Inside, the Emira is clean, simple, well-designed and well-assembled (Lotus sports cars will continue to be made in the UK for the time being). There’s an electronic instrument panel, a fairly large central display and a short-throw aluminum shifter; the version brought here was V6 and manual; a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel controls is also available.
There’s a bit of theatrics involved in a red safety cover over the central start and stop button (à la Lamborghini). The touchpad controls on the steering wheel felt rather different from Lotus, and I can’t say I expected to use them much on the track. Ditto for phone mirroring, 10-channel audio, power seats and other luxuries we’re not used to seeing from Lotus.
The driving position is excellent, although the center console was pushed hard against my right leg (in a left-hand drive car). This was a slight surprise as it is a wider car than any of the replaced Lotus models. Still, things like that are part of being a Lotus, and there are far, far fewer compromises here than with any model that came before it.
For starters, you can get in and out easily; there are none of the high sills and short doors that make the Elise and Exige work hard. The cargo area consists of a decent space behind the seats for purpose-built luggage and a modest tub just behind the engine, where your takeaways can be kept piping hot.
The Mont Panorama circuit is normally a public road with a speed limit of 60 km/h. Tackle it on a rare day when it’s closed to the public is something to get your heart pumping, especially in a brand new car for which huge things are promised.
Outside of pit lane, two things immediately jump out: the suspension is way softer than your traditional Lotus (my back says ‘thank you’) and the engine has plenty of low-end torque. It is a Toyota V6 equipped with an Edelbrock compressor and which produces 298 kW and 420 Nm.
Weight is the price paid for luxury. To take Porsche’s sales, Lotus can’t offer the simple experience of the Elise or the Exige.
First a sighting lap, then the second time it’s a full acceleration down the main straight past the pits and into Hell Corner. The car sits flat and balanced through that 90-degree turn, and the V6 really carries the car down the bumpy mountain straight. The tail sinks with abundant grip out of Griffin and up the steep pinch to The Cutting (the Emira is rear-drive only). The wider front track gives a lot of front-end confidence around the concrete S-bend that is The Cutting. And this confidence is certainly necessary.
The track is 6.2 kilometers long and familiar to any motorsport fan in the world. But on TV, it looks much wider and more open. In real life it feels ridiculously sharp, steep and narrow, often without any runoff – just concrete barriers to remind you to get your lines right. Some corners and ridges are blind and you rely on landmarks such as trees or the roof lines of assembly points.
The balance of the car was evident on the climb through Reid Park and over crests and dips through Sulman Park and McPhillamy and into Skyline.
At the top of Skyline, it is extremely important to be on the correct part of the circuit to dive into the blind, high-speed Esses. An error at the start could have consequences throughout the descent.
Again no video gives you a clear idea of the hard fall, but the Emira felt very stable. The brakes do a commendable job, although this car is heavy for a Lotus at around 1450kg (the company is a little suspicious of the exact figure). That extra weight is the price paid for more luxury and equipment, more soundproofing and a much more prestigious overall feel. To take Porsche’s sales – and that’s the size of the ambition – Lotus can’t offer the rudimentary experience of the Elise or Exige.
The Emira’s V6 sounds great in the upper rev range, and the short-throw but high-mounted aluminum gear knob (which stays cool to the touch) is a retro delight. The car would probably be faster, but this experience, and indeed this car, is not about setting the fastest lap of the day.
Forrest’s Elbow, leading to Conrod Straight, is tricky. You really have to get away with it, almost cutting the inside and then the outside wall to keep the higher revs in a straight line. If you do, the Emira will go 240 km/h – I’ve been assured – even if I wasn’t ready to push that hard. The claimed top speed is 290 km/h, but you won’t do that with The Chase coming soon.
The Chase is officially a crease but, approaching something well over 200, it feels like a tight bend. Then the 90-degree Murray’s Corner takes you back to the main straight and heads you back to hell again, so to speak.
So what do I know after all this?
Lotus claims the Emira as the most comfortable and versatile tram it has ever built. For various reasons, we sample it on a track (where there’s a lot more to think about than the car). But the fleeting experience is enough to make it seem like this spectacular looking Lotus may also have enough comfort, convenience and style to grab the attention of a more traditional 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 travel costs)
Engine 3.5-liter supercharged V6 (petrol)
fuel economy 11.2 L/100 km (combined)
#Lotus #takes #Porsche #Emira