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By Andrew Ganz

We knew that Lotus had something special up its sleeve for the Paris Motor Show, but we didn't quite expect the total revamp we found lurking on its display in one of the secondary halls at Paris' Porte de Versailles Exposition Center.

Six new car concepts and one production-ready model helped signal what Lotus is calling "the dawn of a new era" for the British sports car manufacturer. Lotus wants to take on Porsche and Ferrari - and, if it can arrange the funding to do so, it very well might succeed.

All six concepts were presented as previews of production models, although just how much cash there is in the coffers at Lotus headquarters in Norfolk, U.K., isn't entirely clear. The financing required to bring all six to market is, realistically, substantial.

Click on the model name below to be directed to more information and photographs.

Blasts from the past

The iconic Esprit, which lasted entirely too long in one of Lotus most cash-starved eras, returns. The new car shares little but a name and concept with its predecessor.

A mid-engined, V8-powered "ultimate Lotus," the car would take on the likes of Porsche 911s and Ferrari F458 Italias should it hit the road in early 2013. A hybrid powertrain is also slated.

Then there is the Elan, a two or 2+2-seater powered by a high-displacement V6 and capable of hitting 62 mph in just 3.5 seconds. Unlike the original Elan roadsters, the reborn car features a hybrid powertrain option and a fixed roof.

The luxurious and seductive Elite fortunately draws more inspiration from its lightweight first generation namesake than the second-generation wagonback model that essentially summed up everything wrong with the British auto industry in the 1970s. Graceful and elegant, the Elite concept would make a fantastic long-distance grand touring car.

Modern Lotus is best known for its Elise roadster, and while the new car gains a hardtop, it should still offer a light-weight, four-cylinder driving experience. Still almost five years out, the car grows up a little compared to the current Elise but will still be the automaker's rawest model.

Branching out

Lotus understands that a wide portfolio needs to be supported by higher-volume and higher-efficiency cars that help it make money and meet ever-stricter government fuel consumption and emissions standards. As such, it plans to launch a two prong attack in the shape of a city car and a four-door luxury sedan.

Taking a page from the upcoming, Toyota/Scion iQ-based Aston Martin Cygnet, the Lotus City Car Concept offers urban transportation for two. With any luck, Lotus will breathe some of its suspension sophistication into the car so it doesn't wind up handling like a Smart Fortwo.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Lotus Eterne is clearly inspired by the Porsche Panamera. The highly-controversial Panamera has nonetheless proven a profitable success for Porsche.

Leftlane's bottom line

It's hard not to be impressed by the Lotus lineup that debuted last week in Paris. The designs are top notch and, although presented in mock-up form, nearly every detail looks production-ready. Lotus has done its homework and has been kind (and smart) enough to offer us a glimpse into a tantalizingly exciting future.

Of course, the display was as much about proving itself to investors as it was to introducing new models. Lotus hasn't exactly shared its cash situation with us, but we know that money doesn't print itself during these hard times where luxuries like sports cars are hard to justify.

We sincerely hope Lotus can bring even half of the lineup to market. It's proof that there is still strong passion in certain segments of the market. For now, we'll be happy with the exciting new Lotus Evora S that almost took second stage to the concepts.



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