Norway seems like a great place to launch an EV. The locals are fully onboard with electric car adoption, considering more than 80 percent of all new car sales in Norway are EVs (aside: shoutout to the two C5 Corvette owners I saw). Also, it’s pretty as all get-out on this western bank of Scandinavia, with big lakes, tall trees, and some of the most immaculate roads I’ve ever seen.
But it’s hardly a motoring utopia. Norway is also incredibly strict with its roadway rules, to the point where speed limits are low and speed cameras are absolutely everywhere. This makes rowdy drives on winding roads pretty much a no-go, unless you want to risk the hefty penalties. That’s fine for most of the electric commuter cars out there, but not so great for performance EVs. Which, ironically, brings me to a performance EV: the new 2024 Lotus Eletre.
Gallery: 2024 Lotus Eletre First Drive
What’s In A Name?
You have to remember, Lotus is a brand that built its identity on values like lightness, simplicity, and raw driving enjoyment. These attributes have been baked into every one of the brand’s cars, right up to the new Emira coupe. The Eletre, meanwhile, rips that all to shreds. This is a technologically advanced five-passenger SUV that’s longer than a Ford Explorer and as heavy as a loaded F-150. There’s nothing light, simple, or raw about it.
So to ask whether or not the Eletre drives like a Lotus is sort of a moot point, since this isn’t a traditional Lotus at all. And on gorgeous Norwegian roads, there’s no chance to push this SUV to its limits to find any intrinsic Lotus-ness, anyway. But when you stop trying to link the Eletre to Lotus’ past, you actually start to see its goodness. This is a nicely equipped and perfectly competent electric SUV, with ample power, good driving range, and fast DC charging speeds.
A Different Kind Of Lotus
Lotus will sell the Eletre in base, S, and R trims, all of which use a 112.0-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that can charge at speeds up to 350 kilowatts. Every Eletre has two electric motors, producing 603 horsepower and 524 pound-feet of torque in the base and S or 905 hp and 726 lb-ft in the R. Strangely, though, neither output makes the Eletre feel super-quick, with power building progressively rather than instantaneously. The Eletre R will get to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, but only after a pronounced delay, and even then, the R’s front end fights to keep traction in a way that won’t make you want to launch it again. Not great.
On public roads, the Eletre S rides nicely, and that’s with large 22-inch wheels and summer tires. The standard 48-volt anit-roll system keeps body motions controlled in tighter corners – not that I’m actually able to go all that fast – and the adaptive air suspension works a treat, though again, Norway’s perfect roads don’t exactly stretch the limits of damping. The steering is light and accurate, and the best thing I can say about the mechanical brakes is that you don’t notice the transition when they take over from the regeneration. It’s all smooth sailin’, smooth stoppin’.
The Eletre has four levels of regeneration to choose from, ranging from none to almost-but-not-quite-one-pedal driving. You toggle through these with what would be the left paddle shifter, while the right one controls the drive modes – Sport, Tour, and Range – which don’t feel all that different from one another. Sport is maybe a little more peppy in terms of throttle response, but that’s it.
Some Tech Needs Work
Lotus equips the Eletre with a lidar system that the company says future-proofs the SUV for future autonomous driving (if that ever happens). You can see the rear lidar sensors between the awkward split roof wings, and the big one up front pops up from underneath the roof, with motors loud enough that you can hear ‘em inside the car.
At the moment, the Eletre only supports the usual list of driver-assistance technologies we know and love, things like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. And while you can combine the latter two, it’s not as robust a system as Ford’s BlueCruise or General Motors’ Super Cruise. As in, you can’t take your hands off the wheel in the Lotus. Not that you’d want to – the system is really darty, speeding up and slowing down quicker than you’d expect, having a hard time keeping the Eletre a set distance behind a lead car. It’s surprisingly unrefined, considering…
Other Tech Is Outstanding
The Eletre’s infotainment setup is fully modern and fantastic. You won’t believe it came from Lotus (or any British brand, honestly). There’s a 15.1-inch central screen that uses Epic Games’ Unreal Engine processor – the same one used in the Hummer EV – and it makes for bright, colorful, crisp graphics that are not only immediately responsive to inputs, but don’t have any lag during animations or screen transitions.
The native menu structure does have a steep learning curve, and you’ll be forced to use it for now, since Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t yet available. But after two days of living with the Eletre, I’m a big fan of this multimedia suite’s power, graphics, and feature set. My one complaint? You use the screen to adjust the airflow direction of the dashboard vents, which is so freaking dumb.
Unfortunately, we won’t get Lotus’ side-view cameras in the United States, instead relying on traditional chunky mirrors. But thankfully all Eletres will have the dual 12.7-inch driver and passenger dashboard displays. For the driver, this acts as a digital gauge cluster, with all the pertinent info you’d expect. Passengers have a much more limited feature set, however, only being able to turn their screen on and off or skip tracks when media is playing on the bumpin’ KEF stereo with Dolby Atmos surround sound.
How ‘Bout That Design?
Okay, maybe your eyes work differently than mine, but I cannot find an exterior angle of the Eletre that’s in any way attractive. I appreciate that all of the weird aerodynamics – like the split roof spoiler, extendable hatch spoiler, ducts, and vents – are all functional, giving the Eletre an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. But man, this thing really is not pretty. I suppose that’s better than being an anonymous eco-blob, though (looking at you, Mercedes-Benz EQS).
On the other hand, the Eletre’s cabin as a whole deserves major kudos for its excellent styling and great overall quality. The leather and suede fabrics blend nicely with metal detailing, and the seats are super comfy. There isn’t a ton of storage up front for smaller items, and good luck finding the glove box release in under five minutes, but there’s at least 54.1 cubic feet of space in the cargo hold, if you fold the rear seats flat.
That Norway’s public roadways are dull from the driver’s seat actually works to the Eletre’s advantage. It lets me focus on the things this car does so well, like passenger comfort and infotainment tech, while still providing a quiet, comfortable, nicely composed ride. The Eletre should have solid driving range, too, with Lotus estimating a maximum of 373 miles on the optimistic European WLTP cycle. In the US, expect a much lower number, but anything above 300 is competitive in this segment.
Whether or not the Eletre drives like a pure, unhinged sports car is irrelevant. Instead, this car’s mission is to offer more conventional mass-market appeal – something Lotus needs to stay afloat in the future. With prices estimated to start around $100,000 for a base car or $120,000 for an Eletre S, it’s unreasonably priced, except, um, where the hell do you even buy one?
A Lotus in name only, the Eletre is nevertheless a solid step in the company’s new direction.
2024 Lotus Eletre S