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LOTUS EMIRA V6 FIRST EDITION

The new Lotus Emira sits at a crossroads for the Geely-owned British sports car marque. While bridging the gap between the company’s spartan past and its luxurious and comfortable future, it is also the last ICE-powered car that Lotus will make before its electric era begins. We sampled the V6-powered First Edition Emira during a daylong drive in and around Gauteng to discover what Lotus’ long-anticipated new era of comfort will bring.

In an era when the most capable mid-engine sports cars have automated dual-clutch transmissions, the Lotus Emira V6 First Edition stands apart. 

A luxurious and practical alternative to the bare-bones enthusiast car the brand is known for, the Emira leads the Hethel-based company’s charge back into the everyday premium sports car segment dominated by the Porsche Cayman. It is the first Lotus since the Chinese takeover (parent company Geely also owns Volvo and Polestar) and the last with a petrol engine. 

While ‘mainstream’ and ‘everyday’ may not seem like complimentary monikers that every sports car maker would strive for, the Emira is a deliberate attempt to win back some of the ground it has lost to other manufacturers who recognise that 21st-century buyers and enthusiasts alike rate comfort as highly as they do luxury, style, and blistering performance. 

To this end, the Emira is, arguably, the most mainstream car from Lotus in decades (at least since the front-engined Excel coupé, produced between 1982 and 1992), but Lotus believes that pivoting away from spartan sports cars will significantly boost Lotus global sales from around 1,500 cars with an additional 2,000 units, to help re-establish the British marque across the globe.

EXCEPTIONAL INTERIOR

The interior’s roominess provides the first hint that the Emira is a different sort of Lotus. The driver’s seat is adjustable, and unless you’re very tall, you won’t need to move the seat back to be comfortable behind the height and reach-adjustable, squared-off steering wheel. 

The interior is finished either in leather or Alcantara, with a digital dash and a decent-sized touchscreen at the dashboard’s centre, both with crisp, clean graphics. The Emira is air-conditioned, has navigation and a brilliant sound system, USB ports, cupholders, and power windows, transforming the Emira without compromising the essence of Lotus’ sports car heritage.

Available in seven colours – including Seneca Blue, which you see here – the Emira won’t win awards for using inspired colour names such as ‘Shadow Grey’ or ‘Magma Red’, save perhaps for one option that offers an insight into Lotus’ motoring heritage: ‘Hethel Yellow’. Our Seneca Blue First Edition is a product of Lotus’ new assembly line at Hethel, in the east of England, where Lotus has built road cars since 1966.

FULLY LOADED FIRST EDITION

The First Edition moniker means this Emira V6 comes fully loaded. Standard goodies include gloss black forged wheels, a black Alcantara headliner, heated seats, and a KEF premium audio system. 

In addition to trim, convenience, and styling upgrades that are optional on the regular Emira V6, the First Edition also gets the Lotus Drivers package, which includes a Track mode setting for the electronic stability programme (ESP), a limited-slip differential, and the choice of touring (what we tested) or sport suspension, the latter of which is also available with grippier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires instead of the standard Goodyear Eagle F1s as fitted to our test car.

Powered by a Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre supercharged V6 and six-speed manual transmission, producing 298 kW (dialled back from 305 kW to meet tougher emissions regulations). Peak torque is at 420 Nm. The Emira will also be available with an AMG-sourced four-cylinder. 

Taking the Emira for a day-long drive around Gauteng didn’t quite provide the kind of track-day experience this car was designed for, but it did prove the Emira’s prowess as a usable daily driver.

On the road, you’ll first notice the smooth relationship between the car’s concise shift gate and easy clutch action. Precise shifting in a hurry is one of the Emira’s nicest features, comprehensively underscoring the car’s sporty DNA. 

It also doesn’t take long to appreciate what an excellent combination a supercharger and a V6 are at delivering loads of mid-range torque and a quick throttle response – useful in a car weighing approximately 1,493 kg. To this end, Lotus says the manual Emira will sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds and top out at around 290 km/h. 

Flexibility in a car that is so abundantly competent is critical, and in third gear, the manual Emira pulls effortlessly from lower speeds at 1,000 rpm, and all the way up to 160 km/h before hitting the 6,750 rpm rev limiter. Although power delivery is noticeably more urgent when you exceed 3,500 rpm, it is smooth, linear, and precisely adjustable via the responsive throttle. The Emira is not only quick between the corners, but through them, too.

DELECTABLE LIGHTNESS

The Emira plays perfectly to its heritage with a lightness that has always been a Lotus hallmark, and a supple suspension setup that is noticeably less taut than its Cayman competitor. Feedback through the hydraulically assisted power steering is also more natural and dignified.

Gliding through a corner requires little more than a gentle nudge to the steering wheel. Virtually instantaneous response from the front axle allows you to easily sense the build-up of loads through the tyres and suspension. Even at lower speeds, the Emira feels alert and agile while remaining quiet and comfortable in the cabin. And with the standard touring suspension, it’s a terrific all-around setup.

But driving dynamics aren’t everything, and Lotus knows this. That’s why they’ve put effort into improving comfort, convenience, assembly quality, durability, and usability. And it shows in the Emira First Edition. It’s a big step in the right direction and a promising sign for the future of Lotus.

LAST WORD

The 2023 Lotus Emira V6 First Edition is a welcome departure from the traditional Lotus formula of building ultra-lightweight, minimalist sports cars. It’s a car that’s both comfortable and luxurious, yet still delivers the agile handling and playful character that Lotus fans expect.

Despite its mainstream ambitions, the Emira will appeal to driving enthusiasts who want a sports car that’s both practical and fun to drive. It’s a car that can be enjoyed on the daily, but also has the capability to tackle a track day or a weekend road trip with ease. 

At a starting price of R2.3 million, the Emira V6 First Edition is not cheap, but neither is it outrageously expensive for a car that offers this level of performance and luxury. 

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR |Images © LOTUS CARS / HUNTLEYTOGRAPHY

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