–Canyon Country, California
Something weird is happening inside my brain, I can feel it. My dopamine receptors are being blocked by high levels of endorphins, causing the happy hormones to build up in my synapses. I’m starting to experience giggle-inducing euphoria, and my stress and pain levels are falling despite my sweaty palms and dilated pupils. I feel invincible.
Those familiar with Schedule 1 drugs might hypothesise that I’m under the influence of cocaine, ecstasy, or perhaps amyl nitrites. The source is far less illicit: The 2024 Lotus Emira First Edition. My activities in the Emira are almost completely legal – speed limits notwithstanding – but like Nancy Reagan’s worst enemies, this mid-engined sports car is getting addictive, and I just can’t say no to another hit.
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|Quick Stats||2024 Lotus Emira First Edition|
|Engine||Supercharged 3.5-Litre V6|
|Output||395 BHP / 310 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||4.2 Seconds|
|On-Sale Date||Summer 2023|
Gallery: 2024 Lotus Emira First Drive
The most important components to the Emira’s taboo feel are its relatively lightweight construction, blitzing steering, and mellow supercharged V6. Like the Evora it replaces, the Emira comes with a 3.5-litre V6 sourced from Toyota, but heavily tuned by Lotus with stronger pistons, a revised intake and exhaust, and of course, a healthy supercharger. The combined result of those ingredients is 395 bhp and 310 pound-feet, routed to the rear wheels via a snickety six-speed manual transmission with a charmingly exposed shift linkage.
If you’re keeping score, that’s actually less power than the outgoing Evora, which made 416 ponies from its mechanically similar engine. Blame a lower rev limit – 6,800 rpm under very specific conditions, versus the Evora’s 7,200 – which is intended to keep the valves from floating away in hard running. Making matters worse, the 1,477 kilogram (3,257-pound) Emira weighs about 34 kg (75 lbs) more than its predecessor, and as a result, the new Lotus is a bit slower than the model it replaces, hitting 60 in 4.2 seconds instead of 3.8.
But I didn’t have any of those numbers in my head the first time I gave the Emira a once-over. The gracefully curved front and rear wings/fenders give the Lotus some genuine beauty instead of merely purposeful styling, and the fixed bonnet's double-arch motif borrows liberally from the Evija. Ditto the large, triangular side intakes and rear bumper air outlets that draw turbulent air away from tyres. The mini-hypercar look might give the Emira short, squat proportions, but it’s still a pretty little thing. And each detail is functional, providing downforce and reducing drag underneath the car so it sneaks through the wind like a little nymph.
Any sense of daintiness blew right out the tailpipes once it was time to stop looking and start driving. As on the Evora GT I drove in 2020, I approached the Emira with a healthy sense of respect for its capabilities, recognising that I likely wouldn’t have half the talent needed to exploit them on a public road. But as on that theoretically harder-core vehicle (a car that didn’t even come with full carpeting, for heaven’s sake), the Emira communicated its every intention with incredible fidelity, allowing me to build confidence with little delay.
The steering is heavy and chatty, but perhaps a bit too quick, and if you’re coming from any other sports car, you’ll find yourself turning into corners way early. But luckily, the Emira offers up plenty of information to help you sort things out. Lotus moved the driver’s seat back a few inches relative to the Evora, putting your inside hip right on the car’s rotation centre.
The revised seating position also places you perfectly between the four corners of the double-wishbone suspension, making you feel like a stressed member of the chassis and giving you plenty of intel on the road surface. And it all gets transmitted directly to the base of your spine with every turn of the steering wheel. This kind of pelvic stimulation is usually reserved for far more illicit activities, but the Emira encourages it at every opportunity.
And the downrated powertrain doesn’t feel like a sacrifice in this kind of running. Throttle response is instantaneous – jot one for supercharging instead of turbos – and the Emira never feels flat-footed or unprepared to lunge forward. The biggest downside is that the lower redline makes it too easy to bump into the fuel cutoff when accelerating from a stop, though I assume an owner would get accustomed to the shift points quickly.
No matter how you slice it, this is a fast vehicle, and although it might not be as quick as an Evora, it’s still a thrill to row the gears on your way to extra-legal speeds. And as on the old Lotus, the supercharger moans in your right ear seductively, while the bypass valve, plainly visible through the rear-view mirror atop the engine, still throbs around with every twitch of the throttle for a bit more visual drama.
Long-Term Love Affair
But despite an introduction akin to a drug-addled Saturday night circuit party, the new Emira is actually a car you could introduce your parents to at brunch the next morning. For the first time in history, a mid-engined Lotus does a pretty decent imitation of a grand tourer. The narrow cabin betrays the car’s compact, track-friendly proportions, but otherwise, the hooded dash pod, lovely stitching, leather upholstery, and padded door cards finally give the mid-engined Lotus an interior befitting a £85,000 car.
Credit goes to the overlords at Geely. As a result, much of the Emira’s switchgear is borrowed from corporate cousin Volvo, while the 10.3-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch instrument cluster are borrowed from Lynk & Co. The former’s relative rarity and the latter’s unavailability in the US will keep the Lotus Emira from feeling like a parts bin special, especially since it all works so well. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but even the Lotus’ native infotainment has crisp graphics and a user-friendly layout. And standard KEF audio kicks harder than it needs to, given the sonorous engine music on offer.
Volvo will also donate active safety to the Emira, giving Lotus access to adaptive cruise control, forward collision prevention, and lane assist for the first time. My test car featured the last gizmo, but the former two will likely only be available on cars with automated transmissions, like the six-speed torque-converter automatic available on the V6 or the seven-speed dual-clutch that’s mandatory on the new base model and its AMG-sourced turbo four.
While active driver assistance features might have improved the Emira’s freeway experience (and its mathematically derived score in our testing), I couldn’t find much else to complain about living with the car for a couple of days. The so-called Sport specification tester I drove has a stiff, firm ride over expansion joints or broken asphalt, but go for the so-called Touring specification and I suspect it’d be a perfect little commuter that’s just exotic enough to be fun without resorting to over-firmness.
My biggest complaint had to do with the Emira’s seats, whose bottoms feel a bit too rounded – you always feel like you’re atop them, not in them. There’s a healthy amount of side bolstering to keep your torso in place, but your butt never quite settles into the over-stuffed chairs. The upholstered parcel area – taking the place of the Evora’s teensy rear seats – is a bit difficult to access, and the boot behind the engine heats up a lot, making it unusable for perishables or electronics. The surprisingly cosseting Porsche 718 Cayman never seems to have either problem, with brilliant seating and a dual-boot cargo solution.
An Addiction You Don't Have To Stop
As always, Porsche seems to be Lotus’ worst enemy in terms of converting shoppers into customers. Priced at £85,995 for the loaded First Edition, the Emira is about 10 grand more to start than the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0, though if you add some fancy paint or wheels the Porsche will rapidly close that gap. Then again, there’s the Chevrolet Corvette, which blitzes to 60 in well under four seconds for a lot less cash. In the past, you could always point to a Lotus’ driving experience as a reason to buy one in spite of its faults, but today, that calculus has changed.
Not for the worse, mind you, because the Emira just doesn’t have that many faults. There’s no more "but it drives really great" inner monologue, because the new Lotus never seems to require such confirmation bias. Unlike the Evora, the Emira requires far fewer apologies.
And it also inspires far more respect, seduction, and thrills than its mid-engined rivals – a snap-crackle-popper to drive quickly, but unlike the stuff you buy on a street corner, it won’t turn on you with a nasty hangover or crumbling come-down. It’s a terrifying thrill when you want it and a comfortable sport coupe when you don’t, making the 2024 Emira the polished crystal we always wished Lotus would build.
2024 Lotus Emira V6 First Edition