A sneak peak at the everyday sports car from Lotus.
Lotus has released basic information and our first look at the 2009 Lotus “Eagle” as a teaser prior to next week’s British auto show where the car’s true identity will be revealed—Eagle is just its internal codename.
Until then, what we know for certain is that the Eagle will be positioned above the Elise and Exige S models and, like the not-for-the-U.S. Europa, aims to provide increased day-to-day usability. Think Porsche Cayman as opposed to all-out track toy: the Eagle will carry more creature comforts and be larger (although that’s a relative term) than the Elise and Exige.
The basic structure is similar to every other modern Lotus: mid-engined, lightweight, and smaller than most everything else on the road. Like the Europa, the Eagle has a sloped rear window and a fixed roof, although a convertible will arrive at a later date.
The Eagle will be offered either as a true two-seater or with a 2+2 seating arrangement, although Lotus warns the rear seats are only suitable for children, and we suspect only those with very short legs.
Power will come from a Toyota 3.5-liter V-6 with variable valve timing tuned to produce 276 horsepower, and Lotus says the car clears the 0-to-60-mph sprint in less than five seconds and tops out around 160 mph.
The Eagle employs typical Lotus aerodynamic tricks to keep the car planted at high speeds, including a rear diffuser and spoiler. Lotus engineers claim the Eagle is quicker around the famed Nürburgring circuit than the Elise.
Inside there are way more toys than in the Exige and Elise: air conditioning, leather seating, a tire-pressure monitoring system, a backup camera, cool blue LED lighting, and a remote garage-door opener.
There’s also a slick Alpine audio and navigation system with satellite radio, iPod, and Bluetooth connectivity, and a clever audio equalizer. We recently installed a similar system in our long-term Subaru WRX STI, and it sounds great.
As a further concession to practicality, the Eagle even has a rear-mounted trunk that’s supposed to fit a set of golf clubs. Because it’s mounted behind the engine, the trunk is cooled to stop engine heat from melting cargo—but we wouldn’t go so far as to put ice cream back there. Lotus rounds out the features list with anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control.
Check back next week for our coverage of the Eagle’s official unveiling, but Lotus says it will be another six months before the car is available for test drives. The Eagle—or whatever its real name is—will go on sale in spring 2009, with only 2000 to be built per year. We’re waiting to hear back from Lotus on how many, if any, are headed to the U.S. The car is the first of three new models Lotus promises as part of a five-model business plan to grow the niche brand.