With the V6-powered Emira firmly in production and the AMG i4 starting to make its way along down the production line with them at the Chapman Production Facility at Hethel, we thought it was time to have a go of the V6 and see how the last ICE Lotus is as a sports car. Having been an Evora driver and owner for 12+ years, we can offer some insight into the car based on our experiences with the Evora as a direct and recent comparison. Lotus were kind enough to offer us a week with a Magma Red First Edition, well run in and on the Tour Suspension with Goodyear tyres which would be our choice if speccing the car. We travelled to Hethel to collect the car and over 7 days used it as intended, as a daily driver.
First impressions count and with the Emira, it’s very obvious straight away that it’s a 12-year in the making evolution of Lotus’ mid-engined format sports car; with time, thought and investment clear to see. Our initial thoughts are of course focused on the ride and handling but you’d have to try hard not to notice how far the company has come/gone into making this a usable daily driver. The interior is very well considered and built with many small touches that are thoughtful and useful. Decent storage, both in the boot and the interior, are an upgrade from the Evora especially in terms of somewhere for a drink, for your phone, the things you want in the car every journey. The infotainment is a million miles away from the early Alpine system in the Evora with its unusable removable Blackbird SatNav. It’s now fully integrated with wireless Android Auto and Apple Play matched to the KEF sound system and very useful baseline infortainment. The dash is nothing short of stunning, with useful and usable information right in front of you in the form of widgets that can display items such as a G-Force, Power and Torque meter, Tyre Pressures, Radio Settings or a very smart moving map in the centre of the speedo and rev counter. The touch sensitive steering wheel controls for these are pretty intuitive to work through many of the menus, however it would be great if that could be disabled in perhaps Sport and Track mode via the software as it’s very easy to start swapping through the displays without wanting to by brushing them with your hand. They are also push to switch, so it’s just the touch element which means you’re seeing your radio station rather than tyre pressures or power meters when you want them. We did think that you’d get used to this level of detail on the display pretty quickly though, but was pleased to keep enjoying having the power meters on display, which you can have on the main dash or centre screen under the ‘Performance’ option on there. Who wouldn’t want to see that sort of information when driving a sports car! While with connectivity to your phone giving the best sound quality, the DAB radio was tricky to select stations on, however we’ve since learnt that you need to pull down from the top of the screen to refresh the station list. Not something we’d have guessed at and while we’re talking about the interior, the indicators are very quiet and the climate/ac lights are hard to spot in daylight plus the trinket tray in front of the gear stick either wasn’t stuck down or is removable for cleaning, but being loose we could see some lights from one of the ECU’s under it!
Another very useful upgrade which was a surprise is the mirrors. The side mirrors aren’t massive, but the view is! Rather than (the very delightful) view of the air intakes on the Evora, the Emira gives you great lateral visibility but also pretty much the whole side of the car vertically which is very useful in daily driving but also means you can position the car better as you can spot the rear tyre placement on the road almost. It also means that the interior mirror isn’t needed so much as you’re aware of everything around you through the side mirrors. Very handy as other than a small gap and the brill view of the Supercharger Actuator, there’s not much to be seen otherwise due to the height of the engine and transom and small aperture of the rear window. The headlights are also the best we’ve seen on a Lotus, a massive upgrade from something like the Exige which is bordering on needing a headtorch at times. Bright, good coverage of the road and full beams which give amazing visibility for a good distance. Nicely done and what you’d expect on a car of this level really.
The Emira is a re-engineered car from the road surface to your hands, and this is evident in the ride and handling. The car moves back to more of the early Evora ride, which was stiffened throughout production but lost some of that “magic carpet” feel of the earlier cars. This is evidenced by the “Phil’s Spec” Evora GT410, which went back to Evora 400 dampers to soften the car a little. It doesn’t even feel that extra couple of inches wider, thanks to the view from the driver’s seat, which is very McLaren-esque with a very stooped bonnet and Becker Points allowing you to place the car easily. When pressing on, the car will move on the road but with a confidence that you’re 100% in control and it’s not doing anything unexpected or skipping on less than ideal surfaces.
Talking of McLaren, the Emira is better dynamically on the roads than a 570s, as mentioned by an ex-McLaren employee who had a drive while we had the car. The steering is class-leading, with a lot of information fed back through the wheel. Lotus have managed to keep the stuff you need to know about and remove the unpleasantness of a busy steering wheel. This also follows into the Lear-sourced seats, with the chassis communicating grip levels as the car moves under you without being too much. If the aim was to make a car that’s not going to loosen your fillings on a daily basis but is a very satisfying drive when put under pressure, this is a solid win. The steering wheel is too thick due to the infotainment controls at the 9 and 3 positions but this is something you get used to quite quickly.
The brakes were good, but not as good as the later Evora with a lack of initial bite at the top of the pedal travel. However, once you’re through that, we saw 1.2G under braking, which is no mean feat! The Evora used J-Hook 2-piece discs which were track-focused, but did mean that they were really excellent, a tough act to follow.
We’ve been driving cars with the Toyota-sourced 2GR-FE 3.5L V6 for a long time now, and there are no real surprises other than the noise. With an electronic valve rather than vacuum operated, it’s now ECU controlled. The manual gearbox is a familiar item with an excellent shift and in our car, zero noise pulling away from a standstill, something many Evora’s had and an annoyance for many. In Tour mode, the Janspeed sourced exhaust sounds good and familiar to the Evora. In Sport mode, it has a more nuanced, beefy tone until 4.5K when it comes properly alive and sounds brilliant, especially with some supercharger whine and plenty of burbles on the overrun. In Track mode, it actually quietens down so this car will pass noise checks and get on track, but it does have even more noise on the overrun, which turns heads on the roads. A proper sports car!
Having owned and driven Lotus cars for a long time, people paying attention to the car comes with the territory however the Emira has taken this to the next level. It was very, very often mistaken for a McLaren and for those who do know, being a new model, it was the start of many roadside and car park conversations. Even stopped locally at Thetford having just picked up the car, at least 5 people commented on the car or wanted to talk about it in a brief 10-minute stop! Kids love it, jaws drop, and thumbs are raised. Petrolheads love it too, especially when they find out the price. It does look like it should cost twice what it does and then some.
Does it work as a daily? For us, no, it feels too special but that may just be our attitude to sports cars, they’re for fun days at the weekend and special occassions and drives. For people who want something quick and useable like this as a daily, yes, it works, it definitely does. It’s useable, practical, good on fuel, has all the creature comforts you’d need, with few issues that would put you off taking it anywhere, anytime. We used it for shopping, the school run, and many spirited drives and saw an average of 22MPG over 600 miles. It works for that and will provide many owners the experience they are after from a daily sports car. Well done Lotus, the week left us very smitten and whoever called this the most accomplished Lotus road car was on the money. Can’t wait for a go in the I4 when it’s out too!