First announced back in January and teased in the months after, the Lotus Emira has finally made its global debut. Previously codenamed Type 131, the all-new sports car replaces the existing Elise, Exige and Evora, which will all cease production by the end of this year.

For the curious, the name “Emira” is pronounced “Eh-meer-ah,” with Lotus explaining that the word is featured in numerous ancient languages and often translates as “commander” or “leader.” The British carmaker says this is highly appropriate as its new creation serves as a last hurrah before it fully embraces electrification and a new era for the brand later in the decade – leading the way, we guess.

Anyway, the Emira is the next major vehicle to be part of Lotus’ transformation plan after the Evija (Type 130) that was revealed in July last year. However, unlike the halo, all-electric model, the Emira sticks to conventional internal combustion engines (as mentioned earlier), of which there are two specified.

The first of the two engines should be familiar to most, as it is the supercharged version of Toyota’s 2GR-FE 3.5 litre V6 that is found in the Exige and Evora. This engine will power an initial batch of cars that are offered as limited-production “First Edition” models, paired with either a manual or automatic transmission.

The other engine is a bit of a surprise, as Lotus partnered up with Mercedes-AMG to source the latter’s 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit as well as accompanying dual-clutch transmission. “The 2.0 litre is the world’s most powerful production in-line four-cylinder unit mated to AMG’s acclaimed DCT with paddle shifts and driving modes,” said Gavan Kershaw, director of vehicle attributes at Lotus Cars.

“It’s high-performance, hugely efficient thanks to cutting-edge technology, and delivers low emissions and linear performance. On top of all that, it’s been tuned in-house by the hugely experienced Hethel engineers to deliver that distinctive Lotus experience,” he added.

Kershaw’s comment (particularly the “most powerful bit”) points to the M139 engine that is found in the current A 45, GLA 45 and CLA 45, all of which come with an eight-speed DCT. However, the AMG-sourced setup will not be immediately offered when the Emira goes on sale, as it will only be available from summer 2022.

Lotus says that across the Emira range (and depending on trim level), power outputs will be between 360 and 400 hp, with maximum torque at 430 Nm. It also claims a 0-100 km/h acceleration of time of less than 4.5 seconds and top speeds of up to 290 km/h.

As with Lotus’ outgoing sports cars, the Emira adopts a mid-engine layout, with both engines being mounted transversely behind the driver and delivering rear-wheel drive. The company notes that the AMG-sourced engine, which is typically mounted up front on the performance compact cars, required new air intake and exhaust systems to “suit the character of the Emira.”

Underpinning the Emira is the Lotus Sports Car Architecture (referred internally as the Elemental), which is the brand’s bonded extruded aluminium platform that was pioneered by the Elise, and will be fabricated at a new facility – Lotus Advanced Structures – in Norwich. The car uses double wishbones all around, and there are two chassis settings offered.

The first, Tour, is tuned for everyday road use and provides a balance of handling and a comfortable ride. Meanwhile, Sports is available with the optional Lotus Drivers Pack and provides a stiffer setup for enhanced dynamic capability and feel. Hydraulic power steering is also present instead of an electrically assisted system, which will please purists and ensure the driver is provided excellent feedback while behind the wheel.

Design-wise, the Emira comes across as a “baby Evija,” with numerous cues that are inspired by the performance EV. These include the vertical LED headlamps with a wing-inspired twin blade lighting design, which are accompanied by exit vents integrated into the bonnet to direct airflow over the car and optimise aerodynamics. Said bonnet also sports a a prominent leading edge like the on the Evija, along with the brand’s new logo design.

In other areas, muscular haunches envelop a teardrop-shaped cabin, the latter featuring a wraparound windscreen that promotes outward visibility from within the cabin. Viewed from the sides, we find pleasant proportions and sculpted sections that cut into the doors in order to direct air into intakes located ahead of the rear wheels.

Finer details can be seen in the C-pillars, where you’ll find Emira badges placed close to the vented engine cover. As standard, the Emira rides on 20-inch wheels fitted with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport tyres, although these can be swapped out for Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres with the optional Lotus Drivers Pack.

Moving to the rear body panel, there are exit vents in the corners to relieve air pressure from the rear wheel arches – a more subdued take on the Evija’s rear. Other cues in this area include flat C-shaped LED taillights linked by a slim brake light, while the black section further down houses two exhaust pipes (with perforations shaped like the plectrum in the Lotus badge) and an air diffuser.

The final shape, according to Lotus, creates passive downforce that’s precisely balanced between the front and rear axles at all speeds, perfectly tuned to the weight distribution and suspension geometry of the car. As a result, there’s no need for active aerodynamic components or even a large rear wing (the boot lid has a lip to generate downforce) that can interrupt the smooth lines.

In terms of dimensions, the Emira measures 4,412 mm long, 1,895 mm wide, 1,225 mm tall, and has a wheelbase spanning 2,575 mm. Compared to the three models it replaces, the Emira dwarves both the Exige and Elise, but it isn’t that far off the current Evora, sharing the same wheelbase with the aging sports car. In its lightest form, the Emira weighs in at 1,405 kg, which is still more than the mentioned trio, although this is largely due to the amount of kit it has to lug around.

This is most evident when you enter the car, which is a huge step-change for Lotus, as it builds upon the driver-centric principle by introducing higher-quality materials, new technologies, improved fit and finish and more practicality.

A wraparound dashboard blends into the door trim to create a cockpit feeling, and drivers are greeted by a flat-bottomed, multi-function sports steering wheel and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display. That’s not the only screen present, as there’s also a 10.25-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system that has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay built-in as standard.

More creature comforts in the two-seat sports car come in the form of four-way electrically adjustable sport seats, which can be upgraded to premium items with 12-way adjustability. That’s not all, as a 10-channel premium sound system from KEF can be specified, boasting the British audio company’s signature Uni-Q technology.

The “usable daily” design approach also sees several storage solutions being implemented in the cabin, including two cupholders located aft of the centre console with a phone storage slot between them, along with a glovebox and door bins that can hold a 500 ml bottle. You also get a small tray beneath the climate controls, an armrest with USB and 12-volt ports, plus a console net for other items.

Lotus also claims 208 litres of storage space behind the two seats, along with an additional 151 litres in the boot to the rear of the engine, with the latter said to enough for a standard-sized flight case or a set of golf clubs.

Thanks to drive-by-wire technology, there’s additional storage space underneath the raised centre console, as seen in this interior of the Emira with a self-shifting transmission. The gear lever itself sits on the centre console, together with an engine start button under a protective red cover, drive mode selector, hazard light button and media control dial.

In the case of Emira models equipped with the V6 engine and manual transmission, the positioning of the gear lever is said to echo that of the iconic Esprit, and the semi-exposed gear linkage is visible at the base of the centre console, similar to the Elise and Exige.

Drivers will get to use features such as keyless entry, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors (front sensors are an option) and launch control (part of the optional Lotus Drivers Pack). Also available is a suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, fatigue alert, road sign information, vehicle speed limiter, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist.

“The Emira is a game-changer for Lotus. It stands as a beacon of everything we have achieved to date in the transformation of the business, the embodiment of our progress. It is a highly significant milestone on our path to becoming a truly global performance car brand,” commented Matt Windle, managing director of Lotus Cars.

Production of the Emira will take place in Lotus’ upgraded facility in Hethel, which benefitted from an investment of more than 100 million British pounds (around RM576 million) under Vision 80 – the strategic plan that guides Lotus’ transformation as it moves towards its 80th anniversary in 2028. The reinvention of Lotus began after Zhejiang Geely Holding (ZGH) acquired a 51% stake in the company from Proton, with the remaining 49% held by Malaysian automotive group Etika Automotive.

According to Lotus, the first Emira customer cars will be delivered around the world from spring 2021, and interested parties can now place their deposits at Lotus retailers. In the case of Malaysia, distribution is handled by Lotus Karz, although pricing has yet to be determined and a local launch is only expected to take place towards the end of this year.

In the United Kingdom, the Emira will start at less than 60,000 British pounds (around RM346,000), or 72,000 euros (around RM354,000) in European markets. These figures, with our import duties factored in, should give you some idea of how much the Emira will cost when it is launched here.

This particular example is finished in the launch colour of Seneca Blue, which is one of six options that Lotus offers, with the others being Hethel Yellow, Shadow Grey, Magma Red, Nimbus Grey and Dark Verdant. Adding to this are seven interior themes, including black, red and grey Nappa leather, along with black Alcantara matched with either grey, red or yellow stitching.

Further customisation comes in the form of brake calipers that are available in four colours (black, red, yellow and silver), while the 20-inch wheels come in either cast 10-spoke, gloss black 10-spoke, silver forged V-spoke, gloss black forged V-spoke and diamond cut forged V-spoke designs.

The Emira is a rather unique product for Lotus, and it’s not just because it is the company’s last combustion-engined car that acts as a bridge to an electrified future. The Elise, Exige and Evora deserve praise as sports cars that are built for the drivers, but the Emira adds extra layers of refinement on top of recognisable brand signatures and core values to make it more usable every day, hence the contemporary and roomier design approach, larger feature set and enhanced practicality.

It is with this in mind that Lotus hopes the Emira will help revitalise its line-up and attract a wider audience, resulting in a bigger sales volume. With the level of performance touted and its price point, the Emira will look to steal customers away from the venerable Porsche 718 Cayman. Has the Emira held your attention? Let us know what you think of Lotus’ latest sports car in the comments below.