The phasing out of Lotus’ sports car triumvirate has been in the works for some time now, and comes as no surprise to both avid brand loyalists and the broader automotive following alike. In the earlier stages of developing the next generation of Lotus sports cars, only basic details were revealed by the company; the first being, at least for now, that there would only be one new model to replace the outgoing Elise, Exige and Evora. This car was then given the codename “Type 131”.
That was all almost a year ago and very little, if anything, other than what we knew back then could be considered more than just hearsay. Even rumors regarding the Type 131’s drivetrain were hotly debated, with many interpreting the company’s sure-footed trajectory towards electrification as a sign that the new model could be nothing other than an EV. Conversations of a more nostalgic tone had the Type 131 poised to be some sort of reincarnation of the Lotus Elan – both in name and philosophy.
Much more recently, we’ve come to know that neither of the aforementioned talking points managed to come true, and here’s why:
The latest sports car model is called the Lotus Emira, ushering in a brand new bloodline altogether
The rear-wheel drive Emira will be powered exclusively by an internal combustion engine, available in either an inline-4 or V6 configuration
The company also unequivocally states that there are no hybrid or fully-electric variants of the Emira in the pipeline
So, at first glance this would appear to be somewhat of a conflict of interest in terms of Lotus’ long-term game plan. This suggests that the Lotus Emira will officially become the company’s swan song for the conventional petrol-powered engine, ultimately closing the curtain on what has been a truly epic era of Lotus sports cars. We’re just about to crest a monumental inflection point, with each and every Lotus car produced after the Emira, destined to be an EV. Contentious? Maybe. Inevitable? Definitely.
No word yet on how many trim levels there will be for the Lotus Emira, but we can confirm that they will be equipped with either an inline-4 or V6 engine. The latter is rumored to be a revised version of the supercharged 3.5L Toyota powerplant borrowed from the Exige and Evora. This should make it good for at least 400 hp – even if it does get detuned slightly – while the 2.0L inline-4 will be built on brand new architecture and produce roughly 300 hp with the help of a single turbocharger.
At the moment, it is understood that the smaller engine will be mated exclusively to a dual-clutch transmission, while the more powerful unit can also be optioned with a 6-speed manual gearbox. We figure that all of this would make the Emira a direct competitor to the Porsche Cayman and base model Porsche 911.
“We’ve tried to cover as many bases as possible,” Lotus CEO Matt Windle told Car and Driver. “Two powerplants will enable us to cover most of that market. It’s a Lotus that you can live with, we’ve given it broader appeal, but it’s still a fantastic sports car with a range of different models that will go from base spec up to an R.”
Concept & Design
The Lotus Emira fancies a more old-school playbook when it comes to what’s working underneath the skin, with a bonded aluminum chassis serving as the foundation on which to build the new sports car. However, things are a lot more forward-thinking in the looks department; the Emira unreservedly echoing a number of major design cues from the Lotus Evija EV hypercar, particularly for the front and rear fascia. This points to the company wanting their new line-up of cars to have more branding uniformity across the range.
We’re told to expect the Emira to be a significant departure from the distinctly spartan Elise and Exige models – and to a lesser degree, the Evora – when it comes to cabin amenities, comfort and daily usability. What this translates to is a modern cockpit equipped with high quality finishes and the latest tech, with a digital instrument cluster, central touchscreen and a generous serving of leather and carbon fiber appointments to be part of the standard fare.
The driver assistance systems most people are familiar with (and expect) today, such as ABS and traction control, will also be non-negotiable features on the Emira. While this is likely to disinterest Lotus’ most hardcore fans, Matt Windle feels that this is the moment for Lotus to get with the times.
“I think Lotus in the past has maybe been a bit guilty of engineering something it thought people wanted and then putting it to the market,” he explained. “Now we’re trying to engineer something that people actually want.”
Thankfully, steering will remain hydraulically-assisted as opposed to electrically-powered, which should help the Emira retain one of the key elements which makes a Lotus, a Lotus. The importance of producing a sports car which is fun and involving for the driver, is not lost on Windle. After considering that he was heavily involved in the development of the original Tesla Roadster (which was built upon a donor Lotus chassis), it also becomes easier to chart the new CEO’s path from California to Hethel.
So with all that said, the Lotus Emira has “everyday sports car” written all over it. Whether this proclamation was made while wielding Lotus’ own measuring stick, or if it adheres with more universal standards, we will have to wait and see.
Pricing & Availability
Pricing for the new Lotus Emira will vary depending on engine selection and other options, and will fall within the range of US$75,000 and US$105,000. These figures were originally proposed by Phil Popham (the former Lotus CEO) back in January, with the new gaffer neither reiterating nor disputing them.
Unlike many of the company’s more recent models, the Emira will very importantly be available state-side and is set to launch in the U.S. and worldwide sometime in 2022, where it will likely be designated as a 2023 model. In addition to being exclusively petrol-powered, Windle confirmed that the Emira will only be available as a coupé and that there are no plans for a roadster version later on.
Official Unveiling & Release
Lotus will officially unveil the Lotus Emira on July 6, 2021 at its Hethel headquarters in Norfolk, England. The formal debut of the company’s new sports car will then take place at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 8, 2021.
The name “Emira” has been translated in many different languages to mean “leader” or “commander”, which is fitting as the car will have an enduring legacy resting on its shoulders as the last of its kind.
The latest news and details surrounding the Emira are definitely bittersweet for purists and heritage enthusiasts, but Lotus has a lot of exciting new things in the works for the near future. The company’s strategy is focused around the production of four distinctive platforms: Hypercar, Sports, Premium, and E-Sports. The first two of those slots will be occupied by the Evija and Emira respectively. The Premium line is said to be designated for “lifestyle” vehicles such as crossovers and SUVs, while the E-Sports range is reserved for “attainable” EV sports cars produced in partnership with Alpine.