What is it?
If you want a brand new, petrol-powered Lotus sports car these days, forget Elise, Exige and Evora – they're all discontinued. It's now all about this, the new Lotus Emira.
A two-seat, rear-drive, mid-engine sports car manufactured in the United Kingdom, the Emira will be the last internal combustion vehicle produced by Lotus.
Even before you've unlocked it, the Emira makes a stunning first impression. With perfect proportions, functional aerodynamic styling and standard 20-inch wheels, it's aggressive yet beautiful, and turns heads in a way something like a Toyota Supra just can't. It looks special, a car you don't see on the road everyday.
Does it have any racing pedigree?
Lotus is one of the most storied marques in grand prix racing, established by famed designer Colin Chapman, having entered its first Formula One race in 1958.
Lotus dominated Formula One in the 1960s and 1970s, and some of the greatest grand prix drivers ever to live raced a car with a Lotus badge. Those that won a world driver's championship in a Lotus include Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti. So yes, you could say Lotus and the Emira have some racing pedigree.
What's under the bonnet?
The Emira is offered with two engine options – a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 and a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four. The V6, codenamed 2GR-FE, is sourced from Toyota and dates back to 2004, one of its applications being the TRD Aurion (remember that?). If you want the six-speed manual Emira, it'll be this V6, which produces 298kW and 420Nm. The V6 can also come as a six-speed torque converter automatic.
The four-cylinder, a much more cutting-edge power-unit, is from Mercedes-AMG, and is the same engine you'll find in the A45 hot hatch. It belts out 268kW at 6600rpm and 430Nm from 3000-5500rpm, and is available with an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic only. The one we have today is the V6 manual.
How does it handle?
Exceptionally well. Without being too soft, the little Emira's suspension breathes with the road, offering an engaging degree of pitch, dive and roll that makes you think about how to drive it better. A precision instrument with light, direct steering, there's also plenty of grip, but not too much, somewhat along the philosophical lines of the original Toyota 86 with its Michelin Primacy tyres.
This road-tester found the Emira best, dynamically, at nine-tenths. As you approach the limit, which isn't exceedingly difficult, it becomes a bit difficult to trust the rear-end under brakes, owing presumably to the heavy V6 amidships. On the road at least, the Emira seems best enjoyed within its limits-of-grip. It would be interesting to see how the AMG inline-four affects the feeling of weight, and how it moves around, in the Emira.
Where would you most like to drive it?
Somewhere like Sandown would be ideal, where you can enjoy rowing up through the gears and listening to that V6 howl, before getting back on the brakes and practising your heel-toe. And using plenty of kerb through turns nine and 10 thanks to the Emira's absorbent suspension.
What's the interior like?
Lotus has worked hard to make the Emira appealing to the type of person who buys a Porsche Cayman. There are twin digital displays, a 12.3-inch screen taking care of the instruments while a 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Fit and finish is decent, while there's more space than two-seat Lotuses of old, and the material choice is luxe enough. You sit a little bit high, but it's a very driver-focused place to be – and an event just to sit in. There's a bit of storage space behind the seats (208L) and a small boot (151L). While still a compact cabin, it's a much more daily-drivable proposition than Lotus sports cars before it.
How much does the Lotus Emira cost?
The Emira starts from $209,990 before on-road costs. This is not a cheap vehicle, even by sports car standards. If you have your heart set on the Lotus, and we wouldn't blame you, avoid driving the Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 manual which is $194,900 before on-roads. Unless you want a dilemma.
Would I buy one?
Why not – the Emira is the last petrol-powered Lotus. It's your chance to own a bit of history. Treat yourself.
The Emira offers a theatre-filled, unforgettable driving experience. That's down to the baby supercar styling, slick manual gearshift and raucous V6 which sounds even better (and much louder) outside the car than in.
With its claimed 4.3 second 0-100km/h time, there's no denying that for outright power and acceleration you can get faster cars for a lot cheaper. There are also better cars for on-limit driving if you're a more experienced performance driver.