Lotus took advantage of the Goodwood Festival of Speed to introduce the Emira in its almost final version. Going on sale next Spring and retailing at around €65,000, it will be pitched as a competitor of the Porsche Cayman. The Emira is the first Lotus to be produced as part of the ‘Vision 80’ plan to develop the brand by 2028, its eightieth anniversary.
End of an era…
The Emira is the last petrol-engined Lotus and is neither hybrid nor electric. After the all-electric Evija, this is the second production car the brand launches since Geely took control. The Chinese group has not only financed the development of these two new cars but also invested heavily in new production capacities and equipment to improve the quality of the cars produced in Hethel. In the near future, Lotus plans to produce electric SUVs (in a new factory in Wuhan, China) as well as a new electric sports car, in partnership with Alpine.
A real Lotus
The Emira is based on Lotus’ new ‘Sports Car Architecture’. It still uses extruded and bonded aluminium for the chassis, a Lotus speciality since the release of the Elise in 1996. These techniques have allowed the brand to develop a very rigid chassis that offers a high level of handling at a lower cost. The Emira’s chassis comes from a new factory in Norwich called “Lotus Advanced Structures”. The chassis will be transported a few miles away to Hethel for assembly and painting, the site being now partly automated, with a new 12,000 m2 workshop is dedicated to this. This building remained unfinished for more than ten years… after the promises of the Bahar era. In 2010, the former Lotus CEO planned to bring out a completely new range in a few years, but no project finally materialised due to a lack of funds. Since the takeover by Geely, investment in new production capacities and equipment has reached £100 million. Lotus’ aim is to maintain the ‘handmade’ feel of its cars, while improving quality and ensuring it is much more consistent from one car to another. The Emira is 4.41m long, 1.98m wide and 1.22m high, with a wheelbase of 2.57m, roughly the same dimensions as the Evora. The tracks are wider and the wheels are now larger 19 and 20″ ones. Stability is improved, according to Lotus, as is handling, with a very low centre of gravity. Weighing almost the same as the Evora, (1,405kg), the car has been through a strict diet in order to compensate for the weight of the new onboard technology.
Aesthetically, the Emira is inspired by the Evija and supercars such as the McLaren: sitting squat to the ground, quite wide, with large air intakes, reduced overhangs and rather voluminous rear wings, its proportions are balanced and very dynamic. The successful design is signed by Lotus design boss Russell Carr. There are no moving parts to improve its aerodynamics but, according to Lotus, « a balance between the effects of air on the front and the rear that ensures perfect handling when cornering at very high speeds while providing a safe and precise ride in all circumstances”.
The chassis uses double wishbones front and rear, with two available suspension configurations : the “Tour” version is more comfortable and fitted as standard, while the “Sport” version will be firmer and sportier. It will also give access to an optional “Driver Pack” featuring launch control and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres instead of the Good Year Eagle F1 Supersport of the other version. In both cases, the steering is hydraulically- assisted and not electric, a fact that is rare enough to be highlighted. Braking uses four-wheel discs with ABS.
The engine is still located transversally at the rear. From next spring, the first cars, called « Launch Edition », will receive Toyota’s 3.5-litre V6 supercharger and a manual or automatic transmission. A few months later, in Summer, the Emira will be offered with a 4-cylinder, 2-litre engine from… AMG : This is the same engine used in the A45 ! Geely having a stake in Daimler, which controls AMG. This obviously made things easier to establish a technical partnership between the two small manufacturers. The four-cylinder AMG will receive bespoke engine management, air intake and exhaust. It will only be available with an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. No all-wheel drive version is planned. Lotus hasn’t released any performance figures for the moment, just that different power levels would be available, offering between 350 and 400bhp. The 0 to 100 km/h should be covered in less than 4.5 seconds and top speed should be about 290km/h. The entire range is expected to emit less than 180g CO2/km.
Up to date equipment and easier to use everyday
Compared to the current Lotus cars (Elise, Exige and Evora), the Emira is designed to be easier to use on an everyday basis. It will be much easier to get in and out than, say, an Exige! The interior space is even bigger than in the Evora. Interior materials and fit and finish will be of much higher quality and ta whole range of storage spaces will be featured, in addition to the classic door bins and central cup holders. The space behind the seats offers a capacity of over 200 litres, while a boot behind the engine offers another 150 litres. On top of that, the car benefits from much more advanced equipment. It includes full LED lighting, keyless start, adaptive cruise control, anti-collision system, rear obstacle detection, lane assist, rain sensor, electrically folding mirrors and reversing radar (standard on the rear and optional on the front). On the dashboard there are two screens: the first one measures 12.3 » and is placed right in front of the driver, while the central 10.25 » screen hosts a multimedia system compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also controls a 10-speaker KEF audio system!
In addition to the multi-function steering wheel, power seats are standard. Sport seats with twelve adjustment possibilities will be available as extra. The installation of these features is possible thanks to a new electric-electronic architecture borrowed from Geely and adapted by Lotus. However, despite all this modern-day equipment, some classic Lotus touches will be retained, such as the visible gearbox linkage on manual transmission cars. Lotus insists that all this technology won’t have an adverse effect on performance or driving pleasure. However, it should help to reach a new customer base that is more technology- minded than the hardcore sports car enthusiasts. The brand contemplates the production of around 4800 Emiras per year, a significant change compared to the current level of around 1500 units.