CAN the Cayman. Bin the Beemer. Scrap the Supra.
Because this is the affordable(ish) sports car you really want. The £59k Lotus Emira.
Hubba, hubba. Ten years ago I wouldn’t be delivering good news about Lotus. Not even five years ago for that matter. It was in the toilet.
They even switched off the fountains to save a few quid. Fast forward to today and things look very different over in Norfolk.
More than £2billion has been pumped into new models and facilities since 2017 (thank you, Geely), the workforce has doubled to 1,500 and, finally, we have the first proper harvest.
A shrink-wrapped supercar for everyone. Not only is Emira priced to rival cars like the Porsche Cayman, it feels every bit as plush as the Germans.
Light, low and wired for fun, like a true Lotus should be, but also packing the tech, comfort and practicality required for everyday use.
That means digital screens, Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control, easy access in and out, room for golf clubs and, er, cup holders.
You’ve even got a choice of petrol engines: the 3.5-litre supercharged Toyota V6 from Evora feeding 400 horses to the rears, or a 360hp 2-litre turbo lifted straight out of the Mercedes-AMG A45 S. So you know it’s going to fly.
The V6 is a manual and the AMG engine (the world’s most powerful four-cylinder) comes with flappy paddles.
Numbers. Impressive. Lotus has promised 0-62mph in less than 4.5 seconds. Top speed: 180mph. Maximum torque: 430Nm. Target weight: 1,405kg. Length 4.4 metres.
Looks. What do you think? Me too. It poops over everything at similar money and will turn as many heads as a Ferrari. For a quarter of the price.
At this point, I should also spell out that Emira will earn a place in history as the last petrol Lotus. Everything else from here on out will be electric.
So as well as marking the revival of a legendary British sports car brand, it is also the last hurrah. Which makes it an instant classic in my book.
Emira starts production in March and has a limited shelf life before the proposed 2030 ban on new petrol cars.
Hethel is already working on a battery-powered sports car and a second factory in China — in a place called Wuhan, you may have heard of it — will build the first Lotus SUV.
I had a poke around Emira ahead of the car’s public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which starts today.
Lotus has top-billing after securing the main display outside the house itself. Boss Matt Windle told me: “This is a full-speed revival for Lotus. “We are on the path to becoming a truly global performance car brand.”
I think he might be right. Emira has a year’s worth of orders — and that was before the online configurator went live on Tuesday. The fountains are back on too.
Delia meals on wheels
FOR less than the price of a soggy sandwich in a Boots meal deal, the lads working on the line can tuck into Delia Smith grub for just £3.
Delia’s firm runs the Lotus canteen and the subsidised menu includes baked chicken paillard with asparagus and fennel, radish and moussaka with roasted aubergine and ricotta and a mixed leaf salad.
All staff will be given a Norwich City top next season after Lotus signed up as shirt sponsor. Result.
'Just perfect for me' – Jenson Button
JENSON BUTTON tried an Emira on Tuesday – and immediately signed on the dotted line.
He told me: “It’s a cracking little car. Perfect for me in the States. But I find it weird calling it a ‘junior supercar’ because it would give a lot of supercars a run for their money.
“It drives as you’d expect in terms of mechanical grip – it’s fantastic – but they’ve also worked hard on the aero.
“Obviously, it doesn’t have aero like an F1 car but it’s got enough that you can feel the difference in high-speed corners. But for me the biggest thing is the interior. It just feels very plush.
“And the seat is comfy as well, which is so important. A lot of supercars just don’t have that comfort, the lower-back support. The infotainment system is good and straightforward, so you can concentrate on your driving.
“And the gearstick is quite a bit higher than anything else, up close to the steering wheel, which works so well. For a race car, it’s like the perfect gap. It’s nice to see that in a road car.
“It’s only a few centimetres higher than the Evora but it feels so different. For me in the States, it needs to have a bit of everything.
“There’s no point me owning a supercar that doesn’t go great in a straight line on a bumpy freeway . . . and there are a lot of bumpy freeways in California. I need a bit of comfort and it definitely gives me that. It’s also small and nimble enough to get up the canyons.
“Most supercars I’ve owned, the canyons are a little bit much for them, whereas you feel totally in control of the Emira. The power band is just so gradual, very linear, it gives you a lot of confidence. I’m a big fan.”
I’ll butt in here. JB has also ordered a Lotus Evija – the £2million 2,000hp electric spaceship – as seen below in his famous white and yellow racing colours. Same for Emira?
He said: “Evija is such a unique car and so out there it works in my racing colours. But for Emira, I’ll probably go for a classic Lotus colour, either green or yellow.” One last question, JB. You always promised yourself a Lotus, right?
He said: “When I was 17, I used to drive to Bristol to the cinema in my Vauxhall Cavalier, 2-litre, big rims – my dad had said to me if I won the European Karting Championships he’d buy me a set of 17in rims – and I always went past the Lotus dealership.
“I popped in one day asking to test drive an Elise and they laughed at me basically, as they should have done. I was 17 and a nutcase. But they said I could sit in it and I was like, ‘Awesome’.
“So I got to sit in it and play around with the gearstick and it just felt really cool. Like a racing car for the road. But very sparse. Very different to what you have in the Emira.
“I loved it and I think the purists will love the Emira. Evija is the crazy car. The really exciting car. But Emira is as well. I can’t believe what they have been able to do for the price.
“There is no competition out there. They should be proud of themselves at Lotus.” They will be when they read this. Thank you, JB.
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