There will be people who are sad the Lotus Emira even exists. Not for what it is, you understand, but what it signifies. For it is an end of an era for Lotus, one that arguably started back in 1930, for that was the year in which the Austin Seven chassis that Colin Chapman modified to create the first Lotus in 1948 was built. Think of all those great cars that have come in the intervening years: Elite, Elan, Esprit, Elise and so many more. But while some had four cylinders and others six or eight, some were rear-drive but a few were front-wheel-drive, and some were turbocharged while others were supercharged or naturally aspirated, every one of them came with a petrol-powered internal combustion engine, at least until the Evija hypercar turned up.
But the Emira is the last. There will be no Lotus plug-in hybrid to bridge the gap between its petrol past and EV future: every new Lotus from now on, including the already announced Eletre SUV, will be all-electric from the start.
It comes to market with a choice of powertrains: the more expensive Emira V6 has a carry-over 3.5-litre motor with a supercharger attached delivering just over 406PS (299kW) to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, though an eight-speed conventional automatic is available too, if that’s what you really want.
The second engine is the 2.0-litre inline-four produced by Mercedes-AMG for use in the A45 S hot hatch and its other small performance cars. And while it now produces 425PS (313kW) in the A-Class (and, extraordinarily, soon to develop 477PS (351kW) all by itself in the forthcoming C63 AMG (whose output it further boosted by a hybrid drive)), in the Emira it has been scaled back to ‘just’ 365PS (268kW), otherwise it would have been more powerful than the V6.
How long the V6 will survive is not clear, but the Euro 7 emissions regulations that will likely kill it could be here as soon as 2025, and as the waiting list for one is already two years long, you might want to register an interest now rather than be disappointed later on. When the V6 does die, there will be plenty of scope for it to be replaced by a more powerful iteration of the AMG engine, all of which come with a double-clutch gearbox and no manual option.
Powertrain aside, customers have also to decide whether to choose Touring or Sport specification for their cars. Lotus has remained resolutely ‘pure’ about this car, meaning that the active damping system that might provide a wide range of ride and handling characteristics is nowhere to be seen. So those wanting to use their Emira primarily on the road will choose a Touring, with softer suspension and Goodyear Eagle tyres, while those intending to use theirs on the circuit should consider a more stiffly sprung Sport equipped with Michelin Pilot Cup 2 trackday rubber.
The very first cars are all fully equipped ‘First Edition’ variants with many additional items of equipment which would otherwise be optional, none of which need delay us unduly here save the limited slip differential. In the past you get the feeling that Lotus chassis engineers would have rather crawled over broken glass than fit such a device to one of their cars – the Esprit Sport 300 was a rarer than rare exception and all the better for it – but there’s one in play here and its merits, or otherwise, we’ll be arriving at shortly.
So, the Emira has quite a job to perform, not just replacing the Evora, but representing all Lotus sports cars until a new generation can be brought on line. And it could hardly have chosen a tougher part of the market in which to compete, priced as it is to meet the Porsche 718 Cayman head on, and significantly ahead of the brilliant, ultra-light Alpine A110. A sign of supreme confidence in the product, or an unjustified folly? We are about to find out…