel wishbones are also mounted to this steel assembly. The Lotus vehicle dynamics team were set a tough challenge to produce a ride and handling package for the Lotus Europa S that combines compliance and comfort with the legendary Lotus agility, responsiveness and handling.

Steve Swift, Head of Vehicle Engineering explains the relationship between ride and handling for the Lotus Europa S: "The Europa is a true GT concept and the ideal companion for a long journey home." Elegant and lightweight 17" diameter wheels front and rear are shod with bespoke Bridgestone Potenza tyres (175/55 R17 on the front and 225/45 R17 on the rear).

Brakes

The light weight of the Lotus Europa S contributes to the high performance braking capability through Lotus/AP-Racing twin-piston fixed aluminium alloy brake calipers at the front and Brembo single-piston sliding calipers at the rear. The 282 mm diameter ventilated discs are linked to a servo-assisted, 4-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

Interior

First and foremost, the Europa S is a car that is the Lotus take on the GT concept. As a high performing sportscar it needs the driving tools to help it be a leader in its class. The driving position is the same as in the Elise and Exige, a small ergonomically shaped steering wheel is located to hand and the lightweight steel and extruded aluminium pedals are positioned to make heel and toe changes easy. ProBax seats help to significantly improve the postural position of the driver and passenger by maintaining the natural curvature of the spine, so improving comfort and improving the body's blood flow.

The interior of the Europa S is a luxurious environment for a Lotus. A leather interior (black or black with tan) comes as standard. This leather interior extends not just to the seats, and steering wheel but also the centre console and door inserts (perforated leather). Carpet lines the floor area and part of the chassis' sides - in fact the only area where carpet or leather is untrimmed is on the footplate just forward of the seats.

Other standard interior equipment includes driver and passenger airbags, air conditioning, a Satellite Navigation system with CD/MP3 player with the speakers mounted in the rear bulk head and on the top facia panel, central door locking and electric windows.

Furthermore, as the Europa S is so highly equipped there are no additional cost options, other than premium paint or custom colours.

Safety systems

The key aspect to enjoyable driving is safety. The chassis is very strong and stiff, creating a safety cell around which are clad lightweight energy absorbing composite crash structures and body panels. The front crash structure is made from an advance lightweight composite material which is 3-4 times more energy absorbing than the equivalent structure in steel. Coupled with the driver's and passenger's airbags, the Europa S has tried and tested active and passive safety systems.

The light weight of the Europa S is significant in reducing occupant injury. By being so light, there is less energy to dissipate in the event of a crash, when compared to a much heavier sportscar.

But of course the best way to remain unhurt in an accident is to avoid the accident in the first place. Like all Lotus cars, the Europa S has high levels of grip, predictable, responsive handling, incredible ABS-assisted braking performance and almost peerless feedback to the driver about how the car is behaving in a variety of driving conditions.

Styling

Russell Carr, Chief of Design for Lotus led the design team in producing an elegant, beautiful and sophisticated GT-inspired car. It was important that the essence of current and classic Lotus products be captured in the design of the Europa S. Describing the Europa S, Russell Carr, Chief of Design for Lotus says: "The form of a design should reflect the spirit of the car, and the Europa S is no different. Where the rebellious track-focused personality of the Exige is characterised by shrink-wrapped athletic forms communicating agility and power, the Europa S has a more fluid, understated language reflecting its more sophisticated persona."

Carr continues: "The Europa from the late 1960s and early 1970s was a great design in its own right - elegant, purposeful and effective. However, we did not set out to bring the classic Europa design up to date, but instead started with a clean sheet to produce a characterful car worthy of being called a Lotus."

Engine and powertrain

The new mid-engine coupe will deliver high levels of performance from a high torque (263 Nm or 194 lbft at 4200 rpm) Ecotec Z20LER 2.0-litre (1998 cc) turbocharged engine producing 149 kW (200 hp or 203 PS) at 5400rpm. A bespoke engine management system completes the engine unit.

The Lotus Europa S achieves around 90% of its maximum torque at only 2000 rpm to give class-leading levels of acceleration from low engine speeds, propelling the car from 0 - 96 km/h (60 mph) in around 5.5 seconds, and 160 km/h (100 mph) in around 14 seconds. Maximum speed is 230 km/h (143 mph). Being a Lotus, the Europa S has a competitive power to weight ratio of 201 hp / tonne (204 PS / tonne, 6.68 kg/kW) An aluminium 6-Speed gearbox joins the engine to an open differential.

Heritage

The first Lotus Europa was first introduced in 1966 and by the time it finished production in 1975, a total of 9887 examples had been built. These Europas used a Renault engine in the early versions and the later models (the Europa Special) used the Lotus Twin Cam engine producing up to 126 hp. The Lotus Europa was regarded as one of the finest handling sportscars of its time and was Lotus' first mid-engine road car.

Market position

The Lotus Europa S is a key vehicle in the Lotus product portfolio. Enthusiastic and keen drivers for whom performance and track day competitiveness are the most important criteria are likely to venture down the Exige route, where as those drivers who are willing to sacrifice the extra 5% of track day performance for a more GT type drive, extra space and more luxury are likely to opt for a Europa.

Pricing and Timing

The Europa S will be sold in all markets where the Lotus brand is present, except for the USA and Canada. Final pricing and full specifications will be announced closer to the on-sale date, but the price is expected to be in the region of £33,000 (EUR49,000) depending on individual market taxation.

The Europa S is expected to go on sale in the UK in September with other markets from November. Predicted Performance figures:

Target acceleration

    0 to 96 km/h (60 mph): 5.5 seconds (approximately) 0 to 160 km/h (100 mph): 14.0 seconds (approximately) Maximum speed: 230 km/h (143 mph) (actual)

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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