Back in 1948, Colin Chapman created Lotus. Over the years, the company went through tough times, fashions, recurrent financial difficulties, partnerships, takeovers… without ever moving away from the vision of its founder: “light is right”. Now an integral part of the Geely and Etika Automotive (a Malaysian group), Lotus has great ambitions for the future… Taking Volvo (another Geely company) as an example, we shouldn’t worry about Lotus future. Group Lotus’ ‘Vision 80’ is well underway and things are moving forward for 2028, the brand’s next major anniversary.
First the Evija, now the Emira
Lotus’s journey towards electrification of its future models continues as planned. However, after the end of production of the current Elise-Exige and Evora range, a brand new model with a combustion engine will carry the brand’s emblem: the Emira! Its name means “chief” or “commander”… Internally, known as “Type 131”, this is Lotus’ 131st project… It abandons the traditional chassis of its ancestors. It’s replaced by a new aluminium platform named “Elemental”. It is still made of glued and riveted extruded elements. However, its dimensions are different from those of the old chassis. Substantial sums were invested in this new project. A brand new factory in Norwich will consolidate the activities of two other sites and supply the Hethel factory- the Lotus HQ for more than 50 years. Work at the new factory is still in progress with the installation of an all-new automated painting line. Assembly, more particularly the gluing operations, will be even more automated. This should result in higher fit and finish quality, something that never was a Lotus strong point until now.
The Emira official presentation will take place next 6th July and it will also be the star of the Goodwood Festival of Speed a few days later. The first deliveries will not take place until early 2022. The ‘Vision 80’ takes the traditional Lotus values and adds ‘intelligent technology’ and ‘sustainability’. Like many other sports car manufacturers, Lotus estimates that around 75% of its total production has survived! Such “durability” should please many green activists who are always too eager to see cars, especially sporty ones are an environmental evil! In the future, Lotus will stick to its innovative approach, lightweight designs and unique handling and ride qualities, despite the electrification of its entire future range.
The very last combustion engined Lotus…
The Emira represents the end of an era : it is the last Lotus fitted with an internal combustion engine and it will pave the way for future electrically engined cars. Contrary to some rumours, the Emira will not be a hybrid because… “this technology makes vehicles heavier, more expensive and more complex, which is not at all in keeping with Lotus’ image”. It should not only allow the brand to keep its clientele but also to develop it, alongside the Evija (retailing at more than €2 million and of which only 130 examples will be assembled). The Emira is expected to be equipped with a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine or the familiar Toyota V6 compressor engine in a central position. For the moment, no details have been released about the 4-cylinder engine, except that it comes from “a major manufacturer” and that it will get a Lotus-tuned ECU.
Lighter than the V6, this engine should rev very easily and ensure a lightweight car… with performance worthy of the Lotus name! At the moment, prototypes (based on the Evora) are being tested in order to validate technical choices and is a hint at the length and proportions of the future car. Lotus also admits having heavily worked on the interior, especially its accessibility… never an Elise strong point, especially with the soft top in place! Nevertheless, the Emira will still be a two-seater but with a bit more space, as well as an interior quality “never seen before” in a Lotus… “Comfort” equipment such as air conditioning or an infotainment platform worthy of a Porsche will be standard. The idea is to retain the dynamic qualities of the previous models while ensuring regular, even daily, use of the car is easier.
Lotus DNA-inspired aesthetics
Designed by Lotus design director Russell Carr, the new Emira is likely to be very similar in appearance to the Evija. The cabin should be set quite low, between the wheel arches, with very muscular shoulders, giving the car a strong visual presence. Aerodynamic performance should be first class, providing good downforce values for cornering and high-level acceleration. As shown in the images released by Lotus, the Emira’s smooth lines should be its trade mark.
Lotus will market the Emira at prices roughly between the Cayman and the 911 ones. The four-cylinder version will be close to the Cayman’s prices, while the V6 version should be pegged slightly below the cheapest 911. Being part of a large industrial group like Geely obviously allows Lotus to benefit from economies of scale like never before in the brand’s history. No more shopping around at Opel for steering columns or at Peugeot for dashboard switches… The brand’s goal is to produce around 5,000 Emira’s a year, until the end of the decade. Many of the hidden elements will be shared with other vehicles from the group, like the electrical architecture, for example. In the meantime, Lotus is continuing to expand its international network, unveiling a new showroom design as well as a new strategy focused on online sales.
Hethel develops new cars architectures
Just like Porsche and a few other manufacturers, Lotus is a renowned automotive consultant. Alongside the Evija (and its Hypercar platform), and the Emira (Elemental platform), Lotus Engineering is currently studying a new architecture for an SUV (Evolution platform) as well as a sports car, in collaboration with Alpine (E Sports platform). The latter should not be heavier than the Emira… The SUV should be assembled in a Geely factory located in Wuhan, China. Like the Cayenne and Macan for Porsche, it should become a cash cow for the brand and allow it to finance future … electric sports cars. (Text: Dimitri Urbain)