Ian McLaren had the opportunity to take the driver’s seat of the Lotus Emira V6 First Edition model, one last hoorah of ICE power before an inevitable all-electric future. Read his thoughts here.
What are we driving?
The first all-new Lotus since Chinese brand Geely assumed ownership of this iconic British sportscar manufacturer in 2017. Destined for an all-electric future that will include the first-ever Lotus SUV, the Emira (derived from the Arabic word for princess) represents a fitting last hurrah to the brand’s reliance on an internal combustion powertrain.
Mid-mounted and powering the rear wheels exclusively, the Emira is available with a choice of a Toyota-sourced (2GR-FE) supercharged 3,5-litre V6 motor with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, or an AMG-sourced turbocharged 2,0-litre powertrain sold exclusively with a dual-clutch gearbox.
Why is the Lotus Emira significant?
I was still courting my now wife, Kate when I collected her for a date in a bright red Lotus Elise. With the engine still feverously warm from my exuberant, long-way-round drive to her home, her amusement at the prospect of clambering over the car’s wide and tall side sills and landing into a deep-set passenger seat waned somewhat after we arrived at our popular sidewalk sited destination to find parking directly opposite the bustling venue. While this opportunity might have set the evening off on a “look at that lucky couple” positive note in any other rare sportscar, this was not the case in an Elise…
A Lotus from this era may have offered some of the finest seat-of-your-pants driving thrills and engagement available at any price point, but it wasn’t known for its particularly user-friendly interior. It was also nearly impossible to appear glamorous while attempting to get in or out of them.
The Emira aims to build on the exhilaration offered by previous cars while focusing on their respective shortcomings ahead of the Lotus brand’s necessary (Geely-led) pivot towards an altogether more refined, comfortable and versatile all-electric future.
What’s new on the Lotus Emira?
The replacement for the Evora, the new car is a visual treat in terms of its sleek, intricate styling that I would argue looks fantastic from any angle. Finished in Seneca Blue and with its standard Black Pack (including roof) and yellow brake callipers, I don’t remember staring at any previous Lotus for as long as I did this car before considering opening its driver’s door.
Of my favourite elements on the new car’s exterior, I love the sharp intakes on the front end that mimic a wild animal’s nostrils, I really like both how the wheels fill their respective arches and I’m taken by the way so much of the profile of the car is dedicated to channelling air into the moulded intakes sited behind the doors.
Significant improvements in terms of everyday usability compared with previous Lotus cars present in the form of an altogether more refined and carefully considered interior, entry that no longer challenges your respective levels of flexibility and switchgear and infotainment technologies that no longer resemble those of a kit car build. There’s even 150 litres worth of luggage capacity.
My only criticism of the Emira’s cabin is the gimmicky Lamborghini mimicking starter button below a cheap-feeling red housing.
Special mention does need to be made for the alluring inclusion of an open mech section at the base of the transmission tunnel that affords the user a view of the intricate gear linkage mechanism.
Built around a bonded aluminium chassis, the 1 405 kg Emira offers a 38:62 weight distribution, front to rear, and retains a hydraulically-assisted power steering setup.
What does the new Lotus Emira cost?
Available in South Africa through Daytona Group, until the middle of 2024 all Emira models will be sold with the comprehensive First Edition package.
The Emira V6 with a manual transmission retails for R2,5 million. This includes a 3-year/unlimited km warranty and a 3-year/45 000 km service plan.
What are the new Lotus Emira’s rivals?
In terms of level of engagement, precision and arguably collectability, the Emira’s most obvious rivals in the South African market include the BMW M2, Toyota Supra and Porsche 718 Cayman. Instead, with exchange rates currently not doing Lotus any favours, you would have to think that the Emira’s asking price leaves it a precarious position of having to compete against the likes of M4 Competition and 911.
What is the Lotus Emira like to drive?
The first thing to note is that the driving position in the Emira is lovely. While I was able to sit just about low enough behind the wheel for my liking, outward visibility is aided by contoured side windows and a low-slung windscreen that reminded me of a modern McLaren. I also love the size and design of the Emira’s side mirrors.
As mentioned, the car’s (Volvo-sourced) switchgear feels altogether more substantial than in cars like the Elise and Evora, while the workings of the crisp touchscreen infotainment system are impressive.
Available at order with a choice between a Touring or Sport suspension setup, based on my time behind the wheel I would suggest that the more forgiving former setup is the way to go in our market – unless you have regular access to the smooth surface of Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.
By being altogether more refined and comfortable to drive in everyday conditions – including a significantly quieter cabin – compared with any Lotus that I’ve driven previously, the Emira also feels less go-kart-like in nature than its forebears. While this means that a level of seat-of-the-pants engagement has been dialled out, it also allows the car to feel that much more grown-up and able to be taken seriously.
Though I would have liked a touch more precision from the car’s manual transmission, the Emira is still impressively engaging to drive fast. The front-end grip is mighty, and I welcomed the level of weight and feedback granted by an “old-fashioned” hydraulic power steering setup. The car feels suitably well-planted and set up to afford even an inexperienced driver the opportunity to grow in confidence behind the wheel – an element that may be lost with the AMG-powered turbocharged model.
With 298 kW and 420 N.m available, this relatively lightweight Lotus offers strong performance, notably at higher revs. I also love that via the rear-view mirror, you’re able to see the release valve working atop the transverse-mounted engine each time you press the throttle.
Despite knowing just how strong the Mercedes-AMG A45’s 2,0-litre motor will be in this lightweight package, I think that the supercharged V6 (from a Camry!) model is the one to get, if only for its impressively linear torque delivery, manual transmission and accompanying soundtrack.
It’s a pity that local pricing is so keen but, like any vehicle still introduced with a high-performance, manually operated drivetrain these days, these First Edition Lotus Emira is guaranteed to become collectable.
Related: Review: BMW M2
This is by far the best Lotus that I’ve driven. Not only for the fact that my wife would enjoy it too, but because in this V6-powered application, it successfully blends this legendary brand’s exhilarating past with its newfound level of poise and refinement. It’s arguably also the perfect stepping stone on which to take the brand into a future where the Lotus nameplate will feature on a significantly broader product portfolio.
Lotus Emira V6 First Edition Fast Facts
- Price: R2 500 000
- Engine: 3,5-litre, supercharged V6
- Transmission: six-speed manual
- Power: 298 kW @ 6 000 r/min
- Torque: 420 N.m @ 3 500 r/min
- Driven wheels: Rear
- 0-100 km/h: 4,3 seconds
- Top speed: 290 km/h
- Fuel consumption: 11,0 L/100km (combined)
- CO2 emissions: 258 g/km
- Rivals: Porsche 718 Cayman; BMW M2