As regular readers have no doubt noticed, I don’t often write about new cars. Enough other people do that, and the fact that most new cars these days are EV’s is certainly also a contributing factor. I’m also no big fan of losing 30% in the first year, although as highlighted recently, that’s something that seems to be changing in these crazy times, at least for some cars. However, when one of the favorite brands among all car enthusiasts brings out a new car with two petrol engine options, and indications are that it’s the best car they’ve ever built, then I do believe it’s worth a few lines. I’m talking about Lotus and the all new Emira, that we’ll look closer at this week!
The Hethel-based brand is something like northern Europe’s Alfa Romeo; every time they launch a car we all want them to get it right and in terms of driving pleasure they usually do, but unfortunately the cars just as often are a deception both in quality and comfort, especially since they tend to be a tad too expensive for what they offer, making them an enthusiast, niche product. This is no doubt one of the reasons behind Lotus’s financial difficulties through the years. After a drive in an Exige a few years ago, I mentioned to the dealer that I found it slightly harsh. He just pointed at the Evora saying that in that case, that was the car for me. I had some back problems then, and the time it took me to get into the Evora was exremely unworthy. When I was finally in, what I discovered was a car that was perhaps refined compared to an Exige, but miles away from a Cayman, yet still more expensive. That’s not a winning package. Luckily, having had the opportunity to experience the Emira inside and out recently, I’ll risk it and claim things have very much changed – in a positive way!
The Emira is Colin Chapman’s last Lotus iteration and also the last Lotus with a combustion engine, before the brand goes fully electric under the new Geely ownership. The chassis comes from the Evora but has been heavily reworked and Lotus has developed a new steering rather than buying it from another brand as they’ve done previously. In terms of looks it’s no big surprise that the Emira has clear design elements in common with its sibling, the coming, all-electric supercar Evija. Next to that however, it also looks like a mini Ferrari. More precisely, like a mini F8 Tributo. There are elements on all sides that makes you think of the cars from Maranello in general and the F8 in particular, but the design combines looks with function, with air being led through various channels from front to back in an Evija-like way. The result is absolutely fantastic, and the Emira definitely has a supercar look about it, far from the more toy-like looks of some of its predecessors.
Initially the Emira is offered with two engines: the well-known, supercharged Toyota V6 featured in both the Exige and the Evora, and here putting out 400 hp. It’s coupled to either a manual or an automatic gearbox. The other option is a four-cylinder, turbo-powered Mercedes-AMG engine from the A45s with 360 hp, which is only available with an auto box. That engine actually puts out 61 hp more in the A45s, so AMG tuned it down for Lotus such as not to challenge the V6 as the top engine. It’s a pretty safe bet that with the first facelift in a year or two, the four-pot will have its performance increased… Both engines produce similar speeds at just over 4 seconds to 100 and a top speed over 280 kph but as said, if you want a manual (and many Lotus drivers do!), then the V6 is the only option. And there’s another, very Lotus-typical reason for wanting a manual, namely that the gearing is still fully transparent and visible on the inside under the center console!
The inside is also were the biggest differences to previous Lotuses are to be found, and it’s a bit like night and day. Gone is the rudimentary interiors of earlier Lotuses, replaced by a very nice place to be, still with a clean design that is not overloaded, and offering a good mix of new, digital elements and phyiscal buttons. It also feels very roomy compared to for example an Evora, which is interesting given at 4.4 metres long and 1.95 metres wide, the car isn’t much bigger. The squared (almost) steering wheel and shifter sit exactly where they should, the digital instruments and infotainment screen offer all modern features you could wish for, but have been combined with physical buttons notably for climate and radio controls. Why can’t everyone do that?? With a total weight of only 1400 kg, the Emira is heavier than an Elise or an Exige, but still qualify as lightweight in today’s world, thus staying true to Chapman’s legendary lightweight motto. But for 5 kgs, the weight is actually on par with a Porsche Cayman.
Next to the manual box, another reason to opt for the Toyota V6 is a great sound through the Emira’s exhaust. First tests indicate that the car drives like a Lotus should, diving into corners, perfectly controllable over the steering, well-balanced and very happy to wag its tale and drift as much as you want, should you want to. There are no active elements in the suspension, Lotus has rather set up the car as they believe it should be set up and offer you the choice of two versions, a sportier one and a more comfort-focused one. To go with that are two different 20-inch tires that have been specifically developed for the Emira (something that was actually last done for something as exclusive as the AMG GT Black Series!), one sportier than the other, and inside them are really big disc brakes that should have no problem bringing the 1400 kg to a halt.
Launch cars are available in a First Edition with the V6 and with a driving package, special wheels and various other visible elements highlighting it is precisely that, i.e. the First Edition. The initial batch of V6 cars have been sold out in most markets, although most haven’t made it to the road yet. If I were to order a car in Switzerland today, I could chose between the V6 and the AMG engine, and Lotus indicates delivery in about a year for both. That may be better than some other cars, but it’s still a long time! Prices are not fully clear but are somewhere around EUR 80-90.000 for the V6 version and about EUR 10.000 less for the four-cylinder. All cars are well equipped with few options. Considering that and that this is a mid-engined, two-seater which at 1400 kg offers 400 hp, the Emira very much looks like a supercar for sports car money. And when you add to that the interior quality, comfort and practicality it also offers, it starts sounding not only attractive, but actually pretty irresistible, especially when you know that with a Toyota or an AMG engine, servicing it won’t ruin you either.
Should you get this instead of a Cayman or for that matter, an F8? As always, that depends on who you are. Even though the Emira is miles ahead of previous Lotuses, if you’re looking for perfection, then the Cayman is probably the way to go. And if you really want the full drama, looks and sound from Maranello, well then an F8 is the car to get. But if you’re on a smaller budget, you enjoy special things that aren’t seen on every corner, you find it has enough supercar looks and feels special enough, well then the Emira could be the car for you. Personally I would be in that corner, and buying the last petrol car that will ever come out of Hethel also feels quite special! In terms of which one to get however, Lotus hasn’t made it easy. I like the V6 but by the sounds of it, the AMG four-pot could be a real peach. What settles it for me though is that to me, a Lotus needs to be a manual, especially when it lets you look into the gearing mechanism. I’ll take the V6 please!