“Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.” -Colin Chapman.
Chapman was a British engineer who, in 1948, founded Lotus with a core philosophy that hasn’t changed over the last seven decades. Whether acting as a vehicle manufacturer or an engineering consulting firm, Lotus’ primary goal has been to build small, agile, and light cars, prioritizing driving enjoyment over almost anything else.
Today, that formula has become a rare one. Thanks to advances in tire and suspension technology, even large, heavy sports cars are quick on a track or a curvy road. However, while there is no shortage of fast cars, the pool of genuinely engaging ones shrinks yearly.
The Emira is Lotus’ final internal combustion car, and the British carmaker went all out for it. Refinements to its cabin layout and interior quality make it a proper Porsche fighter, while its responsive supercharged V6 and six-speed manual transmission are a joy to engage with. Combined with stunning bodywork and a package that tips the scales at a mere 3,175 pounds, the Emira serves as a reminder that a sports car shouldn’t just be about performance figures and straight-line speed. It’s about having fun.
|3.5-Liter Supercharged V6
|400 Horsepower / 310 Pound Feet
|Trim Base Price:
Lotus aims to only build electric cars by 2028 as part of its Vision80 plan, and the Emira acts as a visual representation of that change. It distinguishes itself from the Evora that preceded it and aligns with the Evija, the brand’s 2,011-hp electric hypercar, of which just 130 units will be built. As a result, it’s not surprising that the Emira gives off a mini-supercar vibe rather than that of a traditional sports car.
At 174 inches long, 75 in wide, and 48 in tall, the Emira is shorter but wider and lower than a Porsche 718 Cayman, its main competitor. Yet despite the dimensional similarities, the Lotus’ styling is the more special of the two.
The Emira is a gorgeous two-seater with styling that’s clearly functional but not overdone. Its front hood sports two exit vents which help channel the incoming air neatly over the car, while two massive side pod intakes help cool its mid-mounted engine. Its rear end features two more exit vents, inspired by the Evija’s tail lights, which ventilate air from the rear wheel arch. Thanks to these elements, Lotus didn’t need to incorporate active aero bits to balance out the Emira.
Functionality aside, a major reason why the Emira is such as stunner comes down to its new aluminum architecture. Lotus developed it specifically for the Emira, with no carryover from the Evora, and despite the brand’s upcoming push towards full electrification, this structure isn’t meant to ever house batteries. Thus the Emira benefits from near-perfect sports car proportions because it was never designed to be anything but.
Like its lack of active aero elements, the Emira doesn’t offer active suspension components. Buyers can pick between a Touring or a Sports model, each fitted with unique spring and shock combos to prioritize everyday comfort or a stiffer performance-focused setup. These changes live beneath the skin as both variants are visually identical. All Emiras come standard with 20-in V-Spoke wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport Tires, or Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2’s with the Lotus Driver’s Pack available only for the Sports model.
I spent a little over 24 hours with a Seneca Blue First Edition V6 Touring, and just like the Evora GT I tested in 2021, Lotus’ latest delivers a unique driving experience, thanks mainly to its weight and size.
It’s powered by a Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter supercharged V6 developing 400 horsepower and 310 pound-feet, all of which goes to its rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. However, a torque converter automatic is available, which adds an extra 7 lb-ft to its torque output. A Mercedes-AMG-sourced I4 will become available later, mated to a dual-clutch automatic producing 365 hp and 310 lb-ft.
Toyota’s 2GR-FE is not as exotic as the naturally-aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six in the GT4, and it maxes out at 6,800 rpm, whereas the Cayman will scream all the way to 8,000 rpm. Still, it delivers its power linearly to its redline with plenty of low-end torque for around-town driving. Despite counting on forced induction, the Emira’s V6 responds almost instantly to throttle inputs thanks to its eagerness to rev. As it does so, it blends a throaty exhaust note with plenty of supercharger wine.
This First Edition V6’s curb weight is 3,175, perfectly matched to its 400-hp output. The Emira doesn’t need more power. As it sits, its performance is fully usable on a twisty back road, and thanks to its short gear ratios, you’re constantly hitting redline, shifting, and interacting with it. Its six-speed manual is a carryover from the Evora, although its shifting feel is improved. It’s notchy but precise and a joy to use. Its clutch is still heavy, but not overly so, requiring more effort than in an equivalent Cayman.
The Emira’s steering is hydraulically assisted, heavy, and is easily one of the car’s highlights. It’s talkative, constantly transmitting feedback from the road to your fingertips. The same goes for the new aluminum chassis, which always makes you feel connected to the asphalt below. The Emira is a masterclass in how a sports car should make you feel. It exhilarates without requiring excessive speeds to do so.
Turn into a corner, and you’re instantly reminded of the Emira’s curb weight. It may lack active suspension, but even my softened Touring tester remained composed through the bends. Its front end is agile and grippy, always eager to change direction. Although modern sportscars can mask their weight well, few cars feel as light on their feet as the Emira.
Although I have yet to drive the Sports model, I suspect I’ll still prefer the Touring as just a hint of body roll ads to the excitement of hustling it up a good road. Its softer springs and dampers also mean it handles road imperfections gracefully and isn’t easily thrown off balance.
Although the Touring is pitched as a potential daily driver, it’s still about as stiff as a GT4, meaning highway rides are still bumpy, and road imperfections shake the cabin. But in all fairness, these are compromises worthwhile, given how well the Emira drives.
The Emira offers three drive modes, Tour, Sport, and Track. Given its lack of active aero and suspension elements, these only alter its exhaust sound, engine responsiveness, and stability control. The Emira comes set up from the factory and isn’t adjustable on the fly. This only adds to its appeal. It has a singular focus and never tries to be something it isn’t.
Inside is perhaps where the Emira sets itself apart most from the Evora that preceded. It’s a huge step up over its predecessor both in terms of design and quality. It now houses a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-in central display, which houses a new infotainment system as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
My tester combined black leather and Alcantara surfaces with contrasting yellow stitching throughout, a no-cost option. Its only interior add-on is its $530 Alcantara steering wheel which feels excellent but likely won’t wear as well as the standard leather option. Sound isolation is decent, especially for a sports car, and its standard seats are supportive in all the right places and comfortable enough for long drives.
Following a price increase of over $14,000 due partly to supply-chain issues, a First Edition V6 model starts at $105,400. Lotus has yet to announce its destination fee. Like its predecessors, the Emira’s options list is relatively short, only offering a $2,150 automatic transmission, a $1,400 black exterior pack, a $530 Alcantara steering wheel, and a $690 vehicle tracker. My tester featured virtually all of them, pushing its as-tested price to $108,020.
Given its price increases, the Emira First Edition V6’s base price is about the same as a Cayman GT4. However, many of its options, like paint, interior colors, and wheel finishes, are no-cost options. As such, a similarly optioned Porsche would still be more expensive.
The Emira refines Lotus’ winning formula by adding updated tech and a significantly improved interior without massive weight gains. It walks a fine line by feeling modern and comfortable enough while painting the lightweight feel of a proper sportscar. The Emira is all about how it makes you feel. From its notchy shifter to its hydraulic steering and excellent chassis, it’s constantly transmitting feedback from the road, resulting in a very immersive driving experience.
As much as I genuinely think the Emira is a fantastic product, it was in a much stronger position before recent price increases. At its original sub-six-figure base price, it represented excellent value compared to a Porsche with similar performance, but now that it costs as much as a GT4, the playing field has leveled.
The Emira isn’t for those looking for the techiest driving experience with endless modes and settings. It comes properly set up from the factory with little intrusion from driver-assist systems. It’s a sportscar distilled to its very essence. Lotus’ last hurrah is nothing short of spectacular.