2024 Lotus Eletre Review: The First Lotus SUV Leaves Lightness Behind

“I could stand here and tell you all the things we’ve done to add lightness, but come on,” Lotus spokesman Richard Yarrow chuckled. “The reality is this is the heaviest car we’ve ever built. So we’re going for a modern interpretation of lightness.”

The Lotus Eletre weighs 5,490 pounds. Or 2.73 Lotus Elises, to use a relevant metric. From the second Lotus announced it was making an electric SUV, there was no question it would break away from the thing the British brand spent 75 years building its brand on. The philosophy of lightness and simplicity cannot coexist with the reality of a mass-market EV. So the thing is nearly three tons. Glad we got that out of the way.

Kyle Cheromcha

Because fact is, there are far more interesting things to debate about the Lotus Eletre. Essentially, what you have here is a combination of Ford’s Mustang Mach-E moment from two years ago and Porsche’s Cayenne moment from two decades ago. Taking a name that stands for engagement, tactility, and a very specific kind of performance, and for obvious financial reasons, applying it to a new paradigm where it’s impossible to port over that experience directly. Even a cynic must admit to being curious about how Lotus would try to solve that puzzle.

And it has to. After decades of lurching from crisis to crisis, Lotus is finally in a secure spot as part of the Geely Group, the Chinese auto giant that also owns Volvo and Polestar among other brands. But Geely didn’t sink billions into Lotus because it wanted to support a small, kind of weird automaker building a handful of cars a year. It’s trying to turn Lotus into a mass-market brand selling 150,000 cars a year by 2028; in 2022, it sold under 2,000.

Across a two-day test in and around Oslo, Norway, the Eletre is a very comfortable and surprisingly refined SUV leaning more luxury than performance, but it’s also a kind of confused, frenetic experience. The unconventional design, the in-your-face tech, the high power output paired with softer driving dynamics—it’s striving for something different the way old Lotuses did, but all needs a bit of editing. Unmoored from its past, Lotus is throwing a lot at the wall to figure out what modern lightness means. It just has to remember to stand for something, too.

2024 Lotus Eletre Specs

  • Base price: $90,000-$100,000 (est.)
  • Powertrain: Two permanent-magnet synchronous motors | 112-kWh lithium-ion battery | single speed transmission (two-speed rear end on the R model)
  • Horsepower: 603 hp | 905 hp (R)
  • Torque: 523 lb-ft | 726 lb-ft (R)
  • Curb weight: 5,490 lbs | 5,820 lbs (R)
  • 0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds | 2.9 seconds (R)
  • Top speed: 160 mph | 165 mph (R)
  • EPA Range: Not tested yet
  • Cargo Space: 24.3 cubic feet | 54 cubic feet with rear seats folded
  • Seats: 4 or 5
  • Quick take: A bold leap forward with an unsteady landing, the Eletre is a compelling yet confused machine.

Eletre Brings a Whole Lot of Firsts

You can thank two things for the development of the Lotus Eletre—the ceaseless march of technology, and the cash Geely funneled into Lotus after purchasing a controlling stake in 2018 that allowed the company to develop a new EV platform for the Eletre from scratch. It’ll get adapted for future electric Lotuses, including a sleek sedan to compete with the Porsche Taycan and a two-seater sports car, but won’t get used by any other Geely brands. (Though a Lotus engineer did tell us that they’re in talks to license the platform to other OEMs, in a nice echo of the old “Handling by Lotus” deals.)

Dubbed EPA, it’s an 800-volt skateboard platform with a balanced mix of steel and aluminum components. The 112-kWh lithium-ion battery sandwiched in the middle is the same across all trims—the base, the slightly fancier Eletre S, and the high-performance Eletre R—and can charge from 10 to 80% in 20 minutes at 350 kW. (It currently uses the CCS plug, though a Lotus engineer said the company is looking at switching to Tesla’s NACS standard like so many other automakers are doing.) Range hasn’t been finalized yet, but expect it to land in the 250- to 260-mile zone for the R and 310-320 miles for the other two.

I’ll just say one thing about the design: it’s a mish-mash for sure, but looks a lot better in person than in photos. The Eletre is low, long, and riven by numerous aerodynamic passageways/speed holes to give it an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. You can see similarities to the Emira and Evija, but it’s trying its own thing here too. The best angle is from the back—it’s the most cohesive area, the active spoiler looks the business when deployed, and the light bar is almost Chiron-like from certain angles. I think it’d look truly good with a more restrained front end, but vertically-stacked headlights are as unstoppable as electrification these days, so here we are.

All versions come with the same dual-motor AWD system too, with the permanent-magnet synchronous motors packed into one compact housing along with the controller and single-speed reduction gearing. In a twist, the Eletre R has a two-speed rear end (13.65:1 and 7.16:1) similar to the Porsche Taycan for harder launches and efficiency over 100 mph. It shifts around 87 mph with a noticeable 1-second pause, much like an older automatic transmission and not nearly as crisp as the Porsche. Lotus says that’s because overall it’s positioned more as a luxury vehicle, not a hard-edged performance car.

Ok, but: at 905 hp and 726 lb-ft, the Lotus Eletre R is actually the second-most powerful electric SUV on the market right now behind the Tesla Model X Plaid (or third if you count the Faraday Future FF 91, which we don’t). It has a track mode, 2.9-second 0-60 mph time, and a top speed of 165 mph. Even the base and S models come in strong with 603 hp and 523 lb-ft, on par with things like the BMW iX M60 (610 hp/811 lb-ft) and the upcoming Mercedes-AMG EQE53 SUV (617 hp/701 lb-ft). 

Lotus

Driving the Lotus Eletre

You’d think those figures would deliver extremely rapid, borderline painful launches. However, the Eletre surprises with pretty lackadaisical tip-in when you floor it from a stop; it kind of eases into it off the line before surging forward past 20 mph. Acceleration from a roll is impressive and unrelenting like it should be, but the decision to take away one of the few visceral experiences an EV can deliver—a deliberate decision to make it less intimidating to drive for the mass market, Lotus says—is another head scratcher.

Anyway, the Lotus firsts roll on in the Eletre: adjustable air suspension, active anti-roll bars, rear steering, and specially developed Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires all deliver an excellent ride and aid in giving the heavy SUV some character in the corners. The Eletre also has Lotus’ first crack at electronic power steering, and the rack is bolted to the frame without any NVH work to introduce more feedback. Allegedly. In practice, it still feels very isolated from the road like most EPS systems and too artificially heavy in Sport mode. But it is very direct, and the rear-steer system allows for a nice amount of rotation, verging on playful through a nice set of left-right-left sweepers. You never forget the weight, though. 5,500 pounds is tough to turn on a dime.

Kyle Cheromcha

It’s all this tech layered between the driver and the road that brings another quirk, though a slightly more welcome one: how squirrelly the Lotus Eletre can behave on a launch. Accelerate hard and the front wheels almost feel unloaded, requiring constant quick inputs to keep the SUV pointed forward as it surges ahead. This was especially noticeable during a straight line launch on a closed runway in the Eletre R—again, despite being the hi-po model, it really wanted to move around and felt like it was struggling to put that power down effectively. This might bother some expecting clinical performance, but I actually enjoyed it; in context, it felt like a glimpse of the rawness that Lotus used to bring to the table.

The brakes—six-piston calipers with iron rotors standard, 10-piston carbon ceramics optional—smoothly blend mechanical and regenerative stoppage on the fly, while four different regen settings can bring the Eletre close to a one-pedal driving mode, but it’ll never come to a complete stop without the brake pedal. Yet another odd choice to completely skip that option. Both braking setups work well, delivering smooth and consistent stops, and slamming on the R’s brakes at 100 mph brought the car to a rapid, drama-free halt. 

Faced with the task of balancing luxury and performance driving dynamics, Lotus clearly hewed far more to the luxury side in seeking that sweet, sweet mass approval. The result is a smooth, quick, ultra-quiet and exceedingly comfortable daily driver, but one that also feels disconnected, complicated, and, well, a bit boring. 

Tech, Tech, Tech

Perhaps sensing this critique coming, Lotus has leaned hard on technology and design to deliver some of that wow factor inside the Eletre. And it does—the Eletre S has soft-close doors, sweeping ambient lighting effects to match that zig-zaggy dash, a nifty triangular key fob, an auto-tinting electrochromic glass roof, a banging 23-speaker KEF sound system with Dolby Atmos tech, massaging seats, beautifully crafted physical controls for the HVAC system, and optional front and rear passenger displays to accompany the skinny 12-inch gauge cluster and honking 15-inch center infotainment screen. It’s only slightly less busy than the exterior design, but outward visibility is excellent, all touch points feel luxurious, and the expansive rear seat legroom and cargo space make it very usable as a normal SUV.

The infotainment is a new design called Hyper OS that runs on the Unreal engine, and it’s fluid and lag-free in a way few OEM systems are. There’s a learning curve like with any new setup, but one of the key design briefs was to make every important function and setting accessible with three or fewer taps from the home screen, and it’s easy to navigate as a result.

That said, Lotus is still figuring this stuff out. There’s no volume knob, not even a permanent spot on the screen—the driver can use the steering wheel buttons, but the passenger has to tap twice on the center screen to get to the adjustment slider. Maddeningly, there are also no physical vent controls, just the touchscreen interface whose directional airflow animations are tricky to aim. Presumably Lotus committed to this particular feature a couple of years ago when it was all the rage, before consumer blowback caused brands like Porsche to reconsider the wisdom of it all. Still, it’s not great. Despite being so big, the screen also can’t display multiple windows at once—there’s no way to keep the navigation display up if you need to futz with the vents, for example. The heads-up display is non-adjustable. And betraying its Geely roots, there were a few menu dialogs with odd phrases that smacked of mistranslated English—for example, when deactivating the lane keep assist, a wordy pop-up warns that it won’t save your ass and asks if you want the system to “stay closed” instead of “off.” Your choices are “Still Closed” or “Cancel.”

Kyle Cheromcha

These are still pre-production cars, and much of that can and and will be addressed with future software updates before the Eletre goes on sale in select markets later this year and the US in 2024. As will the future activation of supposed self-driving technology; though the Eletres I tested only had the normal lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control, Lotus says it’s future-proofed the car for Level 3 and 4 autonomy through a combination of four pop-out lidar units, six radar nodes, seven cameras, and 12 ultrasonic sensors. And it won’t rely on mapping like GM SuperCruise or Ford BlueCruise; the plan is for the car to process its environment in real time. The only taste I got of that was watching its traffic and pedestrian detection display, which accurately picked up three Lotus employees standing about 40 yards away in a parking lot and seemed to register every vehicle we encountered on the road.

Early Verdict

Along with not-for-the-US options like side view cameras replacing the traditional mirrors, this super-techy approach belies another fact: the Lotus Eletre wasn’t built for America. The decision to bring it here was made relatively late during the development process. Rather, it was initially pitched as a global car—and for an electric luxury SUV, that means appealing to China. You can’t fault Lotus for considering a lucrative and important market, but you can fairly observe that it’s hard to play all sides and end up with something that makes total sense for Chinese, European, and American buyers. We’re just used to it being the other way around.

The Eletre is priced like the luxury good it is; though US numbers hasn’t been announced yet ahead of a 2024 on-sale date, the £89,500 starting price in the UK should land between $90,000 and $100,000 here when you remove Britain’s extra taxes but add in the import premium. Expect the Eletre R to end up costing at least $120,000. That’s a lot of coin for a leap of faith, but at the same time the hope is it’ll attract new buyers to the company who don’t know what a big swing Lotus took here. They’ll just see a fancy SUV with an alluring badge, and the Eletre does deliver an experience that feels special in many ways.

Kyle Cheromcha

But about that modern interpretation of lightness… it’s not there yet. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be, at least not in this particular model. What it does need is a stronger sense of purpose to stand out in a very crowded room.

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