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2009 Lotus Project Eagle - Spied
Lotus’ next sports car is caught in its element on the Ring.
BY STEVE SILER, PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARPIX
At last fall’s L.A. auto show, Lotus gave us some insight into its future, hinting at a new sporty member to its lineup from something called “Project Eagle.” The new car would slot in above the Elise/Exige and Europa lines but below the upcoming 2011 Esprit. Now we have our first look at an Eagle mule, caught testing at the good old Nürburgring, and the first from Lotus’ Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) first used on its 2005 APX crossover concept.
Project Eagle purportedly is a 2+0 or 2+2-seater; but after looking at the pictures, we’re guessing the former is the case. Note the shoulder-to-shoulder seating positions of driver and passenger in the photos, as well as the proportion between the tiny windows and the passengers’ huge helmets—where would you fit another set of seats?
But you never know with Lotus, a company that has turned the utilization of space into an art form. In a press release about the Eagle (we’re guessing that will be the final, official name, but to date Lotus has only referred to it by its Project Eagle code name), Lotus claims that the Elise and Exige are “much smaller.” Uh huh. The Elise and Exige are “much smaller” than pretty much any car save Barbie’s Dream Vette, so the descriptor isn’t saying a lot. Regardless, based on what we can see, if the Eagle is even slightly larger than the Europa and Elise, it won’t be by what any of us here consider much.
It will, however, be more elegant. Like the Europa, the Eagle will have rear-quarter windows and an unobstructed view out the sloping rear window. It also appears to have a longer front overhang, a slightly longer wheelbase, and some darn sexy wheels that we hope are offered in black, just like these.
What We Know About the Eagle
With its mid-engine VVA application (the VVA apparently can also be modified for front-mounted engines), Project Eagle’s largest structural component is its tub for the occupants. Behind that is the rear subframe to which the engine and rear suspension bits are mounted; in front is a 55-pound subframe that incorporates the crash structure and mounting points for the front suspension and hydraulic power steering components. All suspension arms are forged aluminum, which is both lighter and capable of handling higher loads, although much of the suspension design itself is derived from the Elise/Exige. Much of the structure is rendered in aluminum, although composites will be used for the roof, and likely many of its body panels.
Possible New V-6
The wind beneath the Eagle’s wings could come from a transversely mounted 3.0-liter V-6 of about 300 horsepower (that’s what the APX concept had under its hood). We can see the engine prefers to gulp air from the top of the rear fenders rather than the broad body sides, à la Elise/Exige/Europa.
We expect the Eagle to officially take flight with an unveil in July at the British Motor Show. It should go on sale in early 2009.
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