- All-new mid-engine sports car
- Starts first with a supercharged V6 that makes 400 hp
- 360-hp turbocharged four-cylinder debuts later
- Introduces the first Emira generation for 2022
DRIVEN: New Lotus Emira Is Worth the Wait
Drives like a Lotus, useful like a Corvette
What is the Emira?
It isn't every day, or decade, that Lotus introduces a new sports car. In fact, the last new Lotus that was introduced to our shores was the four-passenger Evora way back in 2010. But now there's finally a new arrival: the 2022 Lotus Emira.
As a two-seat mid-engine sports car, the Emira (pronounced eh-meer-ah) effectively replaces the Elise and the Exige but is larger than both and is more similar in size to the recently discontinued Evora. With Lotus' move into the world of fully electrified supercars and crossovers, the Emira represents the company's last vehicle to be powered solely by an internal combustion engine.
Pricing for the initial Emira Launch Edition starts at $93,900, with the plan to roll out lower-priced (but lesser-equipped) models in the near future. Given that, we expect the Emira will rival the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 718 Cayman.
The Emira's exterior design is a real success. This is a far more glamorous car than the Porsche. It has exotic proportions, beautifully resolved contours around its side air intakes, and intriguing air intakes and outlets in the nose, hood and rear.
What's under the Emira's hood?
The Emira's hood is a glass cover behind the cockpit, leaving the engine beautifully exposed to view. Buyers will have a choice between two engines. The first to be launched, and the one we have driven, is a supercharged 3.5-liter V6. Lotus has been using this engine for a while now, and it's a Toyota-derived mill that produces 400 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It drives the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.
The alternative engine arrives in the spring of 2023. It's a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine cranking out around 360 horsepower. This engine also has roots with another manufacturer, in this case Mercedes-Benz. This is the engine that Mercedes puts in its AMG CLA 45, and Lotus says it worked in partnership with Mercedes to adapt this engine specifically for the Emira.
We've sampled the AMG engine's potency in the AMG CLA 45 and we're sure it will be ferocious in the relatively lightweight Emira. It will be paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission. With the DCT and slightly lighter overall weight, this might be the version that laps a race circuit the quickest.
How does the Emira drive?
The outstanding impression is bewitching precision. Every input you give the Emira is answered immediately and exactly.
The V6 engine, because it's supercharged rather than turbocharged, serves up a progressive delivery with no lag. For a sports car, the 6,800-rpm redline seems a little mean, and you'll accidentally bounce off it in your early miles in the car. You soon learn to operate mostly in the engine's generous upper-middle revs. Its voice is a strong harmonious tenor. The gear ratios suit this, as there are no wide gaps between the ratios, so you can keep the engine in your chosen rpm band. And a fairly short axle ratio means the upper gears aren't too fast for road use.
We haven't yet put the Emira through our own test-track regimen, but Lotus claims it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.3 seconds. It also says curb weight is around 3,200 pounds for the First Edition with the manual transmission. Combine that with our on-road impressions and Lotus' acceleration figure seems realistic. It's certainly quick, though, for context, the Corvette with the Z51 package checks in at around 3,650 pounds and, with the help of its automatic transmission, sprinted to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds in our testing.
The steering uses hydraulic assistance, which is unfashionable as it demands a small fuel economy penalty versus the electric sort, but the rewards come in weighting and road feel. Around the straightaway, the Emira's system has very little self-centering. That means you feel intimately connected with the tires as they ride road markings, or change weighting over crests or dips. It also means the car is wonderfully eager to begin a turn.
Deep into the curve, there is simply massive grip, both from the front and the rear as it propels itself from the apex. Thank the well-balanced weight distribution, wide track, double-wishbone suspension design, and the 295/30R20 rear and 245/35 20 front Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tires. Lotus says the car's bodywork generates significant downforce at track speed, though we'll have to take the automaker's word for it as so far we've only driven the Emira on regular roads.
And yet this is on the Tour tire-and-suspension setup. You could also opt for a slightly stiffer Sport suspension and even gripper Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. This Tour suspension is firm but never uncomfortable, and it has terrific control even over bucking, heaving roadway at speed. We never wished for the other setup.
Indeed there's so much grip that you'll surely not broach it on the road, and with that comes our slight disappointment with the Emira. It's mostly operating so far within itself that it has lost some of the traditional Lotus cornering involvement. You don't feel enough nuances of the tires working beneath you.
How's the Emira's interior?
Part of the reason for the Emira's extra curb weight is the modern, comfortable interior. Which is also easy to access thanks to more compact rockers and wider door openings than previous Lotuses.
The two seats can be specced with either four- or 12-way electric adjustability and strike a balance between day-to-day comfort and support for high-performance driving.
Concerns over long-distance comfort have also resulted in increased attention to lowering interior noise levels. Lotus has partnered with the British high-end audio company KEF to design and construct a premium sound system for the Emira. It's truly a fine-sounding setup, although it does have to work hard overcoming tire noise on coarser road surfaces.
How's the Emira's tech?
A fully digital 12.3-inch instrument panel greets the driver. It's generally clear, although the bar-graphic rev counter isn't as clear as a round dial. The cluster also shows navigation arrows and radio station/music track, and you can use steering wheel buttons to navigate lists of phone calls too.
A slick-looking 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen takes care of the usual navigation, phone mirroring, trip computer and configuration duties. (We say "the usual"; it might be usual for the big automakers, but for Lotus it's a huge step forward.) Smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto works seamlessly.
Other modern features include rain-sensing wipers, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control, among others. This Lotus is certainly more than just a track-day special.
How's the Emira's storage?
Luggage space includes a rear trunk capable of taking a roll-on suitcase, and two more can be stored on a roomy shelf behind the seats. Cupholders (a bit small) and useful door bins boost cabin habitability. There is no front trunk, unlike on the Porsche Cayman.
With proven performance coming from its two available engines and Lotus' unassailable handling excellence all wrapped up in a stylish and modern body, this is a car to fall in love with. Especially if you know some really curvy, open, empty roads. Or you often take your car on track. Because to show its very best side, it really does want to be pushed to its stratospherically high limits.
The Emira is clearly the best all-round Lotus of an entire generation because it combines those driving smarts with a reasonably usable all-round package. And as it represents the final Lotus to be powered solely by an internal combustion engine, it will doubtless end up a collector's item.