CAR Magazine first drive review live on Apple News

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https://apple.news/AXbGBzDueQL28YPxG5lrv7A

LOTUS EMIRA PROTOTYPE DRIVEN

WHAT A WAY TO GO

The Emira is the last ever petrol Lotus. Is it also the greatest?

I think Gavan Kershaw might be a couple of baguettes short of a luncheon. We’re about five minutes into my first drive in the Emira, tiptoeing through the second-gear hairpin at the far end of Hethel’s test track, when Lotus’s director of attributes pipes up from the passenger seat: ‘Give the steering a flick and put your foot flat to the floor.’ Really? Okay then.

There’s no drama: the V6’s torque delivery is stymied to just the right degree as the stability control system instantaneously works out the car’s attitude and how much grip is available. Then, as I unwind the steering on the corner’s exit (next to an entirely unforgiving armco barrier) it smoothly increases the torque as the lock comes off. The V6’s delicious note crescendos in time with the steering’s release, like turning the volume control on an expensive stereo. ‘It behaves the same way on ice,’ Kershaw smiles. ‘The traction control learns the surface as you drive.’

The madness continues. ‘Get the speed up to about 120mph, relax your grip on the wheel, then stand on the brakes as hard as you can.’ Okay then. The Emira stops so swiftly I’m pretty sure my eyes are out on stalks, like a Warner Bros cartoon character. But the steering wheel doesn’t budge. There’s not a hint of weave or movement. ‘It behaves the same if it’s pouring with rain, too,’ Kershaw smiles. And with that, he leaves us to it for the rest of the day. Just us, an empty test track and Lotus’s last ever combustion-engined sports car.

This is not the finished Emira. This is a validation prototype, destined for a life testing ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems), at work alongside other prototypes fine-tuning various other systems (or being flung into walls for crash-test ratings). Final tooling prototypes are heading down the production line now ahead of pre-production vehicles and, finally, customer cars, which will be ready for first deliveries in June.

Kershaw describes this particular car as ‘about 80 per cent’ representative of the production-spec Emira. It’s only recently been built; barely run-in. Chassis tune and steering feel aren’t production-spec. But the fact that Lotus is happy to leave us alone with the car demonstrates the faith the company has in the Emira. We’re told that the interior quality isn’t representative of customer cars; the plastics are first pressings, the finish isn’t final. But it already feels pretty good to me. Getting in, it’s simplicity itself to duck your head and shoulder under the arcing roofline and drop your torso into the seat. The trickier thing, if you have long legs, is not putting a footprint on the junction between the dash and the sill as you lift your right foot in. But it’s easier than the Evora, the car the Emira indirectly replaces.

You sit low, although not quite as low as I’d like on this car’s plump seat squab, the design of which is still being finalised – in fact, this prototype has different left and right seats as Lotus mulls iterations. It will get lower for production. Ahead are two digital screens: one for the instrument panel, which chameleons between displays in the three driving modes (Tour, Sport and Track); and a touchscreen in the centre of the dash. The latter isn’t fully up and running here, although you can hook your phone up to the standard-fit Apple CarPlay. Lotus has taken care to avoid putting all controls on the touchscreen, splitting functions between physical and touch controls (including, happily, air-con and audio controls you can work without taking your eyes off the road/track). Graphics on both screens are clean, minimal, modern: very Lotus.

A handily deep storage fissure is built into the centre console under the armrest, and there’s space for a smartphone ahead of the gearlever (or you can pop it into the dogbone-shaped cupholders). Since there’s no 2+2 option for the Emira, unlike the Evora, there’s a useful amount of space behind the seats to squash luggage into, as well as a reasonable rear boot. (Crucial since, due to the cab-forward design and aero, cooling and crash structure demands up front, there’s no front boot.)

If the interior all sounds rather grown-up, it is. It’s less striking than the all-aluminium environs of an Elise – less of a sports-car cockpit, more of a coupe cabin – but that’s not a problem. If it’s a touch less evocative than an Elise, it’s about 500 per cent more practical and I’d much rather face a long journey in an Emira than an Evora. Or an Alpine, for that matter.

Most importantly, there’s no doubting the Emira is a sports car in the way it drives. Heavy-ish clutch to the floor, aluminium gearlever into first. This is the manual version of the supercharged V6; the inline-four AMG turbo option is still in development, with prototypes in-build currently, and will be auto only. (An auto option will also be available for the V6.) The manual’s the same ’box seen in Evora and Exige, and it’s still one you must be patient with. A transverse gearbox rated for 325lb ft of torque, it’s a necessarily heavy-duty transmission which doesn’t like to be hurried. But the satisfaction of getting a shift right – up or down – is immense.

As is the satisfaction of driving the Emira in general. Direction changes? Instantaneous; there’s roll, but like the best sports cars it’s always controlled and the movement helps you feel what’s going on. It’s an aid to getting your bearings rather than an impediment. Steering? Still hydraulically assisted. This might be an ADAS prototype, to test systems such as lane-departure warning and blind-spot information, but the Emira won’t include self-steering lane-keeping. When a car steers this well, you want to have it all to yourself.

Steering feel is as subjective a topic as they come, but to me this car’s doesn’t feel quite as communicative as an Evora’s. Regardless, it’s still lovely, and beautifully linear. Looking ahead, the low nose disappears immediately into thin air, leaving the twin humps of the front wheelarches in your vision. Their high point is directly over the front tyres’ centre lines. No excuse for missing an apex.

The Emira builds speed quickly, effortlessly. Even if you leave it in third for the hairpins, you’re quickly travelling at three-figure speeds down the following straight. But it’s the way it loses speed that impresses: instant, stable, confidence-inspiring braking power.

This Emira is in the softer Tour suspension spec – a hardier Sport option will also be available – and on the standard Goodyear tyres (with a bespoke compound) rather than the optional track-spec Michelin Cup 2s (ditto). Nevertheless, it can corner at 1.2g on the Goodyears. Its limits are almost unassailably high, yet you always feel in touch with what’s going on – it doesn’t feel numb or uninvolving the way some intensely grippy cars do.

Kershaw returns to take Emira VP-007 back into his keeping. Did he feel pressure, knowing this is the last petrol Lotus? ‘Honestly no, not really. Determining the spec was important; the rest followed from there. We’re known for dynamics but we’ve really paid attention to the interior and the ergonomics here. I think it’ll surprise those who know our brand while also attracting people coming to Lotus from other cars.’ They’re in for a treat.

LOTUS EMIRA

PRICE £76,000 (First Edition); base models from £60k (est)
POWERTRAIN 3456cc 24v supercharged V6, six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE 400bhp @ 6800rpm, 310lb ft @ 2700rpm, 4.4sec 0-62mph (est), 180mph (est)
WEIGHT 1455kg
EFFICIENCY 30mpg, 245g/km CO2 (both est)
ON SALE Now (first deliveries June 2022)
⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

LOTUS EMIRA VS PHYSICS

THE DETAILS

1 POROUS AERO
Like the Evija hypercar, the Emira’s shape is layered with aero channels yet also hangs together as one neat entity. No big wings – it gets its Evora-beating downforce from through-body ducting and an underbody diffuser. It can display downforce in kilos on the digital instrument panel.

2 ELBOWS OUT
Wider tracks than the Evora were first on Kershaw and his team’s wish list at the drawing-board stage. The Emira is broader but doesn’t feel intimidatingly wide or unwieldy. To walk around, it’s still alluringly compact. Dainty, even.

3 20:20 VISION
The side glass wraps around beyond the seats, helping all-round visibility. Of the mirrors, Kershaw says: ‘We spent months driving, measuring glass size, calculating angles.’

4 STOP!!!!
Braking performance was an absolute priority, with zero ‘jump-in’ dead zone on the brake pedal. Despite servo assistance, there’s no numbness, just progressive feel.

5 FLOWING RIDE
Hard to judge on a smooth test track, but leaving the circuit you can feel the exact shape of the bumps and surface joins you’re running over, yet low-speed ride feels supple, smooth. Kershaw: ‘It’ll still breathe with the road’ – a Lotus hallmark. No active dampers or electric anti-roll bars – just smart tuning.

LOTUS EMIRA VS THE GREATS

THE RECKONING

1 LOTUS ELAN
Still a benchmark for handling and just-right proportions. Backbone chassis much-copied.

2 LOTUS ELISE
Driver appeal and smarty-pants chassis design saved the company. As great to drive today as it was in 1996.

3 LOTUS EMIRA
Yep, it’s that good. Want-one appeal and masterful dynamics, now with genuine usability. A truly great car.

4 LOTUS ELITE
Inventive composite construction with race-winning performance. And just gorgeous.

5 LOTUS ESPRIT GT3
Esprit brought the world a design icon, if not riches to Lotus. GT3 version of 1997-’99 the driver’s choice.
 
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https://apple.news/AXbGBzDueQL28YPxG5lrv7A

LOTUS EMIRA PROTOTYPE DRIVEN

WHAT A WAY TO GO

The Emira is the last ever petrol Lotus. Is it also the greatest?

I think Gavan Kershaw might be a couple of baguettes short of a luncheon. We’re about five minutes into my first drive in the Emira, tiptoeing through the second-gear hairpin at the far end of Hethel’s test track, when Lotus’s director of attributes pipes up from the passenger seat: ‘Give the steering a flick and put your foot flat to the floor.’ Really? Okay then.

There’s no drama: the V6’s torque delivery is stymied to just the right degree as the stability control system instantaneously works out the car’s attitude and how much grip is available. Then, as I unwind the steering on the corner’s exit (next to an entirely unforgiving armco barrier) it smoothly increases the torque as the lock comes off. The V6’s delicious note crescendos in time with the steering’s release, like turning the volume control on an expensive stereo. ‘It behaves the same way on ice,’ Kershaw smiles. ‘The traction control learns the surface as you drive.’

The madness continues. ‘Get the speed up to about 120mph, relax your grip on the wheel, then stand on the brakes as hard as you can.’ Okay then. The Emira stops so swiftly I’m pretty sure my eyes are out on stalks, like a Warner Bros cartoon character. But the steering wheel doesn’t budge. There’s not a hint of weave or movement. ‘It behaves the same if it’s pouring with rain, too,’ Kershaw smiles. And with that, he leaves us to it for the rest of the day. Just us, an empty test track and Lotus’s last ever combustion-engined sports car.

This is not the finished Emira. This is a validation prototype, destined for a life testing ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems), at work alongside other prototypes fine-tuning various other systems (or being flung into walls for crash-test ratings). Final tooling prototypes are heading down the production line now ahead of pre-production vehicles and, finally, customer cars, which will be ready for first deliveries in June.

Kershaw describes this particular car as ‘about 80 per cent’ representative of the production-spec Emira. It’s only recently been built; barely run-in. Chassis tune and steering feel aren’t production-spec. But the fact that Lotus is happy to leave us alone with the car demonstrates the faith the company has in the Emira. We’re told that the interior quality isn’t representative of customer cars; the plastics are first pressings, the finish isn’t final. But it already feels pretty good to me. Getting in, it’s simplicity itself to duck your head and shoulder under the arcing roofline and drop your torso into the seat. The trickier thing, if you have long legs, is not putting a footprint on the junction between the dash and the sill as you lift your right foot in. But it’s easier than the Evora, the car the Emira indirectly replaces.

You sit low, although not quite as low as I’d like on this car’s plump seat squab, the design of which is still being finalised – in fact, this prototype has different left and right seats as Lotus mulls iterations. It will get lower for production. Ahead are two digital screens: one for the instrument panel, which chameleons between displays in the three driving modes (Tour, Sport and Track); and a touchscreen in the centre of the dash. The latter isn’t fully up and running here, although you can hook your phone up to the standard-fit Apple CarPlay. Lotus has taken care to avoid putting all controls on the touchscreen, splitting functions between physical and touch controls (including, happily, air-con and audio controls you can work without taking your eyes off the road/track). Graphics on both screens are clean, minimal, modern: very Lotus.

A handily deep storage fissure is built into the centre console under the armrest, and there’s space for a smartphone ahead of the gearlever (or you can pop it into the dogbone-shaped cupholders). Since there’s no 2+2 option for the Emira, unlike the Evora, there’s a useful amount of space behind the seats to squash luggage into, as well as a reasonable rear boot. (Crucial since, due to the cab-forward design and aero, cooling and crash structure demands up front, there’s no front boot.)

If the interior all sounds rather grown-up, it is. It’s less striking than the all-aluminium environs of an Elise – less of a sports-car cockpit, more of a coupe cabin – but that’s not a problem. If it’s a touch less evocative than an Elise, it’s about 500 per cent more practical and I’d much rather face a long journey in an Emira than an Evora. Or an Alpine, for that matter.

Most importantly, there’s no doubting the Emira is a sports car in the way it drives. Heavy-ish clutch to the floor, aluminium gearlever into first. This is the manual version of the supercharged V6; the inline-four AMG turbo option is still in development, with prototypes in-build currently, and will be auto only. (An auto option will also be available for the V6.) The manual’s the same ’box seen in Evora and Exige, and it’s still one you must be patient with. A transverse gearbox rated for 325lb ft of torque, it’s a necessarily heavy-duty transmission which doesn’t like to be hurried. But the satisfaction of getting a shift right – up or down – is immense.

As is the satisfaction of driving the Emira in general. Direction changes? Instantaneous; there’s roll, but like the best sports cars it’s always controlled and the movement helps you feel what’s going on. It’s an aid to getting your bearings rather than an impediment. Steering? Still hydraulically assisted. This might be an ADAS prototype, to test systems such as lane-departure warning and blind-spot information, but the Emira won’t include self-steering lane-keeping. When a car steers this well, you want to have it all to yourself.

Steering feel is as subjective a topic as they come, but to me this car’s doesn’t feel quite as communicative as an Evora’s. Regardless, it’s still lovely, and beautifully linear. Looking ahead, the low nose disappears immediately into thin air, leaving the twin humps of the front wheelarches in your vision. Their high point is directly over the front tyres’ centre lines. No excuse for missing an apex.

The Emira builds speed quickly, effortlessly. Even if you leave it in third for the hairpins, you’re quickly travelling at three-figure speeds down the following straight. But it’s the way it loses speed that impresses: instant, stable, confidence-inspiring braking power.

This Emira is in the softer Tour suspension spec – a hardier Sport option will also be available – and on the standard Goodyear tyres (with a bespoke compound) rather than the optional track-spec Michelin Cup 2s (ditto). Nevertheless, it can corner at 1.2g on the Goodyears. Its limits are almost unassailably high, yet you always feel in touch with what’s going on – it doesn’t feel numb or uninvolving the way some intensely grippy cars do.

Kershaw returns to take Emira VP-007 back into his keeping. Did he feel pressure, knowing this is the last petrol Lotus? ‘Honestly no, not really. Determining the spec was important; the rest followed from there. We’re known for dynamics but we’ve really paid attention to the interior and the ergonomics here. I think it’ll surprise those who know our brand while also attracting people coming to Lotus from other cars.’ They’re in for a treat.

LOTUS EMIRA

PRICE £76,000 (First Edition); base models from £60k (est)
POWERTRAIN 3456cc 24v supercharged V6, six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE 400bhp @ 6800rpm, 310lb ft @ 2700rpm, 4.4sec 0-62mph (est), 180mph (est)
WEIGHT 1455kg
EFFICIENCY 30mpg, 245g/km CO2 (both est)
ON SALE Now (first deliveries June 2022)
⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

LOTUS EMIRA VS PHYSICS

THE DETAILS

1 POROUS AERO
Like the Evija hypercar, the Emira’s shape is layered with aero channels yet also hangs together as one neat entity. No big wings – it gets its Evora-beating downforce from through-body ducting and an underbody diffuser. It can display downforce in kilos on the digital instrument panel.

2 ELBOWS OUT
Wider tracks than the Evora were first on Kershaw and his team’s wish list at the drawing-board stage. The Emira is broader but doesn’t feel intimidatingly wide or unwieldy. To walk around, it’s still alluringly compact. Dainty, even.

3 20:20 VISION
The side glass wraps around beyond the seats, helping all-round visibility. Of the mirrors, Kershaw says: ‘We spent months driving, measuring glass size, calculating angles.’

4 STOP!!!!
Braking performance was an absolute priority, with zero ‘jump-in’ dead zone on the brake pedal. Despite servo assistance, there’s no numbness, just progressive feel.

5 FLOWING RIDE
Hard to judge on a smooth test track, but leaving the circuit you can feel the exact shape of the bumps and surface joins you’re running over, yet low-speed ride feels supple, smooth. Kershaw: ‘It’ll still breathe with the road’ – a Lotus hallmark. No active dampers or electric anti-roll bars – just smart tuning.

LOTUS EMIRA VS THE GREATS

THE RECKONING

1 LOTUS ELAN
Still a benchmark for handling and just-right proportions. Backbone chassis much-copied.

2 LOTUS ELISE
Driver appeal and smarty-pants chassis design saved the company. As great to drive today as it was in 1996.

3 LOTUS EMIRA
Yep, it’s that good. Want-one appeal and masterful dynamics, now with genuine usability. A truly great car.

4 LOTUS ELITE
Inventive composite construction with race-winning performance. And just gorgeous.

5 LOTUS ESPRIT GT3
Esprit brought the world a design icon, if not riches to Lotus. GT3 version of 1997-’99 the driver’s choice.
This was a good find and great read.
Thanks
 

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