Lotus’ last gas-powered car is many things: A mix of the firm’s visual future; its (recent) past, thanks to its V-6; and an upgrade for the company, in terms of what it offers customers.
The Emira will be a car of many engines, with either Lotus’ tried-and-tested 3.5-liter supercharged V-6 or a Lotus-engineered AMG-sourced 2.0-liter turbo-four sitting in the middle. Power outputs will range from 360 to 400 hp; torque will peak at 317 lb-ft. Zero to 62 mph will happen in less than 4.5 seconds, and depending on what’s in the engine bay, it’s promised to hit 180 mph. Lotus is offering manual, automatic, and DCT gearboxes. And yes, the exposed manual gear linkage from the Exige will return. Obviously, it’s rear-wheel drive. Fans of the V-6 will be pleased to hear that the visible throttle actuator featured on the Exige and Evora is returning.
The price point is keen. In the U.K. it’ll start at under £60,000, and in the U.S. it will likely go for less than $80,000. Cayman money, basically.
Under the skin is Lotus’ Sports Car Architecture, which uses the firm’s traditional extruded bonded aluminum chassis tech. In its lightest form, it weighs in at 3097 lb, Lotus says; a little heavier than the outgoing Evora, but there’s a reason for that. It’s more grown up.
“Weight is always key to us,” Lotus Director of Attribute and Product Integrity Gavan Kershaw says. “But with the Emira, we had to see a step change in quality. We wanted to improve the daily-life usage. So the amount of storage and how you store things, the screen technology, the connectivity. But also, build quality, build process, squeaks, rattles, all of those little things that can distract from the pleasure of owning the car rather than add to it.”
In order to have a better built, better kitted-out car, you need to add weight. On the kit front, Emira comes with the modern conveniences you’d expect… though perhaps not in a Lotus. Things like 12-way adjustable seats; a suite of active safety tech; a super plush KEF audio set up (KEF’s first automotive hook-up); Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; USB ports; useable storage space, including 7.3 cubic feet of space behind the seats, a 5.3-cubic-foot trunk, useful door bins, and trinket slots; a 10.25-inch touch screen infotainment display; a 12.3 inch TFT instrument panel; and so on. You get the idea.
The job here is for the Emira to be more accessible to more people, a proper daily driver. “The person looking for just owning it because they love the look of it and they want to use it every day, they’ll be able to do that,” Kershaw says. “It’s the easiest Lotus we’ve ever had to get in and out of, to start, and own.”
From the off there are two setups, Tour and Sport, to choose from. Tour is for drivers who want a more relaxed ride, but still want to enjoy themselves with some spirited driving. The springs are softer, and the Emira’s 20-inch alloys are fitted with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport rubber. Sport comes with stiffer springs and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, so track rats can get the best out of the car. The latter setup is part of a Lotus Drivers Pack. Both trim levels come with hydraulic steering. Even with extra toys on board, the Emira is still set to be very much a Lotus.
When it comes to the stuff under the skin, Lotus wanted to build on lessons learned from the Evora. “We knew that the chassis would be plenty stiff enough,” Kershaw says. “We wanted to change some small things that we’d learned through Evora, racing, and new simulation techniques. We’ve got, effectively, all new wishbones, all new uprights, roll-bar system, steering column, steering rack, ESC system, brakes. Everything on the chassis is new.”
While talking about the car’s dynamics, Kershaw said the Emira will also be a smoother, quieter experience when a driver wants it to be. And, of course, noisy in the right ways. He also praised the AMG-sourced inline four motor: “Everyone is raving about it. It’s very practical, usable, the torque delivery is very good for us.”
In the metal (well, composite), the Emira appears much larger than the Evora despite measuring only a touch bigger. A wider track and 20-inch wheels help with that. It’s a good looking thing, too.
The inspiration from the upcoming Evija EV hypercar is hard to miss: boomerang hood vents, LED lights, sculpted doors, rear vents, and profile are all neatly implemented on the Emira. Yet it’s no simple copy-paste job; the Emira still has its own identity. “We still want the car to look beautiful, we want it to look modern, we want it to be memorable because it’s quite easy to create something which is generic, Lotus Design Director Russel Carr says. “It’s got to look thrilling and it’s got to be recognizable as a Lotus in the end of it. It’s a bit more subtle [than the Evija], but all the details on the car and technical detail are obviously important… The whole intention of Evija was, it’s a statement of intent for the company, it’s a showcase for new design language, so why wouldn’t we borrow from that? And I think from a customer standpoint, they’re not going to complain when they spend £60,000 and get a little bit of £2 million on the driveway.”
While the Emira is the future, Lotus isn’t afraid to look back. Some hallmarks remain. Top exit vents; huge rear haunches to give drivers a treat in their side mirrors; the famed Becker Points over the front wheels to aid placement on the road; these and more remain.
Carr is especially proud of Emira’s interior treatment. Noting that it’s a huge step change for Lotus, and that previously a more enthusiast-focused interior was all good, contemporary customers want more from their cars.
“The interior was about this usability,” Carr says. “It starts with getting in the car. I know a lot of people felt Lotus products were difficult to get in. We worked quite hard with all our packaging engineers to judge the position of the cant rail, the sill, the position of the seat, to make the car easier to get in and out of… and I think you’ll also feel you sit more in the car because we’ve got quite a high console and that links in well.” It’s a feast of smooth soft-touch materials, something quite alien if you’re used to an Elise. The red cover over the start/stop button is a neat bit of drama.
On top of ease of use, the Emira is more practical than what’s come before. It also comes with something to keep drivers not only comfy, but perky too. “A friend of mine bought an Evora and loved the car, but phoned me up to rant at me that there’s no cupholder. And he said, ‘Just because I do the occasional track day doesn’t mean I never drink coffee. Where’s the cupholder?’ So, there’s two for him.” A V-6 and cupholders? Lotus is spoiling us.
There are some Easter eggs in the Emira. One will likely be mostly enjoyed by people who take pride in cleaning their cars: “In the tailpipes there’re some perforations. Rather than being just round perforations, they’re shaped like the plectrum in the center of the Lotus badge,” Carr says. Neat.
Lotus says the Emira will be its “most accomplished road car ever.” A bold claim, but one it should be able to back up. The Emira will be built at a new facility at Hethel, its chassis assembled a few miles down the road, then merged with the rest of the car back at HQ. To ensure build quality is up to snuff, robots will be doing the painting. There’s a semi-automated body assembly system, and automated guided vehicles to transport cars around the site. It’s not all robot all the time; it’ll still be “Handmade in Hethel.”
Across the automotive industry internal combustion engines are being walked around the back of the shed. The faint sound of a shotgun cocking can be heard a few fields over. At Lotus, the stock is firmly nestled against the shoulder, but the trigger hasn’t been pulled yet. The Emira may be Hethel’s last pure internal combustion car, but it’s going out on what looks like a glorious, refined high. And one that sets a high bar for its electrified future.
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