Lotus' latest sports car – the all-new Emira – has been given the tick of approval from 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button. The Emira is a crucial new model for the British brand, it's both aiming to usher in a new era of more premium vehicles while also replacing its trio of long-serving machines, the Elise, Exige and Evora.
It's the first series production model for the brand since new owners, Chinese automotive giant Geely, took control of the brand and launched a plan to reinvent Lotus. Having already developed the all-electric multi-million dollar Evija hypercar, the Emira will have wider appeal with its £60,000 ($110,000) starting price.
Lotus Cars managing director, Matt Windle, is hopeful that the Emira will push the brand out of its current niche and into a genuine contest with the likes of Porsche.
“The Emira is a game-changer for Lotus. It stands as a beacon of everything we have achieved to date in the transformation of the business, the embodiment of our progress,” Windle said. “It is a highly significant milestone on our path to becoming a truly global performance car brand.”
The Emira is positioned as a rival to the likes of the Porsche 718 Cayman and Alpine A110, and is bigger than the three Lotus models it replaces. The bodywork has not only been shaped for aerodynamics but also helps carry on the new design language first seen on the Evija.
Russell Carr, Lotus design director, believes the Emira has the right look to take on Porsche, especially with its more premium cabin. Unlike the spartan, racecar-like interiors of the Elise and Exige, the Emira is finished with leather, Alcantara and carpets.
“The Emira captures the visual drama of an exotic supercar, with great proportions, wide footprint and a cabin that sits low down between muscular haunches,” Carr said. “Add in that it's practical enough to be useable every day, of the highest quality and accessibly priced, and it's undoubtedly a compelling and seductive alternative to the existing sports car competition. The Emira is re-introducing our brand to a new global audience while still offering all the thrills to engage the most ardent driving enthusiast.”
The body wraps around a new bonded aluminium chassis that the company has developed for its lightweight nature and strength. While based on the same principles pioneered on the Elise this new chassis is bigger and will help form the basis for the brand's ‘Elemental' architecture for other future sports cars.
The Emira will be the last Lotus without electrification, and power for the new model will come from a surprising new source. While the “Lotus-honed” Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6 that served the Exige and Evora remains an option, the Emira will also be available with AMG's potent 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo that's capable of making up 310kW of power and 500Nm of torque; although Lotus hasn't confirmed outputs yet. The partnership with AMG comes thanks to Geely's stake in Mercedes-AMG parent company, Daimler.
“The 2.0-litre is the world's most powerful production in-line four-cylinder unit mated to AMG's acclaimed DCT [dual-clutch transmission] with paddleshifts and driving modes,” explained Gavan Kershaw, director of vehicle attributes. “It's high-performance, hugely efficient thanks to cutting-edge technology, and delivers low emissions and linear performance. On top of all that, it's been tuned in-house by the hugely experienced Hethel engineers to deliver that distinctive Lotus experience.”
Button was on-hand for the launch in the UK overnight to give his verdict on the new model. Not only is he already a Lotus customer, securing one of the limited run Evija hypercars, he's also joined forces with Lotus Engineering, which is a technical partner for the JBXE Extreme E team.
Button sampled the Emira at Lotus' Hethel test track and came away impressed.
“You always expect a Lotus to have good mechanical grip through the low-speed corners but there was plenty of downforce in the high-speed corners too,” he said. “That means the feeling of great balance is the same no matter how you're driving it. It's exceptional and I'm a big fan.”