- The Lotus Emira is the automaker‘sffirst all-new car since the launch of the Evora in 2010.
- Lotus’ latest combustion model, the Emira replaces Elise, Evora and Exige.
- The Emira offers a choice of the supercharged Toyota V6 or the AMG turbo four-cylinder, with the V6 offered first.
Lotus has an incredible catalogue, but – like many other famous British artists who were important in the 60s and 70s – the company lacks recent successes. Lotus founder Colin Chapman created models around the principles of lightness and innovation, producing successes such as the Seven (a car so good that British specialist Caterham still manufactures it 65 years later) and followed that with automotive stars such as the original Elan, the car the Miata tried to imitate, and then the mid-engined Esprit that was denied status as the most famous automotive wedge in the world. world solely by the existence of the Lamborghini Countach.
More recently, successes have receded. The Elise, which introduced a new bonded aluminum architecture, was introduced as early as 1996 and survived only in modestly evolved form until last year. And the Evora which was launched to much fanfare in 2010 was more of a failure than a success, fun to drive but compromised by a low cabin rent, poor access and prices that didn’t seem competitive with alternatives. much more complete.
That’s why the new Emira takes a different approach. Developed with funds invested after Chinese carmaker Geely took over the British company in 2017, Lotus has already announced that the new two-seater will be the last car it launches to be powered by an internal combustion engine. That future will soon be here: a new all-electric SUV is set to be unveiled later this month. But the Emira must also broaden its appeal to the outgoing Evora, Elise and Exige, not least because it will replace all three of them.
Autoweek had the chance to drive an Emira prototype on the test track at Lotus headquarters near Norfolk, England. The 2.2 mile circuit is, like so many British race tracks, built on the track of the former USAF and RAF airbase which Lotus acquired in 1966, and every new Lotus since then has been developed using it, much under the direction of my host, Gavan Kershaw. He started at Lotus as a technical apprentice in 1988 and became the company’s attributes director, making him responsible for driving every new car. It’s been a good year for junior chassis engineers: Matt Becker, recently appointed as Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Vehicle Engineering Director, started his apprenticeship at Lotus on the same day.
The Emira I drove wasn’t a completely finished example, but it was clearly close to final spec. According to Kershaw, it was a VP1-level prototype that was part of the group of cars used to test adaptive safety systems, one that featured the reassuringly traditional combination of a 400bhp 3.5-litre V6 engine. , a manual gearbox and limited mechanics. – slip differential. The Toyota engine will also be offered with an automatic torque converter, and an Emira four-cylinder will be introduced shortly after the V6, the latter using a 2.0-liter turbocharged AMG engine with 360 hp and having a speed gearbox. dual clutch as sole transmission. choice. Lotus has confirmed pricing for the fully loaded Emira V6 First Edition: $96,100, with US deliveries beginning later this year. He also said the base AMG-powered car will be available in 2023 with a starting price of $77,100.
The V6 prototype’s cabin isn’t to final spec, apparently some of the plastics are grainless, but it’s close enough to be finished to confirm it’s a huge leap forward over the company’s other recent models. . Entry and egress is much easier thanks to larger door openings and narrower sills, and once in the driver’s seat, the cabin features high-quality trim on every touch surface, along with the novelty of the two digital instruments and a touch screen of 10.2 inches in the center of the dashboard.
Yes, the Geely Group origins of some of the switchgear are not in disguise – the chunky column rods come direct from Volvo. But the twin screens are perfectly rendered with bespoke graphics, and Lotus has wisely chosen to keep the conventional heating and ventilation controls. Ergonomics are good, with a good range of ride adjustment, good headroom and a view through the windscreen that includes the view of both front fenders, making it easier to orient the car’s position on the road. A fun distraction is the sight of the V6’s supercharger bypass valve, which can be seen working on top of the engine in the rearview mirror.
The most obvious difference in the cabin of the Emira prototype is the absence of rear seats. The Evora was, nominally, a 2+2, although most later versions were built without the cramped second-row accommodations. The Emira is a strict two-seater, although there is still space between these and the rear firewall to accommodate up to 7.3 cubic feet of softer, softer luggage, in plus a 5.3 cubic foot compartment behind the engine.
Although the combination of high winds and rain battering the Hethel track during my drive was distinctly British, they weren’t the friendliest environment in which to get to know a new sports car for the first time. However, the Emira quickly shows itself completely at ease in slippery conditions.
The prototype relied on the softer ‘Tour’ suspension settings, along with road-tuned Goodyear Eagle F1 tires – track-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s will be offered as an option. The softer settings worked well on the soggy track surface, but the Emira never felt any lack of precision or performance.
The supercharged V6 engine felt largely as I remember it in the Evora – plenty of torque, lag-free feedback but not much joy to be found revving it – a 7000 rpm limiter is pretty docile compared to segment standards. At lower speeds it’s quieter than the old car, with a switchable acoustic valve in the exhaust remaining closed before 4000 rpm in the car’s default dynamic Tour mode. But when pressed harder or switched into the punchier Sport mode, the Emira quickly finds a harsher voice.
While 400bhp pushing 3152lbs is no longer a particularly thorny power-to-weight ratio by the increasingly insane standards of the supercar segment, it quickly proved enough to make the Emira worthwhile on the wet track. The prototype’s manual shifter felt heavier than the often loose Evora’s, but the Emira’s selector occasionally snagged when moved on its planes, particularly from second to third. Truth be told, it was the only time the car felt truly unfinished.
The steering, however, was impeccable, combining traditional Lotus soft initial responses with proportional reactions and genuine feedback. The V6 Emira sticks to the anachronistic use of pure hydraulic assistance via an engine-driven pump, which provides voluble communication under everything from a smooth pit lane to tight turns. The AMG i4 version will use the same rack, but with the hydraulics pressurized by an electric pump; the more modern engine lacks the capability of a mechanical pump.
The all-passive suspension was also judged well. The Hethel track was resurfaced a few years ago; before that, the main straight was marred by potholes, and although now short on the rough edges, the Emira’s suppleness was still evident in the grip loads the tires allowed could generate. It rolls lightly in tight corners, a trait according to Kershaw that allows drivers to easily orient themselves in the face of increasing side loads. But the shocks were able to both hold order during aggressive direction changes and also when asked to deal with Hethel’s brakes. Despite the wet conditions, the softest springs and the least aggressive tires, the Emira’s dash also reported a maximum lateral acceleration of over 1G, which if accurate is an impressive number. .
Grip is strong, but the Emira’s grace in losing grip really stood out. In Tour mode, the stability control works hard to prevent any obvious slippage, but selecting Sport eases the threshold for intervention to allow the Emira’s rear end to give up grip briefly. In the absence of the non-functional Track Mode, the complete defeat of the ESC proved that the Emira remained predictable even without guards – easier to drive beyond its limits than many supercars when using their batteries from driver-flattering active systems.
Under less intense use, the Emira continues to drive as one would expect from a Lotus. The engine mass behind the cabin is obvious, but gives the car its dynamic character, helping the prototype settle into corners and making it easy to adjust a chosen line through subtle inputs. Still, it never feels snappy and proved incredibly forgiving of braking and stacked turns.
Lotus has never had a problem with creating fine-handling cars, of course – it’s the ‘everything else’ part that the Emira improves on. Even in prototype form, it feels well finished and usable in a way that none of its predecessors have. Lotus’ latest combustion car appears to be, even based on a limited first drive, one of the company’s historic highlights.
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