Lotus Emira Comes in Many Models; This One Is Least Fun to Drive

Jackson Wheeler
9 Min Read


  • The new Lotus Emira has all the trappings of a great sports car: lightweight composite body, bonded aluminum chassis, and a powerful mid-mounted supercharged V6.
  • But it’s important that you spec your Emira properly: Get the Sport suspension, the Michelin tires, and the manual transmission. At least I assume that’ll all work.
  • A 2.0-liter Mercedes AMG four-cylinder will be available next year that could be even lighter weight than the 3212-pound V6 model.

There are many ways to order your Lotus Emira. Don’t pick the one I just had.

The Emira, as you know, is the latest evolution of Lotus’ mid-engine sports car. It replaces the Evora, Exige, and Elise. It’s powered by the Evora’s Toyota V6, and it occupies the same space in the Lotus lineup as the Evora, that of the reigning supercar.

Soon there will be other Lotii, including the electric Eletre SUV, the electric Evija hypercar, the Type 139 electric bicycle, and some funky GT-esque, fastback, near-SUV-looking thing called the Emeya (yikes!). But for now, your only choice of Lotus is the Emira. And it’s a good choice—if you spec it right.

Right now, you can get it with that Toyota 2GR-FE V6 from the previous Camry but with a supercharger bolted on top. That setup makes 400 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch the 3212-pound Emira from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds and to a top speed of 180 mph. Quite.

Next year you’ll be able to order an Emira with the almost-as-good 2.0-liter turbo from Mercedes AMG. That engine will make 360 hp and get to 60 just a tenth or two behind the V6 version.

But for now there’s only the Emira V6. It’s lovely, wrapped in an all-new lightweight composite body over a bonded aluminum chassis. Look at it from the front or rear three-quarter view and it evokes Ferrari and McLaren cues. Look at it from the side and you see Exige.

Climb inside it and you’ll be amazed at how easy it was to get in and how much space there is once you get there. Rejoice, for this is no longer a medieval torture device! No longer do you have to be a Level 7 ninja, nor even an occasional yoga practitioner to enter. It’s a regular car!

Sure, the 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen will baffle you for the first week you’re in it, being less than intuitive—something British car drivers have been doing for decades. But once someone points out a few specific touches, you’ll see that the screen does, in fact, work (!) and that you can, in fact, change the radio station.

graphical user interfaceClick for gallery

DREW PHILLIPS

The 10.25-inch screen offers Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

But the room! Did I already mention that? Elbow-, shoulder-, head-, whatever room you want to measure is so much more than any Lotus ever made that you, too, will find yourself repeating this to anyone who’ll listen.

I have heard some more youthful Emira drivers complain about the room, but they have never tried to drive an Exige or Elise, let alone any Lotus race car.

The problem with this seemingly magnificent sports car is—well, there are a few problems, all specific to the trim level I found myself in. You get two choices of suspension tuning: Touring and Sport. I had the Touring and it was relatively uninspiring, at least compared to what I was expecting.

The transmission was spongy, the engine raspy, and the feel through the wheel lacking.

I was counting on an enthralling experience like the first time I drove an Elise 25 years ago. That was an eyeball-opening thrill-fest of steering wheel enjoyment—so much communication, such perfect response and feel! This Emira, by contrast, was competent, but dull.

Different tires would have made a difference, perhaps. I had the (possibly) longer-lasting but (possibly) less grippy Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tires. You can and should, in my humble opinion, order the hopefully grippier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s.

The Goodyears are (supposed to be) better in the rain, according to internet commenters, and those guys are never wrong. For the purposes of my loan, the Michelins might have been more impressive. But my loan also took place in the middle of California’s world-ending deluge of rain, and I drove the car a lot in it.

So maybe I was better off with the Goodyears. It’s also possible that not all internet commenters have driven both setups (let me know what you think in the comments section). I haven’t yet.

But if you are going to use it as a daily driver, with a couple rain days thrown in, I suggest getting the Goodyears. If you’re tracking it or dicing in the canyons, and have a big tire budget, get the Michelins.

The other problem was the automatic. This is not the DCT—it’s a lockup torque converter automatic, and it lacks the quick shifts and precision of most other sports cars of recent memory.

I had so many good experiences with quick-shifting automatics lately in Ferraris, McLarens, the Corvette, heck, even the BRZ/86, that I just assumed this automatic would be quick, too. Alas, it was less inspiring than I’d have liked. It did have paddle shifters on the steering wheel, so you had some control of your situation, but it wasn’t as fun as it could have been.

(There’s also a problem getting the car to meet CARB-state emissions, but Lotus assures us that it’s working on that.)

Before the big deluge, I took the Emira up and down Angeles Crest Highway, looking to get the same feel I’d gotten from previous Lotii. I never really found it. The car was safe and predictable but not as exciting as it should have been, at least with this setup. The transmission was spongy, the engine raspy, and the feel through the wheel lacking.

The solution? I have to retest with a properly speced Emira. I await word from Lotus, assuming they’ll ever talk to me again after all this whining.

Can you share your experience with Lotus cars of the past? Got your eye on an Emira? Please comment below.

Headshot of Mark Vaughn

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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