2023 Lotus Emira: Old-School Feels, New-School Fit

2023 Lotus Emira article highlights:

  • The 2023 Lotus Emira is the company’s last internal-combustion car, and the V6 version is the last with a manual
  • Lotus made huge improvements to interior quality and overall refinement without losing its trademark handling, feedback, and simplicity
  • The Porsche Cayman still beats the 2023 Emira in some areas, but this Lotus sports car is a delightful modern throwback

What is Lotus? To some, it’s the paragon of sports car simplicity—and can, or rather, should only be that. The British brand isn’t immune to the winds of change or the waves of the financial market, though. Hence why it, too, is going electric and bringing an SUV to life. Yet as cliché as Colin Chapman’s words threaten to become, they still lie at Lotus’s core. And if the 2023 Lotus Emira is any indication, even as the automaker heads into a new age, it won’t forget its roots.

The 2023 Lotus Emira introduces the sports car brand’s future…

2023 Lotus Emira
Engines2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
3.5-liter supercharged V6
HorsepowerFour-cylinder: 360 hp
V6: 400 hp
TorqueFour-cylinder: 310 lb-ft
V6: 317 lb-ft (automatic), 310 lb-ft (manual)
TransmissionsFour-cylinder: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
V6: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Curb weight3097 lbs (lightest spec)
3150 lbs (V6 First Edition)
0-60 mph timeFour-cylinder: 4.2 seconds
V6: 4.3 seconds
PriceV6 Base Edition: $74,900
V6 First Edition: $85,900

With the Elise, Exige, and Evora gone, the 2023 Lotus Emira is currently the automaker’s only ‘regular’ sports car. It’s also the last internal combustion-powered car Lotus plans to make. Furthermore, the Emira will be the last Lotus to use Toyota’s stalwart V6. And once that engine goes bye-bye, so does the stick-shift Lotus.

In short, the 2023 Emira is the end of an era for Lotus, right down to the trademark bonded aluminum chassis. But it’s also the sign of something new. And no, I don’t just mean the fact that the upcoming four-cylinder model uses an AMG powertrain.

For years, Lotus sports cars’ excellent dynamics were dampened by less-than-stellar interiors. Even the Evora GT, one of the brand’s most refined modern cars, made do with an aftermarket Alpine touchscreen head unit. That’s not the case with the Emira.

It has a 10.25” center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto navigation, and USB ports, as well as a 12.3” digital gauge cluster. There are twin cupholders, too, as well as multiple drive modes, rain-sensing wipers, keyless start, rear parking sensors, and electronic folding door mirrors. In addition, the First Edition models get extra Alcantara as well as heated seats (!) and a KEF audio system. And the optional Convenience Pack adds front parking sensors, automatic dimming mirrors, and a reversing camera.

…but keeps one welcome foot in the past

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Yet while the 2023 Lotus Emira embraces new-age refinement and technology, it still retains some old-school delights. For one, Lotus didn’t give the Emira V6 electric power steering: the mid-engine sports car still has a hydraulic setup. Secondly, it doesn’t have electronically-adjustable shocks or an active limited-slip differential. Instead, you get ‘passive’ shocks and an optional classic mechanical LSD, Road & Track reports.

Also, if you get the V6 First Edition with a manual, the aluminum shifter’s gear linkage is exposed. What better way to celebrate your last stick-shift sports car?

In addition, because Lotus knows its customers are driving enthusiasts, it offers the 2023 Emira First Edition with multiple tire-and-spring packages. The optional Driver’s Pack, in addition to an extra Track Mode, the LSD, and active exhaust, comes with your choice of chassis setup. With the Tour option, you get softer springs and Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. The Sport, meanwhile, has stiffer springs and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. And if you prefer, you can mix the Goodyears with the Sport springs.

Lotus’s last manual-transmission gas-powered sports car is also one of its best

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Brand purists might complain that the 2023 Emira isn’t as light or as simple as the Lotus Elise. But then, the Elise was so light in part because of its minimalist approach to safety features, which is why the later models weren’t U.S.-legal. Plus, the lightest Emira weighs just over 1.5 tons. To quote The Drive, “it hardly needs to go on a diet.”

What the Emira needs to do, though, is show that Lotus isn’t a ‘fringe’ automaker anymore.  As noted earlier, the brand’s sports cars were brilliant in the corners, but their interiors often smelled of glue. On the road or track, the Evora GT was every bit the Porsche Cayman’s dynamic equal. But in terms of daily-driving refinement and interior materials, Porsche had a sizable advantage. The Emira, though, changes that.

Admittedly, the Cayman has more storage space, R&T reports. Also, even with the supercharger, the Emira’s V6 doesn’t quite match the Cayman GTS’ flat-six in sound. However, it does let the Lotus match the Porsche’s 0-60 time and top speed. Furthermore, the 2023 Emira is perhaps the first Lotus that has near-Porsche-level NVH and comfort, The Drive says. And its aluminum switchgear feels solid, not plasticky or cheap.

But the Emira’s real killer app is the way it handles—like an old-school Lotus in the best way possible. The V6’s hydraulic steering “is otherworldly good,” The Drive gushes, full of feedback and gloriously well-weighted. Also, even with the Sport springs, this car swallows bumps and imperfections with aplomb. Yet it doesn’t wallow or pitch in the corners. Instead, it stays planted, agile, and communicative. And when you feel the need to slide, the Emira is raring to go without ever biting you.

Is the 2023 Lotus Emira worth getting?

A gray 2023 Lotus Emira First Edition at the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon stage
2023 Lotus Emira First Edition at the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon | Jun Sato/WireImage via Getty Images

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As of this writing, the 2023 Lotus Emira hasn’t quite hit U.S. shores. The V6 First Edition should arrive by autumn 2022, with the Base Edition following in spring 2023. But if you want the AMG-powered one, you’ll be waiting until winter 2023.

So, should you place an order at your local Lotus dealership? Well, the touchscreen responds slower than the Cayman’s screen, The Drive notes. In addition, the side effect of the V6’s hydraulic steering rack is occasional kickback on rough surfaces and a slower ratio, R&T says. Also, there’s no trunk up front and the rear one gets a bit toasty due to engine proximity.

However, these are minor annoyances rather than major inconveniences. The 2023 Lotus Emira isn’t just a Porsche alternative: it’s a full-on, serious rival. It’s also a throwback to simpler, more analog sports cars, which are harder and harder to find these days.

You don’t have to buy the new Emira instead of a Porsche or other high-end sports car. But if you do, you won’t have to make excuses for it, either. As a last hurrah, it’s a good one.

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