Internally known by the code name MSC, the new Esprit is now expected to debut in autumn 2008 for the 2009 model year.

Spied on the road

Lotus finally is working flat out on the replacement of the legendary Esprit, which gained world fame for its roles starring in two James Bond films. Internally known by the code name MSC, the new Esprit is now expected to debut in autumn 2008 for the 2009 model year. Improvised test mules have been around for quite some time, but now, the first complete prototype has hit the roads, which gives evidence that all crucial design features of the vehicle, such as the principal structural design and manufacturing technology, packaging and drivetrain supplier have all been irrevocably decided.

MSC (mid-engined supercar) will be built around a new aluminium structure, which Lotus plans to adopt for other cars, too. Just like the Opel Speedster, the latest Europa and the Tesla Roadster mentioned below have all been derived by adaption of the Elise 111 chassis, MSC is expected to spawn another, somewhat smaller 6cyl. future Lotus sportscar, and/or a 2+2 GT car.

It is still unknown what engine will be used. Several sources have reported that Lotus has chosen to use a 4.4, or 4.8 litre V8 engine from BMW, typically individualized by Lotus with its own electronic engine management and control unit. Engine and gearbox will be mounted longitudinally, which is also demonstrated by the prototype in our images where the transmission case is plainly visible at the bottom rear end. It has been officially confirmed by Lotus that the new Esprit will not only become available as a coupe, but, for the first time, as a convertible/roadster, too. Lotus has also announced unprecedented best-of-class vehicle dynamics from lightweight design and excellent chassis/suspension tuning. All of these features give clear evidence that the new Esprit appears to be directly pitched against the Ferrari F430 coupe and spyder and the radical F430 Challenge Stradale. A price tag of EUR/USD 130,000 is expected, which will be significantly up from that of the previous Esprit. The heavily disguised Esprit prototype has been caught undergoing high-altitude and brake testing in the Alps.

Meanwhile, development work for the Tesla Roadster is going on, too. The Tesla Roadster is the very first electric sportscar to be manufactured in larger-scale series production, worldwide. Our spy shots show a development car outside Lotus' Hethel factory in the UK, where the electrically powered sporstcar is developed and will be built for the California-based Tesla Motors company.

The Tesla Roadster is pretty much a restyled Lotus Elise, but has a 248 bhp electric motor that is powered from a Li-Ion battery pack behind the passengers and drives the rear wheel. A range of 400 km / 250mls is possible. Despite the weight added by the batteries and the added length (the wheel base has been stretched behind the cabin), a sprint time from rest to 100 km/h (60 mph) of around 4 seconds has been promised. The Tesla Roadster currently undergoes extensive prove-out on Norfolk roads in order to hone the chassis and handling to Lotus usual standards. The Tesla Roadster is not the first electric Elise, though. Already back in 1998, a similar, although less sophisticated and powerful zero-emission model was conceived and produced by Zytek in the UK. First deliveries are expected to take place in summer 2007. Upon close inspection, the prototype shown in our pictures reveals certain minor updates from official vehicles shown to the public previously, such as the auxiliary lights in the front grill. Also seen here for the first time is the Tesla with a fabric soft top.

Gallery: SPY PHOTOS: Tesla Roadster and Lotus Esprit