Currently, you can’t buy a new street-legal Lotus in the United States. The 11-year-old Elise was yanked from our market in 2011 because it no longer complied with safety regulations, the more hardcore Exige suffered the same fate shortly after, and the four-seater Evora was axed for roughly the same reasons after the 2014 model year.
Lotus has now thoroughly updated the Evora inside, outside, and in the engine bay, and the revamped model is scheduled to make a long-awaited return to our shores next year as a 2017 model. However, the company has confirmed that the entry-level Elise won’t benefit from the same treatment because the required upgrades would make it prohibitively expensive and too heavy.
“We’d need smart airbags, plus side airbags and to change the whole front crash structure. It would add about 220 pounds,” explained company CEO Jean Marc Gales in an interview with trade journal Automotive News.
Instead, the current Elise (pictured) will remain a track-only model in the foreseeable future, at least in the United States. When the time comes to finally replace it, the new model will be designed with the North American market in mind from the get-go so it will be fully compliant with all safety and emissions regulations.
Lotus warns that replacing the Elise isn’t a top priority, and the small Hethel-based car maker has previously made it clear that it is currently focusing on developing its first-ever crossover. Roughly the same size as a Porsche Macan, the yet-unnamed model is expected to quickly become Lotus’ best-seller by a long shot and help the company gain a secure foothold in China, one of the world’s most lucrative new car markets. The Elise, on the other hand, will almost certainly be a low-volume model.
All told, Lotus predicts the next Elise will arrive in North American showrooms in about 2020, meaning it will likely be branded as a 2021 model. That time frame certainly won’t please Lotus aficionados, but it at least puts them on notice and gives them plenty of time to save up.