Most important Lotus in decades heralds a new era and sees out an old one, being the firm’s last petrol sports car
This car feels important. The Lotus Emira is the final petrol-engined car that Lotus will make, but as well as an ending, it’s also the start of something, as the first new model released since Chinese conglomerate Geely took over the company five years ago.The Emira’s direct predecessor is predominantly the Evora, a coupé brilliant to drive but a little unloved otherwise. But given Elise and Exige sports car production has also recently finished, the Emira could be expected to pick up some Exige interest. Originally a focused Elise with a roof, that had become a raw, V6-powered beast by its end, so you could consider the Emira’s remit as broad enough to be both grand tourer and sports car. Or in other words, to be a Porsche 718 Cayman.The Emira arrives with a 3.5-litre V6 provided by Toyota and supercharged for its Lotus application, where it makes 400bhp at 6800rpm and 310lb ft at 3500rpm. You can get a six-speed manual gearbox (as tested here) or a six-speed automatic.A Mercedes-AMG-sourced turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 360bhp will follow at the end of the year. That will have an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic only.At the moment, every Emira is a First Edition, priced from £75,995. It’s a two-seater and, as with Lotus’s other recent sports cars, based on an extruded and bonded aluminium chassis, now fabricated at a new facility in Norwich and dimensionally different to all of its relatives. That means it might not be so compromised inside, given the offset driving position of the Evora in particular.And so it proves. The Emira feels roomier, with more space between occupants and with a fairly low sill that’s easy to step across.