► New 20221 Lotus to be called Emira
► Exclusive details of V6 and inline engines
► Priced close to the £45k Porsche Cayman
The all-new Lotus Emira – packing mid-mounted V6 and four-cylinder engines, a new aluminium sports car architecture dubbed 'Elemental' and assembled in a new Norfolk factory – goes public with its name and preview images today.
Formerly known as Type 131 – denoting it as the British sports car maker's 131st motorsport or road car programme – the new model's name is Emira, which means leader or commander in some ancient languages.
Car conducted the first interview with Lotus Cars' Matt Windle after he became managing director and we've toured Hethel's new production facilities, so read on for the most detail on the new Lotus Emira.
The first new series Lotus for 12 years
The Emira will replace the Elise/Exige/Evora. Its global unveil will take place on 6 July 2021, before it travels to the Goodwood Festival of Speed for a dynamic presentation a few days later. However the first customer deliveries are unlikely before early 2022, as Lotus is currently installing an all-new paint shop and blooding a new assembly line for the mid-engine sports car.
'The Emira is the bridge to Lotus's next era,' Windle tells us. 'It is our last combustion engine car. There have been lots of rumours that this car is a hybrid and an Esprit replacement, but it's neither of those.' Hybrids add weight, complexity and cost, all of which are anathema to Lotus's performance out of light weight philosophy.
Lotus is going electric! Read our exclusive interview here
The sports car will be the first series model under new owners Geely Holdings and Etika Automotive of Malaysia, following on from 2021's all-electric, £2m hypercar the Evija, of which just 130 will be built.
The Evija shows how Lotus is embracing key trends: after the Emira, all Lotus cars will be pure electric, with the engineering company working on a new 'Premium' architecture for four-door electric cars including a crossover, and an electric sports car platform to be shared with Alpine.
Matt Windle on Lotus's new platform strategy
New Lotus Emira: exclusive engine details
The Emira will mount a choice of two engines amidships, powering the rear wheels. The flagship engine is an update of the Toyota V6, the second is a 'high-output, lower capacity engine where we're partnering with a very famous engine manufacturer,' says boss Windle. It's almost certain to be a four-cylinder engine, already in use by another manufacturer though Lotus has specifically tuned it for the Emira.
What are the attributes of the final Lotus combustion engines? 'A key attribute that we want is that your inputs to equal an output,' says 49-year-old engineer Windle. 'You want your engine to be responsive, you want your engine to be pretty high revving, and lightweight.
'And as you'll see on Emira, the [smaller] engine that gives us less weight [and lower down]. So that'll be a really exciting car with that powertrain.'
How much will the Emira cost?
Lotus has aggressive growth and revenue targets to hit with Emira, so it is pricing the new car equally aggressively. 'We are between Cayman and 911, but much closer to Cayman,' states Matt Windle. With the four-cylinder model, expect the base price to be around £50,000, while V6 models will be pegged closer to a 911 Carrera (which starts at £85k).
This price point is made feasible by Lotus being part of Chinese car giant, Geely Holdings, which also owns Volvo, the London Electric Vehicle Company and half of Daimler's Smart city car business. Lotus is able to tap into economies of scale like never before, helping drive down component prices, and some elements – switches, column stalks, parts of the base electronic architecture – are shared with other group models.
And what will the Emira look like?
The look is heavily influenced by the Evija hypercar's, which introduced the company's new design language explains head of design Russell Carr.
'What's really key is getting the proportions right, we want the cabin hunkered down between the wheelarches so you get these muscular haunches almost like the shoulders on a big cat, and so the car's really planted on the road,' Carr explains.
'We want to have very soft, fluid surface language with some really crisp lines, so you've got a juxtaposition between soft and hard. And we want everything to be really shrink-wrapped around the mechanicals as well.'
'Our cars are all about the driving experience, agility, and we want to express that in the form.' Aerodynamics have also shaped the car, to get the right mix of downforce for cornering and slipperyness for acceleration.
An all-new cockpit approach too
Spyshots show Lotus is well into development, using mules based on the current Evora. Broadened arches betray wider dimensions, but it will be much the same length. It will, however, be more accessible than existing Lotus models – not just price but in terms of physically getting in and out (a challenging task in the outgoing models).
To that end, expect a larger, more spacious cockpit than the current Evora's, likely achieved by making the car a two-seater rather than a 2+2. Interior quality will be dramatically improved, too, insiders vow.
Expect the Lotus to offer the infotainment and connected features you'd get in a German sports car, which will be a stepchange over the raw outgoing cars. 'It'll keep our core ethos of being for the drivers: a performance vehicle with great handling and great dynamics, but it'll also be much more accessible to everyday users,' summarises Matt Windle.
Aluminium still key to Lotus sports cars
Like the outgoing Lotus family, the chassis will still be composed of extruded and bonded aluminium, a hallmark since the Elise. But it has evolved significantly enough to be classified internally as a new platform, with every dimension different.
The Group Lotus Vision80 strategy has already confirmed a new 12,300sq m aluminium and steel sub-assembly base in Norwich, which merges the previous two sites in Worcester and Norfolk and will feed the base chassis to Hethel.
There it will be painted and dressed in new assembly facilities, toured by Car. Soon to be gone are the body-framing jigs and manual adhesive application of today's cars; the Emira line will be part-robotised, to yield a quantum leap forward in panel fit accuracy and therefore quality.
Similarly a new fully automated paintshop is under construction. This will enable all contemporary finishes and a wider colour palette – and a big step up in the nature of the finish compared with hand-spraying.
Exclusive: how Lotus fits into Geely and Hethel's global expansion plans
What about the Lotus SUV?
It’s coming on the new alumium Premium platform, with solely electric propulsion. For the latest on the Lotus crossover read our scoop package here.
Browse our Lotus reviews