Lotus has made an electric SUV. Here's what it's like to drive

Lotus has made an electric SUV. Here's what it's like to drive

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OSLO, Norway — It doesn’t get much more future-forward than the 2024 Lotus Eletre, a ginormous leap into electrification that looks, feels and drives like nothing before it. The Eletre’s all-new everything pushes into uncharted territory for Lotus: this is the brand’s first EV and SUV, entering a crowded market that is critical to the future of the 75-year-old British nameplate. No pressure Lotus, we’re here for it.

First off, the design. As frivolous as it seems to address the subjectivity of looks, appearance matters with six-figure statement pieces. Despite the Eletre’s underpinnings being developed in Sweden and Germany, and the fact that it's built in China by majority stakeholder Geely, the design hails from the spot where the brand’s late, great founder Colin Chapman first set up shop: Hethel, England.


The design is triggering for many, from the split front grille and bifurcated headlamps to the height of the midsection and the sweep of the tail. Now that the SUV field is utterly oversaturated, the Eletre’s looks are easily relatable to other more familiar vehicles. In person, there’s far more to the Eletre than the internet comments of “Hey, that just looks like (blank)” would suggest. Yes, certain bits feel derivative, particularly the nebulous headlamp zone. But there’s also inventiveness in the details, like the vented hood and creased door surfaces that summon a familiar design language as the Emira. Also distinctive is the wagon-like rear overhang and concave tail that’s accentuated with a long, uninterrupted LED lightstrip, a la Bugatti Chiron.

Spec plays a big part in this large crossover’s looks. The launch color, Kaimu Grey, makes it come across as rather plain and unremarkable, while Galloway Green and the Solar Yellow pictured here taps into the brand heritage in a good way. Outfitted in splashier hues, Eletre stands out as an SUV that looks nimbler and more lithe than its dimensions suggest. At 16.7 feet in length and 7 feet wide (measured with the conventional mirrors we’ll get in the States), Eletre is no skinny Minnie. It’s 6.8 inches longer than a Cayenne, 5.1 inches lengthier than a Purosangue and 2.5 inches greater than a DBX. It’s 0.4 inch shorter than an Urus, but is 2 inches wider.

Inside, the feeling is spacious, with decent leg, shoulder and head room. There’s good forward visibility but an iffy rear quarter view, which in other countries is countered by electronic sideview “mirrors” that display their feed on 6-inch screens embedded in the doors. The system, which can fine-tune the view by tapping the driver-side screen and dragging the image, reduces aerodynamic drag by 1.5% (while looking oh-so-sleek in contrast to the bulky, DOT-required optical mirrors). There’s no telling when the digital technology will be clear for U.S. roads.

To reduce the amount of car displacing air, Eletre incorporates quite a bit of what aerodynamicists call porosity, meaning design elements that allow air to pass through, rather than over, the bodywork. Up front is a trick active aero panel of six shuttered triangular panels on the lower grille, which open and close depending on cooling needs. There are pass-through front grilles, bonnet arches, wheel arches, even C- and D-pillar arches where air can visibly run through the vehicle and avoid resistance. As such, Eletre achieves impressive slipperiness considering its bulk: a drag coefficient of .26. Absent actual wind tunnel verification, I’d wager that the long rear overhang helps contribute to that slight figure, since longer, tapered objects tend to reduce drag. Aiding the effort is an active rear spoiler, which can produce up to 247 pounds of downforce at top speed. The low cD helps Eletre achieve European WLTP range figures of 373 miles on base and S models, and 304 miles on the more aggressive R version. Official EPA range figures are still TBD, but should be considerably lower as they tend to be more realistic.

All three dual-motor Eletre models — base, S, and R — are powered by a 112-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery running on 800-volt architecture. The entry and mid-models produce 603 horsepower and 524 lb-ft of torque routed through single-speed transmissions at each axle, while the top dog R version cranks it up to 905 hp and 726 lb-ft, and has a two-speed transmission at the rear axle (the front one remains single speed). Those figures are good for a claimed 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds, and 2.95 clicks for the R. Interestingly, the two-speed transmission, which is intended for higher-speed applications, is only good for a 5-mph bump in vMax, elevating the top speed up to 165 mph.