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What to do with a Company like Lotus?

What to do with a Company like Lotus?

Picture-of-Black-Lotus-Car

Is there even place for this company any more? I am talking about actual viability in today’s market, where it is a genuine competitor to today’s established brands, and not remaining the quirky sportscar of choice for those stuck in the past.

Let’s face it, Lotus cars are not up to the standard of  the established brands. Finding out someone has opted for a Lotus over a Porsche is not only surprising, but also a little silly. Sure, Lotus may be an undiluted driving experience, but look at what you are sacrificing in order to go round a corner half a second faster than everyone else. You’ve got no comfort, no in car technology, not even a proper cup holder!

This would be fine if the cars were relatively cheap, but they aren’t  cheap. You don’t even get bulletproof build quality. It still has the feeling of being built by  a couple of ex-RAF pilots in a shed somewhere in Norfolk.

The problem isn’t even that it is still a cottage industry. If it maintained some sort USP, like Morgan or Ariel, it would be fine, but as it stands the Lotus cars are a little anonymous. I, for the life of me, cannot come up with a reason, either logically or emotionally, to buy a Lotus. They are too behind the market to be considered relevant any more.

The last time we were wowed by Lotus was during the reign of Dany Bahar, when he showed up with five concept cars, proudly proclaiming that he shall be bringing Lotus up to the standard of Ferrari. That was over four years ago, and since then Bahar has been relieved of his duties due to a questionable performance. Then there was a minor crisis involving potential investors, which eventually died down, followed shortly by the appointment of ex-PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales.

Lotus-Lineup
A Bahar future which never came to fruition.

Now, yet again, there is talk of new cars to go toe-to-toe with Porsche. There are strong hints of an SUV and a saloon a la Cayenne and Panamera. Which would be fine, if it weren’t for the choice of engines they seem to interested in. Basically, they are looking to Toyota for engines. Now there is nothing wrong with Toyota engines, but they are not comparable to Porsche’s engines. For them to be even remotely considered they have to either be backed by a big company willing to provide engines (like BMW does for Morgan), or follow Alfa’s lead, put their heads down and create an engine of their own.

But before they dip their toe into the premium market, they want to milk everything out of the current range, with endless special editions. Will it work? I doubt it. If people aren’t buying Lotus cars now, special paint jobs and automatic gearboxes will not tempt buyers. Their cars are sub-standard. Why spend £50k on a Lotus, when for the same money you can buy something as beautiful as a 4C or as technically perfect as the Cayman. It appears to me, that Lotus do not have a clear direction of where they are, and where they should be going. They are in a state of limbo, unable to progress with the current crop of cars , and unable to progress unless they sell some cars.

So what is the solution? Well a BMW-Morgan relationship would have some serious potential to Lotus.  A company like Mercedes could take Lotus to great heights, providing them with engines, gearboxes and infotainment systems, whilst allowing Lotus to grow and thrive in the sportscar market. As it stands Mercedes hasn’t got a share of the sportscar market, so a potential partnership with Lotus could be  beneficial to both. Mercedes would get a toe in the market,  as well as key knowledge from Lotus on weight saving and chassis development. Lotus would gain a sugar-daddy with enough resources to make them viable.  Then, Lotus may finally become a viable car manufacturer with a future.

The Mercedes Maybach S600; The Dictator’s Mercedes is back!

The Mercedes Maybach S600; The Dictator’s Mercedes is back!

The Mercedes S-Class was hardly lacking in the luxury department to begin with.  However, a potential client obviously told them that their flagship was not quite expensive enough, and went off to buy a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. So Mercedes, having a history of making cars that made Liberace’s bedroom look like a monastery, decided to respond, with the resurrection of the Maybach name.

The "I have more money than you" brand is back! Sort of.
The “I have more money than you” brand is back! Sort of.

Essentially its a stretched S-Class with a V12 engine. And when I say stretched, I really do mean stretched. This car is just over eight inches longer than the  long-wheelbase S600. Those eight inches have been added to the rear occupant’s area for the true business class feeling. However, things do not just end there.

This car will be sold at a premium to the current S-Class flagship, so they need to somehow justify the extra cash. So, the interior has had a full once over, covering every part of the dashboard with leather, and the finest embroidery ever. They’ve even included throw pillows!

You know you have succeeded in life when you've got throw pillows in your car.
You know you have succeeded in life when you’ve got throw pillows in your car.

As you can see, the interior is quite… magnificent. You get quilted perforated leather everywhere,  all four seats have a “hot-stone” massage function, so even Alfred can get comfy on long distances.  The rear seats recline should you need some rest between oil deals.  Then there is the usual wealth of tech to keep you occupied with either work or play. There’s also a fridge at he back to keep your Gout de Diamant chilled for when you take over your next country.

This will not be the final variant of the S-Class. Besides this, the S-Class long wheelbase and the Coupe, there will also be a convertible version and a ‘Pullman’ version. The Pullman will be the limousine version of the S-Class, seating up to six individuals. Maybe the Pullman is Mercedes’ idea of a people carrier.

Price you ask? Well no definite answers, but you probably couldn’t afford it even if I could tell you.

 

M3? What M3?

M3? What M3?

2014-BMW-M3-at-2014-NAIAS-front-3
BMW M3

2014 was the year the latest generation M3 came, saw and conquered the compact sports saloon market.  If there is one thing that BMW has always done, is assess the current situation of what an ideal sports saloon should be and react accordingly. The latest generation is no exception. For 2014, BMW has laid their glorious 414 bhp V8 engine to rest, arguing that eight cylinders has no place in today’s polar bear friendly, tree-hugging society. So instead its back to the straight-six engine, a tried and tested formula.

This twin-turbo six-cylinder now produces 425 bhp, and hits 62 mph in 4.3 seconds if you opt for the manual gearbox and 4.1 seconds if you go for the dual-clutch gearbox. Great, who doesn’t love a new BMW M3?

Me, actually. Its nothing personal to BMW, they apparently make some great cars, but I find them a tad dull nowadays. Everybody who has a little cash goes out and buys a BMW because that is what everyone buys. OK, fair enough, they are built like tanks, they are fast and economical and do everything you could ever want. I accept all your arguments as valid and true, but it is not very exciting, is it?

Let us take their design. Today all BMWs look like pigs with their huge kidney grilles. What happened to the days of the cool understated designs of BMW, like the E39 5-Series?Those were lovely. Even the interior was quite lovely despite that car being designed in the plastic-centric, 90s. Nowadays, if you step into a modern BMW, you might as well be sitting in a 1980s office block. Its so uninspiring, so lacking in any sort of flair. Audi is miles ahead in the interior design department, as is Mercedes, with both offering a sense of class in their interiors that the BMW cannot even begin to match.

Thankfully, there are car manufacturers who have seen that there are those who yearn for a sports saloon that is not a BMW. Within the next couple of years, they will grace us with their alternative to the cold-hearted M3.

First up, is Jaguar with their new XE compact saloon. This is there first proper jab at the 3-Series since the woeful X-Type that really isn’t worth mentioning. While the details are rather sparse at the moment, what is being hinted does sound quite interesting. As is the norm with current Jaguars, it will be built from aluminium, keeping weight to the minimum and a range of  newly designed four-pot engines ensures adequate performance and excellent economy. However what is of particular interest is the range-topping XE-R. Rumours seem to suggest that this latest “R” will get the V6 engine straight out of the F-Type. Imagine that awe-inspiring engine in a four-door! Taking the kids to school has never been noisier.

Jaguar XE Render
Jaguar XE Render

Secondly is the long-awaited Alfa Romeo Giulia QV.  Last May, Fiat held a press conference to highlight where the company would be heading over the next five years. Among those plans is the replacement for the 159. Yes, that is still happening. No, I do not know what it is going to look like. However, here is what I do know. Like the XE, it will have a set of new 4 cylinder engines for the economy minded buyers. For those with feet of lead and a yearning for tyre-smoke, there shall be a new V6. Yes you read correctly, the Alfa V6 lifes on, and Alfa’s answer to the M3 will make use of this new V6 engine producing nearly 500 bhp. From a six cylinder motor! My kind of car, really.

Volvo has also been pretty busy on the sports saloon front too. Yes, those crazy Swedes have made a car that doesn’t cushion your ear if you hit an amoeba. A car to take them into the exclusive club of the fast saloon category. A car to take on the might of the M3. Well, sort of.  The S60/V60 (depending on whether you want a station wagon or a saloon) is about 85 bhp down from the M3, but at 345 bhp, it is still a worthy member of this highly exclusive club. All that power also comes from a revised six-cylinder motor.  The downside? It is not exactly a full production car, it was built in limited numbers.

polestar-volvo-s60
The Polestar also comes in other colours in case blue isn’t really your thing.

What else have we got to look forward to in this segment? Well since Mercedes recently revealed an all new C-Class, its pretty safe to assume there will be an AMG on the way too. Audi also has a brand new A4 in the pipeline and I am pretty sure that an RS4 will be a given too.  The future of the fast saloon lives on, in incredible style.