Lotus developing five-door crossover

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Lotus Crossover

One of the last bastions of proper old-school lightweight sports cars – Lotus – is on the brink of throwing its hat into the pseudo off-roader ring, with a new crossover model.

Despite Lotus founder Colin Chapman coining the mantra of "simplify and add lightness", Lotus is set to create a larger, more complex and heavier new model to compete with the tranche of pumped up 4x4s that have arrived in the showrooms of upmarket car companies.

Following the example of Porsche, which has successfully moved from selling only sports cars to having the Cayenne and the Macan off-roaders propping up its sales figures, Lotus appears to be betting its fortunes on a five-door crossover, which is being developed at the company's Norfolk base.

According to Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales, the new model will be a "real Lotus" which will take the title as "the world's first lightweight SUV", reports Autocar. Signifying another big change for the company, it is likely to be produced in a new factory in south-east China.

Due to go on sale in 2019, this new model is expected to become Lotus's bestselling model ever, replicating Porsche's success with the Cayenne. The new car is the first product to come from a joint venture between Lotus, Proton (which owns Lotus) and Chinese engineering firm Goldstar Heavy Industrial.

The Chinese manufacturing base will allow Lotus to exploit the rapidly expanding Chinese SUV market – a market where Porsche is selling around 30,000 Macans every year. This compares to predicted total sales of around 3,000 units for the existing Elise, Exige and Evora sports cars this year.

The new car is expected to have four-wheel drive – available as an option at least – though Lotus boss Gales says that it will be both lighter and faster than rivals – weighing in at around 200kg less than similar models.