It may be a little portly, but the Lotus Emira still looks like fun

With a traditional gasoline engine
by Paul Horrell | Jul 9, 2021
PHOTO: Lotus
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The new Lotus Emira is propelled entirely by little explosions. It isn’t even a hybrid. That’s not because Lotus is incapable of something electrified, or dragging its feet. Next year, there will be a “lifestyle product” (aka a crossover) that’s all-electric. In 2025, an electric sports car, a co-development with Alpine. So the Emira, by having only a gasoline engine, surely qualifies as an instant classic. Just as well, it looks so good.

It’s a mid-engined two-seater. Lotus has done plenty of those. But it doesn’t quite replace any of them, even though the Elise, the Exige, and the Evora have lately shuffled off this mortal coil. It’s meant to be usable every day. But not, we hope, an everyday thing. Still special.

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Starting at under £60,000 (P4.12 million), it’ll be a rival to the Porsche 718, or in America to the lower rungs of the Corvette, because it’s going on sale worldwide—a bold ambition. Deliveries start next year, beginning with V6 units. A four-cylinder option will arrive a few months later. So, right now Lotus is still being enigmatic about the outputs and stats, but here’s what we know: The V6 is the supercharged Toyota-based 3.5-liter V6 from the Exige and the Evora. The four-cylinder will be a version of AMG’s superheated two-liter turbo.

There will be manual, auto, and dual-clutch transmissions, says Lotus, again declining to say much about which engine pairs with which transmission. Well, you can bet neither engine will be offered with all three, and in the old cars, the V6 had manual or auto. So, we can safely assume the dual-clutch is for the four-cylinder.

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Lotus says the outputs are 360hp and 400hp, and that the quickest acceleration will beat 4.5sec for 0-100kph, with launch control. But Lotus tantalizes by not saying which output is which. They both seem like they might not be trying that hard because both engines go beyond 420hp in cars we know—the V6 in the Evora and the four in the Mercedes A45S. If asked to guess, I’d say it’s the turbo-four that gives the 400hp and the V6 that’s constrained to 360hp.

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Here’s why: The four-cylinder will be the lighter car. It will be positioned as the more hard-core, more circuit-hungry option. The V6 will be for those who think there’s more to life than lap times. It’s always been a lovely engine to use. Thanks to the supercharger, it does the instant giddy-up even from low revs, issues a big baritone across the midrange, then aims itself vividly at the red. The six-speed manual transmission comes with Lotus’s exposed linkage, which is gorgeous both in aesthetics and shift action.

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As well as choices in engines and transmissions, there’s a pair of suspension setups to pick between. In both cases, the steering assistance is by hydraulic and not electric power, because better feel through your fingers is worth a little heavier fuel consumption. The Tour suspension is what you’ll likely want for road driving, as it brings a more comfortable ride. And look, it isn’t going to be soggy, is it?

But if you go to tracks or live near smooth roads or just don’t mind a “slightly stiffer setup for enhanced dynamic capability and feel,” then yours is the Sport option. I use quote marks because so far, we have only their word for it. But their word normally turns out not to be an exaggeration. All wheel options are 20 inches and the tires are specially developed, including a Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 for track-biased drivers.

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Lotus pioneered making the structure of a car by bonding aluminum extrusions. That’s what it does with the Emira, too, but every dimension is different from the company’s previous cars. Especially—and I’m not at all sure that I like the sound of this—as it’s a whole lot wider.

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More width means not only less roll and more grip on a track, but also more caution on a country road when the possibility exists of meeting a truck coming the other way. This is a notably longer, wider, and more powerful car than an Alpine. But it’s also heavier, at 1.4 tons, leaving the V6 Emira with no real power-to-weight advantage over the S version of the Alpine A110. But the V6 Emira has, you know, a V6. Which is nice.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Lotus
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