Building on the legacy of the Elise and Exige, the Emira represents a quantum leap forward for Lotus. Mixing instantly recognisable brand signatures with a paradigm shift in levels of practicality, comfort, and technology, the Emira is everything you hope it would be.
As soon as you lay eyes on it in the metal you know the Emira is – for those lucky enough to snap one up – going to be a keeper.
And because it is the end of one chapter for Lotus, you know it’s going to be good. It has to be.
The Emira has to carry a lot on its broad supercar-esque shoulders. Not only does it arrive as the replacement for not one, but two cars – the much-loved and still-popular Elise and Exige pairing – but it is also the last petrol-powered model the revitalised Lotus brand will ever build.
So, yes – it has to be good. Even with its newly minted parent company now in rude health and looking to a positive electrified future, there remains no margin for compromise with the Emira. No one builds a car to be forgotten after all. And a quick drive of this bright blue supercharged sports coupe reaffirms that the Lotus Emira won’t fall between two stools.
Full disclosure: the example you see on these pages was but a temporary visitor to our shores. A left-hand drive preproduction example, this Emira is on a world tour of sorts, acting as a tasty amuse-bouche for brand fans and the curious alike in key markets for Lotus, ahead of a banquet of Kiwi customer cars arriving early in 2023.
Other than which side of the cabin the tiller is on though, this Lotus Emira First Edition V6 is pretty much like-for-like what we can expect to see in the first half of next year (the base edition four-cylinder Emira will arrive towards the second half of 2023).
The first thing that strikes you as you walk up to the Emira is how immediately Lotus-y it is. Quite far removed from the curvier pocket rocket styling of the legendary Elise, the Emira apes all the quintessential touchpoints of a supercar, just one that has been scaled down slightly.
Developed on a new lightweight bonded aluminium chassis (with that ever-present lightweight ethos remaining central to the carmaker’s DNA), the Emira is an aerodynamic ace, with myriad air intakes up front and through the car’s flanks giving the svelte bodywork a pleasingly shrink-wrapped effect. There are even interesting aerodynamic cut-outs framing the front hood, like Lotus’ famously weight conscious engineers couldn’t resist getting rid of a bit more bodywork.
The interior is suitably cosseting as you’d expect from a two-seater mid-engined sportscar. But its amazingly civilised; the Emira showing off a completely rethought, tastefully trimmed driver-focused cabin.
There’s no stripped-back racer aesthetic here; its bordering on luxurious, with 12-way adjustable heated seats, climate control, cruise control, keyless start, a multi-function steering wheel and a 10.25-inch touchscreen controlling Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s even a dedicated space for your mobile phone. And cupholders. And soft material lined door pockets. And a proper glovebox. Yes, this is a very different sportscar proposition from Lotus.
Pleasingly, a few key elements remain preserved in amber, despite the significant makeover.
One of those is the bark from the 3.5-litre supercharged V6 behind your shoulder (oh yes, the reversing camera – another modern nicety – comes in handy with the 298kW/420Nm Toyota-sourced power unit taking up the view through the rear). Select first using the lovely machined manual gear shifter complete with exposed mechanism below the centre tunnel, grab the Alcantara-clad steering wheel, let the electronic parking brake release and head for the hills.
The other key Lotus element reminiscent of the now-gone Elise/Exige is the thoroughly engaging drive. Offering plenty of grip and feedback through the wheel, you feel like you utilise the full package even at medium speeds. You’re never incessantly busy (if you don’t want to be), but the manual ‘box, squeeze-and-go throttle response, low-slung stance and that view out the windscreen framed by those front wheel arches all add up to a dramatic drive of the pleasing variety. The buzz of the V6 behind your left ear makes it extra special.
The Lotus legacy feels secure. Yes, the future will be very different for this brand. But it is a brand whose reputation was built on a tradition of engineering exactitude almost to the point of obsession. It is a brand that remains ‘for the drivers’ as it has always done.
And speaking of the future…
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