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Lotus’s final fossil fling is set to be the best turbo-petrol sportscar bar none

Lotus-Emira-4
Lotus-Emira

If it were possible to be any less excited about Lotus’s future prospects, then Iain Robertson is certain to struggle, because the troubled Norfolk firm has endured more rescue bids in the past 35 years than Aston Martin, its slightly snobbier rival now in the hands of a Canadian drinks magnate, yet to show as much innovation.

My new life as a unidexter could be highly restrictive when testing sports cars but, while there is definitely no space for a folding sports wheelchair, I can slot a pair of crutches into the front passenger footwell, which is fine in my book. Cars like the Emira are personal thrill machines; the type of vehicle, in which self-gratification is delivered in spades, even if you resisted telling all and sundry about that drive, because so much of it was illegal. Perhaps its unguent should be prescriptive, especially in these torrid times, when just running away from it all, even for a few hours, could make all the difference.

Unusually for Lotus, the Toyota-originated V6 supercharged petrol engine is now the stock offering at the bargain basement price of £64,995 with a manual gearbox, the auto option will cost more. Mind you, the 360bhp Merc engined four-cylinder is priced some £5,000 less than that, although the First Edition will get you a mere fiver’s change from £72,000, which is one helluva premium to pay. Is it worth it? Of course! It is a ruddy Lotus and it is a rather special equipe, complete with an 8-speed twin-clutch automated transmission and a comprehensively loaded launch package.

Lotus-Emira-1
Lotus-Emira

When critics refer to Lotus as a ‘glassfibre sportscar maker’, I tend to become a little unsettled, after all, Lotus has refined its composite materials production processes to such an extent that you would find it very hard to search out any areas of unpainted gel coat, or even those nasty shards of waste fibres that can be exceptionally irritating but used to surface just below floor mats. I would venture to suggest that Lotus is highly sophisticated, as it should be, after nearly 70 years of practice. Delivering perfect panel gaps, deeply impressive paint finishes and a built-for-purpose refinement as good as anything Porsche makes ensures that Emira moves the game on significantly over the outgoing Evora. If anything, the Emira manages to make ‘pretty’ an acceptable adjective over again.

While aesthetics are an useful attribute, dynamics, specifically of the chassis variety, are what testing at Hethel informs most. The purpose designed circuit has been developed since the late-1980s to its present format that incorporates aspects of several of the most renowned and challenging tracks worldwide. Therefore, some of the bends are off-camber, some feature tightening radii but all are supported by safe and large run-off areas, which means that even drivers unfamiliar with the facilities can dig deeply, without coming to grief. With the Emira four-pot, while not challenging its top speed potential, for which the fast disappearing unlimited autobahns are still available, it is still feasible to reach in excess of 130mph on the main straights. The development driving team at the factory spend hours here ironing out even the tiniest of suspension glitches. Emira has none and lives up to the Lotus idyll of lightness and consummate agility. Featuring the crispest of turn-ins, the ability to make lane changes unerringly and to transition from power on to power off under braking, without deviating as much as sniff off-line underscores the model’s overall flexibility and impeccable manners.

Lotus-Emira-2
Lotus-Emira

The Merc engine is a blinder that has already earned top billing for its reliability, let alone its 208bhp/litre output. It makes a deliciously guttural four-pot grumble that is not dissimilar to several of the hard driven rally and race cars of the mid-1980s, which can be augmented by the varying degrees of accessible silencing, if you can tolerate the popping and over-run farting, which is slightly more in tune with Lotus than Merc. It never feels less than punchy and can despatch the 0-60mph sprint in a smidgen less than 3.5s, the automated gearbox providing snappy, millisecond swift gearshifts more than up to the fun aspects of the car. Yet, if you just want to trickle around Norfolk’s back doubles, of which there are plenty, the snarling wildcat becomes a quiet kitten and upwards of 40mpg is a conscious reality.

Conclusion:      Lotus is about to enter the final phase of its life as a fossil-fuelled sports car manufacturer, it has already staked its claim in the hypercar EV arena and its first SUV is soon to hit the roads but, until electrification takes over, the company knows that it is compact and flexible enough to satisfy its existing customers’ needs, without putting anything at risk. At a whisker below £60k the Emira is well priced and makes the current Porsche Boxster, or more appositely the Cayman, look sorely over-priced.

Lotus-Emira-3
Lotus-Emira