Inside, the Emira is clean, simple, well designed and well put together (Lotus sports cars will continue to be made in the UK for now). There’s an electronic instrument panel, a fairly wide central screen and a short-throw aluminum shifter; the version brought here was V6 and manual; A six-speed paddle-steered auto is also available.
A bit of theatricality is in a red safety cover over the central start-stop button (à la Lamborghini). The touchpad controls on the steering wheel seemed rather un-Lotus-esque, and I can’t say I expected to use them much at the track. The same goes for phone mirroring, 10-channel audio, power seats and other luxuries we’re not used to from Lotus.
The driving position is excellent despite the center console being pressed hard against my right leg (in a left hand drive car). That was a bit of a surprise as this is a wider car than any of the replaced Lotus models. Still, such things are inherent to a Lotus, and there are far, far fewer compromises here than on any previous model.
First of all, you can easily hop on and off; there are none of the tall sills and short doors that make Elise and Exige hard work. Cargo area consists of a decent amount of space behind the seats for custom-made luggage, and a modest tub just behind the engine that can keep your food very, very warm.
The Mount Panorama Circuit is normally a public road with a speed limit of 60 km/h. Tackling it on a rare day when it’s closed to the public is something that gets the heart pumping, especially in a brand new car that promises huge things.
From the pit lane, two things are immediately apparent: the suspension is much more compliant than your traditional Lotus (my back says “thank you”), and the engine has plenty of torque. It’s a Toyota V6 equipped with an Edelbrock supercharger and puts out 298 kW and 420 Nm.
Weight is the price of luxury. To take sales away from Porsche, Lotus can’t offer the barebones experience of the Elise or Exige.
First a practice lap, then full acceleration the second time down the main straight, past the pits and into Hell Corner. The car sits flat and balanced through that 90 degree corner and the V6 really hauls the car up the bumpy hill straight. The rear digs its way out with ample grip from Griffins and up the steep pincer to The Cutting (the Emira is rear-wheel drive only). The wider front track gives plenty of confidence in the concrete S-curve that is The Cutting. And that trust is certainly required.
The track is 6.2 kilometers long and is known to every motorsport fan in the world. But on TV it looks much broader and more open. In real life, it feels ridiculously sharp and steep and narrow, often with no drain whatsoever — just concrete barriers to remind you to get your lines right. Some of the corners and crests are blind, and you rely on markers like trees or the rooflines of marshalling points.
The car’s balance was well highlighted on the climb through Reid Park and on the crests and troughs through Sulman Park and McPhillamy and into Skyline.
When scaling Skyline, being on the right part of the route is crucial to diving into the high-speed blind Esses. A mistake at the start could have repercussions all the way down.
Again, no video gives you a precise idea of the violent fall, but the Emira felt very stable. The brakes do a commendable job, although at around 1450kg this car is heavy for a Lotus (the company is a bit reluctant to give the exact figure). That extra weight is the price to pay for more luxury and features, more soundproofing and an overall much more prestigious feel. To take sales from Porsche – and that’s the size of the ambition – Lotus can’t offer the bare-bones experience of the Elise or the Exige.
The Emira’s V6 sounds good in the upper rev range, and the short-travel but high-mounted aluminum shift knob (which is cold to the touch) is retro fun. The car would probably be faster, but with this experience and indeed with this car, it’s not about doing the fastest lap of the day.
Forrest’s elbow leading to the Conrod Straight is tricky. You really have to slingshot out of it, almost clipping the inner and then the outer wall to maintain the highest RPMs on the straight. If you do that, the Emira will coast to 150 mph – I’m assured – although I wasn’t ready to push that hard. The claimed top speed is 180mph, but you won’t be doing that with The Chase around the corner.
The Chase is officially a kink, but as you approach anything well past 200 it looks like a tight turn. Then the 90-degree Murray’s Corner takes you back onto the main straight and back to hell, so to speak.
What do I know after all this?
Lotus boasts that the Emira is the most comfortable and versatile road car it has ever built. For various reasons we test it at a race track (where there is a lot more to think about than just the car). But the fleeting experience is enough to suggest that this spectacular-looking Lotus might also have enough comfort, convenience and style to catch the eye of a mainstream buyer. And while it might not be the ultimate Lotus on the track, it’s still a pretty handy weapon.
LOTUS EMIRA V6 FIRST EDITION
Price $184,990 (excluding road costs)
engine 3.5 liter V6 supercharged (petrol)
power/torque 298 kW/420 Nm
fuel consumption 11.2 l/100 km (combined cycle)
#sports #car #game #mainstream