Hot V8 has Lotus all revved up

By Alastair Sloane

Lotus Esprit. Photo / Supplied
Lotus Esprit. Photo / Supplied

Lotus will challenge Ferrari for high-revving supercar honours when the niche British brand unveils its home-grown 4.8-litre V8 engine in the new Esprit.

The engine has been bench-tested at Lotus' headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, where it delivered 425kW at around 9000rpm and 540Nm at upwards of 3000rpm.

But Lotus' chief technical officer Wolf Zimmermann has hinted that it can deliver around 470kW at 9400rpm and about 575Nm between 5500 and 6000rpm.

Such output would give Lotus bragging rights over Ferrari's 4.5-litre V8, which revs to a maximum 9000rpm in the 458 Italia coupe and Spider convertible.

Zimmerman, who spent 20 years at Mercedes-Benz' AMG division before joining Lotus in 2009, is excited about the V8's potential but wouldn't confirm peak output.

"It is a simple design that I believe will be the best high-performance production V8 on the market," he said.

The engine uses a dry sump and flat-plane crankshaft and weighs around 170kg, roughly 80kg less than the Lexus 5-litre V8 Lotus was going to use in the Esprit.

The Lexus IS-F engine was abandoned as too big and too heavy. Potential Esprit buyers also thought Lotus should build its own engine from the ground up.

The unit is modular, meaning engineers can create a four-cylinder by chopping it in half and a V6 by chopping off the final two cylinders.

As well as appearing in the Esprit, the 4.8-litre unit will also be under the bonnet of a new Lotus-developed LMP2 race car, where it is expected to deliver its peak 470kW, and in a lightweight "R" version of the Esprit.

Zimmerman said the R model would not simply be a stripped-out racer for the road, but a carefully designed evolution of the standard Esprit.

Based on projected figures for the standard car, the R could sprint from 0-100km/h in under three seconds, and hit a top speed of 345km/h.

A seven-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic gearbox will offer rapid shifts, while an electro-hydraulic power-steering system will give the driver as much feel as possible.

"This car will not be like the McLaren MP4-12C,"said Zimmermann. "It will be cooler, there will be more emotion."

Built entirely from aluminium, the Esprit's target weight is 1460kg. The "torque tube"design is reminiscent of the original Esprit's backbone chassis.

The car will have forged aluminium wishbone suspension and electro-hydraulic power steering.

Fitted with the optional Lotus-developed Formula One-style KERS energy regeneration system, the Esprit is also claimed to emit 250g/km of CO2 - low for the supercar class.

Lotus CEO Dany Bahar - a long-time Ferrari executive before joining Lotus in 2009 - believes the company has created a new icon in the Esprit.

"In the past when people thought of the Esprit, they thought of the movies - Pretty Woman, Basic Instinct - but this time around, the car is the star of the show," he said.

"There's a fine balance in acknowledging the greatness of the past while rapidly leaping forward to the future and ensuring that this car not only does the name Esprit justice but also the Lotus brand.

"I think we've managed to find the balance. The design is aggressive. You have to see it to appreciate how low and wide the proportions are, but it still retains a level of dignity, of class and, most of all, exclusivity."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 28 Dec 2014 10:37:22 Processing Time: 326ms