Lotus unleashes the Emira—The last internal combustion-engine Lotus

Elan, Europa. Elite. Excel. Esprit. Elise. Exige. Evora.

And now…Emira.

It’s the glorious ending to a storied legacy of lightweight yet giant-killing series of sports cars that have relentlessly nipped at the tails of—and even beaten—vastly more powerful and more expensive supercars.

This is the legacy of Lotus, the inspired brainchild from one Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman—the genius engineer/designer whose ACBC initials adorn the logo of the cars from Hethel in Norfolk, England. 

It was another night for the Hethel history books as the resurgent British sports carmaker gave a world debut to the all-new Emira. It was staged live in front of an on-site audience of VIP media and honored guests, with tens of thousands more viewing the simultaneous online broadcast from all corners of the world.

“The Emira is an absolute game-changer for Lotus. It’s a hugely significant milestone in our path to becoming a truly global performance car brand. It’s a new sports car—our first in many years—and what an offering it is from Lotus!” exclaimed Matt Windle, Managing Director of Lotus Cars.

Style-wise, the mid-engined Emira looks more like a supercar—or even a hypercar—than just another new sports car. There are traces of the Evora as well newer design elements from Lotus’s upcoming Evija electric hypercar.

Inside, the Emira’s fully lined cockpit is easily the most luxurious—and most spacious—ever from Lotus, now owned by Geely of China. There is space for a bag in the trunk and a couple of small suitcases behind the seats. There are even cupholders and storage bins on the console and door panels.   

The Emira measures 4,412mm, 1,895, and 1,225mm (L x W x H). It’s less than an inch longer and a hairline 2mm taller than the 11-year-old Evora (on which it’s based) but is a substantial three inches wider and shares the Evora’s 2,575mm wheelbase (including that car’s ultra-light extruded and bonded aluminum construction).

Just as in the Exige and Evora, power comes from the same 3.5-liter Toyota Camry V6 engine turbocharged to the tune of 394bph and mated to a manual or automatic transmission. Available for the Emira next year is a turbocharged four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG engine developing 355bhp (mated exclusively to AMG’s dual-clutch automatic). Performance targets are zero to 100 km/h in under 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 290 km/h.  

Lotus is targeting prices under 60,000 UK pounds. Price-wise and performance-wise, the two-seater Lotus Emira V6 matches up with the likewise two-seater Porsche 718 Cayman GTS.

Driving purity comes from a hydraulic power steering system and rear-wheel drive—a snub to modern sports cars’ electric power steering and all-wheel drive. Tires are bespoke-compound Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport as standard or Michelin Cup 2 as options.   

The hour-long live-action unveiling was centered on the iconic Hethel test track and culminated in a high-octane lap of the north circuit by an Emira, officially the last petrol-powered car from Lotus.

Former Formula 1 World Champion and Lotus customer Jenson Button was revealed as the evening’s special guest. A video of him putting the Emira through its paces on the Hethel track was played, with Jenson delivering his exclusive ‘first drive’ review live to the audience.

“It’s being called a junior supercar but it would give a lot of supercars a run for their money… and it’s more comfortable than most of them! The Emira is exceptional and I’m a big fan,” Jenson shared.

The Emira premiere was broadcast live via the Lotus website and social media platforms. In a nod to global travel restrictions, Lotus had invited scores of international Lotus ‘superfans’ to be involved in the premiere. Exactly 131 of these owners and enthusiasts were selected to be part of a high-tech real-time ‘fan wall’ which appeared on the box’s TV screens. The number “131” reflects the Lotus type number allocated to the Emira before it was officially named.

Despite the time differences, Lotus retailers across the globe—from China and Japan to North America and Europe—staged parties in their showrooms, inviting valued customers and Emira prospects to watch the event live. In addition, highlights from the broadcast played through the next week on billboards internationally—at London’s busy Liverpool Street station, where the train line from Norwich ends in London, and in downtown Los Angeles.

Guests were also treated to a parade of historic Lotus cars on the test track, including an Elan S3 and company founder Colin Chapman’s Turbo Esprit.

As well as providing a platform for the Emira’s debut, the event was designed to turn the spotlight on Hethel itself—upgraded as part of a £100million-plus investment in Lotus’ UK operations. Guests took part in a walking tour of the site to see the transformation, which includes the all-new production line and paint shop where the Emira will be built, starting later this year.

Just two days after its global reveal, the Emira stunned attendees of last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the car turned a wheel in anger in public for the first time. Lotus is the ‘Featured Marque’ at this year’s GFOS event, which means the ‘Central Feature,’ the giant sculpture outside Goodwood House, will celebrate Lotus.

As the event closed, Matt Windle commented: “What an amazing night we’ve had and what a fantastic way to launch the Emira. We have a sensational new sports car – the most accomplished Lotus ever – and we’ve unveiled it at a rejuvenated Hethel, a site still changing every week because of our investment. Together they are the perfect illustration of the ongoing transformation of Lotus.”

Colin Chapman is smiling down from above.

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