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Now that's what I call a Lotus

Nigel Morris-Co...

It was a sad day when I stood in Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre at the British Motor Show in the mid 1980s and failed to buy a British sports car for the sole reason that there wasn't one I liked that had anywhere to put a child seat. Now there is.

The child that needed the seat then is now over six feet tall and won't fit in the back of the new, as yet un-named Lotus.

First, the facts: it's a 2+2 seater, 3.6 litre mid engined car that isn't a grown up Elise or Exige. It's cheap by super-car standards: just GBP80,000 (although in some countries that's going to have a huge amount of tax whacked on it) but id delivers super-car performance.

This is the biggest engine Lotus have ever put into a car. In fact, it's almost twice the capacity of its previous biggest (a 2.2 in the Europa of the 1970s, I think) and it appears to go against the Lotus design philosophy of making every thing small and light. But the power to weight ratio remains typically Lotus. And it's interesting that one of the features Lotus makes a point of mentioning is that the car will have cup-holders: that's a leap from models where electric windows were eschewed because the motors added too much weight.

The car is presently known as "Project Eagle." Its name is being kept secret until this year's British Motor Show where it will be seen for the first time in all its glory.

It's an in-house Lotus design and it's very much a part of the Lotus family - the front end still carries the open-mouth of the original Lotus Elise - the one from the 1950s - while the bonnet has features similar to current models. Yet it's the first completely new car from Lotus since the Elise - 13 years ago.

"Only" 2000 of the cars will be built each year. That's a significant number for one of the last hand-built cars in the world. Delivery will start in 2009. But demand is already building rapidly so early adopters had better get their name down faster than they moved for the school of their choice. And for the rest of us, the list will give us a little longer to save up.