The 2023 Lotus Emira Is Hethel’s Internal Combustion Swan Song
Lotus has been building sports cars at its small factory in Hethel, England, since 1966. Back then, in an era before multi-car households were common and when only farmers drove Land Rovers, many Lotus customers used their Elans and Europas as daily drivers. The 2023 Lotus Emira aims to recapture that spirit. This new Lotus has been designed from the wheels up to be a sports car that can be driven every day.
“We’ve always wanted to do a more usable everyday car,” says Lotus managing director, Matt Windle. No, Lotus isn’t going soft: Vehicle attribute engineer Gavan Kershaw insists the well-equipped Emira will still drive like a Lotus, with responsive handling and a good ride. But Windle says moving away from spartan sports cars like the Elise, Exige and Evora will attract more mainstream buyers who want an interesting alternative to a Porsche Boxster or Jaguar F-Type, and help Lotus boost its global sales from its current 1,500 to 1,600 cars a year to 4,800 cars a year.
The Emira, which goes into production next April, is built on the new Sports Car Architecture (SCA) developed in-house at Lotus. Constructed using the same bonded aluminum extrusion technology developed in the mid-1990s for the Elise chassis, SCA differs in every dimension from any previous Lotus platform, including that of the almost identically sized Evora. The biggest benefit of SCA is that it endows the Emira with a roomier interior than the Evora.
Suspension follows standard Lotus practice, with multi-link setups front and rear, and the steering is hydraulic. Brakes are steel, and standard wheels are 20-inches all round. The standard tire will be the Goodyear Eagle F1, but Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s will be available as part of an optional Lotus Drivers Pack, which also includes stiffer suspension settings.
The Emira will initially be available with the Toyota-sourced supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 that currently powers the Evora. This engine, which will be available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, develops 416 hp in the 2021 Evora GT, but changes to reduce emissions mean the output has been dialed back to 400 hp for the Emira. Lotus claims a 0-60 mph acceleration time of less than 4.5 seconds, though this could be conservative given the numbers returned by the Evora GT we tested last year. Claimed top speed is 180 mph.
From mid-2022 the Evora will also be fitted with the AMG-built M139 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 sitting amidships. Though this potent little hand-grenade of an engine makes 382 hp in the U.S.-spec Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Coupe, and can be tweaked to produce as much as 416 hp, it will initially serve as the entry-level Emira engine, its output dialed back to about 360 hp. Even so, this could be the pick of the Emiras: The AMG engine comes only with the quick-shifting AMG eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, and as it weighs about 110 pounds less than the Toyota V-6, the four-cylinder model is likely to be lightest car in the lineup.
Designed in-house under the direction Russell Carr, the Emira packs a lot of 21st-century supercar forms and cues into a relatively compact package. It’s a much more dramatic looking car than the Evora, the large side air intakes, blacked-out roof and boomerang vents between the hood and front fenders echoing design elements seen on the forthcoming Evija, the bonkers all-electric, all-wheel drive supercar that Lotus says will have close to 2,000 hp. It’s not all just for show: Those boomerang vents help extract air from the cooling system, and the car doesn’t need active aerodynamics to generate balanced levels of downforce on the front and rear axles.
The launch color is Seneca Blue, one of a six-color palette that include two shades of grey, a red, a yellow, and of course, a dark green. The wheels shown here are the top-spec diamond-cut forged V-spoke items, which are also available with a gloss black finish or in plain sliver. The standard wheel is a cast 10-spoke alloy, available in either silver or gloss black.
In many ways the Emira looks exactly the sort of car you’d expect from Lotus—until you open the door. Lotus founder Colin Chapman started out building kit cars, and even when Lotus became a fully-fledged manufacturer its interiors, with parts and switch gear sourced from volume producers and aftermarket suppliers, often retained a faintly DIY vibe. Not the Emira’s cabin. It’s coherently designed and well equipped.
Modern electronics have made life easier for small volume automakers like Lotus. The Emira’s instrument panel is a configurable 12.3-inch TFT display with clear, crisp graphics. At the center of the cabin is a 10.25-inch touch screen that not only handles the sat-nav and audio systems but can also be switched to show a variety of performance data, from g-loads to fuel consumption. Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity are standard.
Other standard convenience features to help make life with the Emira easier include keyless go, cruise control and rain-sensing wipers. Adaptive cruise, fatigue alert and lane keep assist are available as part of an optional advanced driver assistance systems package. The Emira cabin also has two cupholders in the center console, door bins big enough to hold 16.9-oz bottles and 7.4 cu-ft of storage space behind the seats, with a further 5.3 cu-ft available in the small trunk behind the engine.
Emira production starts next spring, and the first cars are scheduled to arrive in the U.S. next fall, with the entry-level four-cylinder model expected to be priced at about $80,000—significantly less than the outgoing Evora’s sticker.
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