Lotus Emira review

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The Emira is everything a Lotus sportscar should be. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

In future years, the Emira might well be remembered as the last true Lotus sports car. Much is different here thanks to new brand owners Geely. But thankfully, much about this car's driver-orientated design is also familiar too. If you're looking for the last gasp of addictive Lotus tyre smoke before the EV era finally dawns upon us, you'll find it here.

Background

There will never be another Lotus like this. Like so many others, the marque is heading into an all-electric future, but just before it does, here is the final sign-off; a proper classic sports car in the finest Lotus traditions, the Emira.

Think of it as a successor to the brand's old Evora and you won't be far out. Much of the underlying structure is shared with that car and, as with the Evora, you can also get a Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6 plumbed-in out back, here supercharged and sounding even better. But the Emira is a much more advanced piece of design, not just to look at but inside (much more day-to-day usable) and technologically (thanks to parts supplied by new Chinese owners Geely). A much more credible competitor then, to the two targeted rivals, Porsche's 718 Cayman and the Alpine A110. Let's take a closer look.

Driving Experience

Lotus cars have traditionally been created around a lightweight mantra that persisted all the way through the brand's history right up to the point where the Evora was introduced in 2009. That car couldn't be especially lightweight as its power came from a rather substantial Toyota 3.5-litre V6 and the Emira is equally far away from the current class lightweight champion (the Alpine A110) because it uses basically that same Toyota engine. This features here in supercharged form putting out 400bhp (and 420Nm of torque), which means it's good for 62mph in 4.2s en route to 180mph. There's a choice between a 6-speed manual gearbox (borrowed from the Evora and the Exige) or a 6-speed paddleshift auto transmission. The alternative to that unit is another borrowed engine, this 2.0-litre four cylinder unit sourced from Mercedes-AMG (specifically the A 45 S hot hatch), this powerplant here putting out 360bhp (with 430Nm of torque) and only offered with 8-speed dual clutch auto transmission. Performance of this 'I4' version is quoted at 62mph dispatched in 4.4s en route to 180mph.

Either engine is screwed into a typical Lotus extruded and bonded aluminium chassis and there are three driving modes - 'Tour', 'Sport' and 'Track'. Neither of these affects steering (still of the old-tech hydraulic kind) or the suspension (the brand offers a choice of road-orientated 'Tour' suspension or a much firmer track-orientated 'Sport' set-up). Either way, traction through the turns should be awesome - Lotus claims the Emira can corner at up to 1.2g. A V6 GT4 version is offered for track series use.

Design and Build

We wish this is what the old Evora had looked like. The Emira is gorgeous, no question. If you choose it over its two main rivals, it'll be because you think it looks more exotic than a Porsche 718 Cayman (true) and more aggressive than an Alpine A110 (also true). You might even, like us, see shades of Ferrari 458 Italia here. And all those ducts and scoops are absolutely functional. Yet the lottery-level looks haven't come at the expense of practicality. On the contrary, this is the easiest Lotus sports car in history to get in and out of, though the wide door sills mean that access and exit still aren't as straightforward as they would be in an Alpine or a Cayman.

Once at the wheel, you sit low in front of an octagonally-shaped wheel decorated with buttons that are all too easy to inadvertently knock as you turn it. For the first time in a Lotus, you start the car with a button, this one embellished with a red flap. And the column stalks are borrowed from fellow Geely brand Volvo. Ahead of you are two digital screens, one 12.3-inch display for the instruments, the other 10.25-inch monitor in the centre of the dash for infotainment; graphics are minimalist and climate functions are separated out into proper buttons. Unlike in the old Evora, there are no tiny 911-style rear seats; so you can squash luggage in the 208-litre space behind the front chairs as well as in the compact 151-litre boot. Unlike in a Cayman, there's no extra 'frunk' beneath the bonnet; that's due to crash structure demands.

Market and Model

You're looking at £81,500 for the Emira in its four cylinder 2.0-litre i4 form (with an 8-speed auto). Or from £86,000 in 3.5-litre V6 Supercharged guise (with manual transmission or, for £1,800 more, an auto gearbox). With those decisions sorted, you'll then be deciding between the two suspension set-ups, either road-orientated 'Touring' (with Goodyear Eagle tyres) or firmer track-style 'Sports' (with stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber). You'll also want to consider the optional 'Lotus Drivers Pack', which gives you a track mode and switchable exhaust sound.

The 'Base Edition' version comes with most of what you'd want. You can tick off 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, LED automatic headlights, climate control, keyless go, cruise control, power-folding door mirrors and rear parking sensors. Inside, there's powered seats, a 7-speaker 128-watt audio system, satellite navigation and 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. The 'First Edition' version adds 20-inch V-spoke forged alloy wheels, Nappa leather upholstery, heated seats, a black Alcantara headliner and a KEF premium audio system with 560-watts, 10 channels and a fresh air subwoofer. If you want to go further, you can add a 'Convenience Pack' (reversing camera, front parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers) or a 'Lotus Design Pack' (privacy glass, coloured brake calipers etc).

Cost of Ownership

You can't expect the kind of fuel consumption figures we used to see from previous era lightweight Lotus sports cars. This one tips the scales at 1,440kg - compare that to the 1,105kg of a rival Alpine A110. The result of that shows up in the efficiency stats of course. In 3.5-litre V6 form, the Emira manages 25.2mpg on the combined cycle and 258g/km of CO2. Don't expect too much better than that if you opt for the alternative 'I4' four cylinder 2.0-litre turbo version; Lotus quotes a 208g/km CO2 figure. Either way of course, you'll need to budget generously for tyres and brake pads if, as you should, you regularly take your Emira on track days. A five year warranty is standard in the UK. Lotus offers roadside assistance across Europe for five years after vehicle purchase.

Summary

The Emira, in so many ways, is the car its predecessor the Evora should have been, in terms of styling, cabin quality, technology and day-to-day usability. It is at last a Lotus you don't have to be a died-in-the-wool brand loyalist to consider - and we've been waiting for one of those ever since the marque was formed by Colin Chapman back in 1948.

Chapman didn't much care if those outside the track day set didn't want his cars, but current day new-era owner Geely does. That Chinese conglomerate has no intention of allowing Lotus to produce models like the Emira in the future, but we can at least be thankful that it has permitted the company one last chance to get a classic sports car right; right in the sense that it's accessible to a wide audience, not just a few. The Emira is and it's a mark of its success that it will appeal to customers as diverse someone used to the old track-ready Exige, as well as someone swapping out of a 718 Cayman.

So the best was indeed saved until last. It isn't as light as an A110 or as relatively practical as that Porsche. But it's a proper Lotus, a future collector's item and a car that gets that final ringing endorsement: Colin Chapman would have liked it.

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