Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Admirers of the iconic British sports-car brand Lotus will find good reason to attend this year’s international auto show here, where five new production models are on display, having been unveiled by the likes of Sharon Stone, William Baldwin and Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley at this week’s press conference.

But a measure of patience is required: The soonest any of the vehicles will arrive is 2013, when new versions of both the Esprit and Elan come to market, followed in 2014 by the Elite and in 2015 by the Elise and Eterne.

The Eterne, with four doors and a back seat comfortable enough for Bob Lutz’s 6-ft.-3-in. (191-cm) frame, represents a radical departure for Group Lotus, known for 2-door coupes and roadsters. Back-seat comfort never has been a high priority.

“That car is my favorite,” Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors Co. and now an advisor to Lotus, tells Ward’s at the Lotus stand after the press conference.

“The Eterne is an expansion of the line, and it’s something the company hasn’t done before. It’s a great way to get an entirely new group of people looking at the brand,” Lutz says.

He calls the 4-seat front-mid-engined Eterne a “very advanced car,” with a 550-hp 5.0L supercharged V-8 and 7-speed sequential gearbox. Rear-wheel-drive is standard; all-wheel-drive is optional.

“It’s a very light car, fuel efficient and an alternative to the world’s large super premium luxury cars, such as the Aston Martin Rapide, Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte, Lutz says. “It’s a gorgeous shape, but it’s actually a very good interior package.”

He’s climbed into the back seat of a Eterne prototype and says he had plenty of room. “Whereas, frankly, I tried to sit this morning in the back of the Rapide, and I couldn’t, just couldn’t.”

Lotus says the Eterne can sprint to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4 seconds; top speed is 196 mph (315 km/h). Curb weight is listed as 3,968 lbs. (1,800 kg), and Lotus hopes to price the vehicle at $192,554 (£120,000).

The same engine configuration also appears in both the Esprit and Elite, which Lutz says makes great sense for a niche auto maker on a budget.

“The whole product program is highly modular,” he says. “They can make almost all of these cars out of a sort of Lego set, combining elements. And it won’t be very high volume, so a lot of the tooling will be very low-cost.”

The Esprit, expected to be equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2012 in Hethel, U.K., the same plant that produces the brand’s current vehicles, the Evora, Elise and Exige. A new assembly line allows production of about 2,000 vehicles annually.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com