The 2022 Lotus Emira made its official US debut on the infamous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, doing a hot lap with Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button behind the wheel. Both Button and the Emira were in town for the upcoming Monterey Car Week, where the new Lotus sports car will make a public appearance and where the champ will reveal his Radford Type 62-2 homage at The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering.
Lotus has said the Emira will be smoother and more comfortable than the Evora GT, which it replaces. However, that daily usability reportedly won't come at the expense of driving fun. To prove its mettle, Lotus put Button behind the wheel of an Emira prototype and put him on the Laguna Seca asphalt, giving him a chance to push the vehicle a bit through the track's hairy elevation changes and chicanes. However, Button's smile is plainly apparent, even on the fearsome Corkscrew, a gut-wrenching, off-camber drop through which the Emira practically skated. That's a good sign for the new Lotus.
Unlike the Evora, the Emira will be available with two different engines and three different transmissions. A carryover supercharged 3.5-litre V6 sourced from Toyota will come with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, sending about 400 bhp (298 kilowatts) to the rear wheels. An AMG-built, turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four will also be available, producing about 360 bhp (268 kW) and mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. A bonded aluminium chassis and lightweight body panels will keep the curb weight down to about 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds).
The Emira is also a stunning thing to behold in person. Its headlights, bonnet scuttles, and side air intakes clearly draw inspiration from the all-electric Evija hypercar. Slightly wider and shorter than the Evora, the Emira looks planted and secure through corners without sacrificing too much manoeuvrability or responsiveness. The mid-engined sports car wears its gorgeous curves over those squat proportions very well.
The new Emira's interior also looks much more comfortable than its predecessor, with a digital instrument cluster, exposed shift linkage on manual-transmission cars, and pleasant materials throughout. There's even a centre armrest – unheard of in a modern Lotus.
The 2022 Emira will go on sale early next year, but folks lucky enough to attend Monterey Car Week can have a look right now. For the rest of us, at least we've got some cool video to enjoy.