Weekly News - April 1 2022

Lotus Eletre exterior

The first SUV from Lotus, another SUV from Maserati and a bunch of new electrified models head up our latest news review

A tale of two performance SUVs

With the petrol price hitting most of us hard, the auto industry continues to charge into the electric arena with loads of new models debuting and being previewed. If you’re not ready to plug in just yet then don’t worry, we have some petrol power this week too and a few that are both.

We start off with a pair of very different and very yellow SUVs, one from Norfolk and the other from Modena. The first comes from Lotus - yes, the famous British sports car brand has joined the SUV bandwagon and revealed its Eletre. Before you cry sacrilege, just think about Porsche and its Cayenne and Macan. The success of those two for the Stuttgart automaker helps to fund it making great road cars like the 911 GT3 and its electric Taycan. It’s business and Lotus has entered a new era under ownership of Geely and has big plans it needs to fund, which includes fantastic sports cars like the Evija and Emira with many more to come.

The Eletre is the first of three new Lotus lifestyle vehicles to come over the next few years and they will all be electric. It boasts in excess of 600hp, has a 0-62mph time of under three seconds and a claimed range of 372 miles. It can also add 248 miles on a 350kW charger in just 20 minutes and will cost around £100,000.

That’s the stats out of the way, but what about the design? Well, unfortunately we had another commitment and couldn’t make the physical reveal event but we’re assured it looks stunning in the metal. We’re not so convinced by the images, but reserve judgement until we have actually seen it up close. It’s difficult to see much Lotus in the design, although there are clear nods to the new sports cars at the rear. Up front the comparison to the Lamborghini Urus is understandable and if you’ve ever seen other Geely brands like Zeekr or Lynk&Co you might also see some similarity, although we suspect that is entirely unintentional. 

It’s a big thing too, the length of a Range Rover, but interestingly, it’s only the height of something like a Range Rover Evoque. This should provide a cosseting interior like a sports car but with room for the kids in the back and lots of luggage. There’s a very high centre console, again to give that sports car feel to the driver and front passenger. The instrument cluster is a narrow strip with many of the functions contained inside the large touchscreen in the centre of the dash, as is the norm these days. 

We’ll bring you more on the Lotus in the coming days, but let’s get to Modena’s new SUV, the Grecale. We got our first look at it last year, but various things have delayed its reveal until now. Initially it will be a petrol-powered machine, but next year the Folgore version will come along, Maserati’s first all-electric vehicle. 

The Grecale sits below the existing Levante and it’s intended to rival the Porsche Macan so it’s all about performance and style. That style, according to head of design Klaus Busse is about longevity and it echoes some of the cues we’ve already seen in the new MC20 supercar. Inside there’s plenty of space and a good combination of tech and luxury. This includes the first digital instrument cluster to actually wrap around the top of the steering column to provide a clearer and more comprehensive view for the driver. The traditional analogue clock has been replaced by a digital affair, much like your smart watch with screens to show different info and a graphical representation of voice commands for when you’re discussing the meaning of life with your car. 

There will be three versions; GT, Modena and Trofeo. The first two use a 2.0-litre turbocharged motor with mild hybridisation, while the Trofeo gets a 3.0-litre V6 and a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds. Performance moves up through the grades of course, as does level of equipment and the range of driving modes available. 

Lotus Eletre exterior

Something for the rest of us

Away from performance SUVs, Nissan has announced it will not sell any purely internal combustion engined vehicles in Europe from 2023. Instead expect a deluge of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric models, with Nissan saying it expects 75% of all its models sold in the region to be electrified from 2026. 

In the summer you can expect the new Nissan Juke hybrid and E-Power versions of the Qashqai and new X-Trail. What’s E-Power? Well, it’s basically a system that uses a small petrol engine as a generator, creating electricity for the batteries which then power the electric motors that actually move the vehicle. Yes it does sound a little complicated but we’ve seen systems like this before in cars like the Vauxhall Ampera and BMW i3 Range Extender.

Before you shout “but that’s not a proper electric car” because we know some of you will, fear not because Nissan will also launch its new Ariya this summer too and that’s pukka electric. It’s Nissan’s first electric crossover and sits on a new platform called CMF-EV. You’ll be hearing more about this platform soon enough because it will be in other Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance vehicles too. Plus the Ariya will be built at the company’s plant in Sunderland so it’s British.

What’s no longer British is the Honda Civic, after the closure of the Japanese manufacturer’s plant in Swindon last year. Now Honda has revealed the 11th generation Civic that will go on sale in the autumn and will only be available as an E:HEV hybrid using a combination of a lithium-ion battery, two electric motors and a new 2.0-litre VTEC petrol engine. The design is an evolution of the tenth gen but the new one is slightly sleeker and lower and has a 35mm longer wheelbase to provide more interior space. 

The company also says it will release three new electrified models in 2023; the new CR-V which will be available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid; a new C-segment hybrid SUV and the e:NY1 which will be a fully electric B-segment SUV and will probably get a slightly more sensible name. 

If all this electrification is not your thing, then we’ve been driving the new Aston Martin DBX707 this week. Boasting a twin-turbo V8 nothing about it is electrified, except perhaps the USB ports. We can’t tell you anything about how it drives until 13th April so if you’re n the market for a £190,000 performance SUV then mark that in your diary. Embargo lifts at 00:01 that day though, so you’ll have to set an alarm too, unless you’re working nights.


Written by Mark Smyth