Lotus has named its new sports car, which will also be the last combustion-engined model that it designs. Sadly, it's not called the Esprit - that would have been nice, but the Norfolk-based sports car maker, and one-time dominant force in Formula One, is looking to the future, and not its Roger Moore-affiliated past.
Meet the Lotus Emira
No, the new Lotus will be called the Emria - the company says that it's a word that appears in various forms in many languages, and means 'leader' or 'commander' (and not 'Arsenal football stadium...).
Lotus had actually leaked the name itself, spelling out Emira in a series of dots and dashes which took the place of the white lines on a photo of a road - an image that was released on the birthday of Samuel Morse himself.
The Emira will continue to use the Toyota 3.5-litre V6 engine, which Lotus has been using for some time now. But it will also use an engine brought in from 'an exciting new powertrain partnership.' Now, with Lotus being part of the Chinese Geely group these days, the obvious choice might well be the Volvo-designed 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which with a combination of turbocharging and supercharging can be tickled up to 400hp but that's still TBC.
Whichever engine is in the back, Lotus says that it will combine high efficiency with 'explosive performance.'
Speaking about the Emira, Matt Windle, Lotus Cars MD said: "It's the most accomplished Lotus for generations - the perfectly packaged, powered and formed sports car. Beautifully proportioned, shrink-wrapped, but with comfort, technology and ergonomics built in. With a design inspired by the Evija all-electric hypercar, it's a game-changing Lotus sports car." The Emira will make a full debut on the 6th of July.
2,000hp Evija electric hypercar
Speaking of the Evija, Windle also confirmed that after some Covid-related delays, the all-electric hypercar is still on schedule to start production in the summer. "We have different prototypes focusing on different areas of development. One for build and tech, another for battery management, the other for motors and so on. EP1, which I have driven most recently, is the performance prototype and it does not disappoint. We are still some months from entering series production, but already EP1 [Engineering Prototype 1 - one of the first fully-built Evijas, currently being tested by Lotus - Ed.] has that unmistakable Lotus 'feel'. Unquestionably a unique and extreme hypercar, but still, somehow, a Lotus. I'm so excited and extremely proud of what the team has achieved".
The Evija will have almost 2,000hp from four electric motors, one behind each wheel, and sufficient battery capacity for a one-charge range of around 330-400km.
Gavan Kershaw, Director of Product Attributes and Lotus' legendary chief test driver, said: "We're 80% there - in terms of power, in terms of batteries, motors, body. Now, the remaining 20% is about adding the magic, for everything to work in harmony in that unique Lotus way, to deliver the driving experience that we want and that we can be super-proud of. And by proud, I of course mean, mind-blowing. It is a hypercar."
James Hazlehurst, Lead Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, added: "As we enter the final straight of the development programme and start to unleash full power and torque, we are fast-completing the base vehicle dynamics and turning on the active systems one by one - torque vectoring, active aero, traction control and so on - to confirm everything behaves and works together as expected. Then we start to tune the drive modes, delivering the distinctive characteristics for each of the settings. We've been doing some of this virtually, working with a simulator partner, and now, as the world is beginning to slowly open up, we're able to put these learnings into practice in the physical world".
Louis Kerr, Chief Platform Engineer "We're lucky in that we have our very own 2.25-mile test track, FIA compliant, literally 50 yards from where I'm sat in the all-new Evija assembly hall. I'm not sure many other manufacturers in the world can say that. The car has been designed without any constraints. We have pushed the boundaries of technology and materials at every opportunity, used the best technical partners, applied the latest technology - some of which is only currently available on a Formula One car - and on top of all that we have the most power-dense powertrain in a car. Already it is the fastest road car around the Hethel track, and some legendary cars and drivers have been setting records around here for many years. We're already going quicker than expected, and in addition, we're looking to exceed the targets we've set ourselves on the project in terms of power and torque capacities to absolutely maximise the performance envelope of the car".
James Hazlehurst is the lead dynamics engineer on the Evija and said the team has been focused on making this most extreme and unique of cars feel like a Lotus. James explained: "A key marker for any Lotus is the '50-metre test', where within the first 50 metres of driving any of our cars you can feel the immediacy of the steering response and the connection to the road. Damping that's perfectly balanced between handling and ride comfort, and a powertrain that responds directly and proportionally to your throttle demand, are key elements of this. All of this should be before you've travelled faster than 30mph or above 0.1g acceleration in any direction." Evija owners will be the first Lotus customers to benefit from what3words (W3W) technology available on the car. W3W divides the world into 3 metre x 3 metre squares and gives each a unique combination of three words: a W3W address. For example, 'hotspots.punters.race' is the W3W address for the entrance to Lotus HQ at Hethel. The Lotus Emira will also benefit from this system, which is a far more accurate location system than the traditional postcode.
Concluding, Gavan Kershaw said: "The Evija is an absolutely phenomenal drive. It has Formula One accelerations but in a closed cockpit, so it's like a little Group C racer but with the torque and instant delivery of all the power, all the torque and the very latest toolbox of electronic aids. You genuinely start to believe you can defy physics - it fires you around corners like a catapult."
Expansion and partnerships
Aside from all of that, Windle confirmed that Lotus is set on a major expansion of its activities. As was recently announced, Lotus is working on a new electric sports car project with Alpine, Renault's own sports car brand which is building towards an all-electric future. Lotus is also working on a new aluminium-and-carbon-fibre platform, which will be used as the basis for the Emira, but which will be highly flexible and which will eventually be used under a successor to the long-lived Elise.
The Evija's electric hypercar platform will also not just underpin the Evija itself, but also more ultra-high-performance cars, and Lotus has said that it would be happy to licence the platform for use by other car makers.
Then there's the new 'Premium Architecture' - a co-production with Geely which will be shared with other brands in the group (possibly including Volvo, Lynk&Co, Proton and more) and from which Lotus will create its first-ever crossover, a lightweight, high-performance, but practical Lotus, which could (should) be the brand's answer to both the Porsche Macan and the meal ticket which could finally see Lotus production expand to truly sustainable levels.
Lotus is planning to expand production beyond its traditional home of Hethel, in Norfolk. The crossover will likely be built in China, and Lotus will also now have access to Geely and Volvo facilities in Germany, China, the US, and Sweden. Lotus also says that it's going to branch out into new sales areas.
Geoff Dowding, Executive Director, Sales and Aftersales, said: "Launching an all-new visual identity for our retail partners is another hugely exciting step in our transformation of the Lotus brand. The inherent flexibility of what we have created will be perfect for all environments, whether they're solus or multi-franchise, urban or out-of-town, high street or shopping mall, single or multi-storey, pop-up, seasonal or permanent. It's about offering a combination of online and offline retail experience. Looking, feeling, seeing, interacting and at the same time having the ability to do this 24 hours a day and maybe even conclude a transaction in the middle of the night, anywhere in the world. New generations of buyer and different models of ownership are bringing about this change and fast, particularly in some of the newer markets for Lotus such as in China. It's about layers of choice, over and above what we are offering today - in different markets, in different cities, in different stores. Our customers will have their relationships with the brand, and they will have their relationships with the retailers - multi-channel and all about choice.'
Wrapping up a lengthy presentation, Matt Windle said: "Our transformation is well under way, and this year it really begins to accelerate through a product-led offensive. Evija goes into production, Emira is launched, and a new suite of four dedicated vehicle architectures is confirmed to further catapult Lotus into new markets, new segments and new volume territory. Our global expansion is continuing at pace, with Hethel still very much the heart and soul of the brand, but with a whole new Lotus map of the world to draw upon and to capitalise upon. And finally, new relationships with customers old and new get underway through the evolution of our retail strategy as we embark on volumes, markets and segments never seen before in the Lotus business. Lotus has a famous history of fast-paced exploits and successes on the racetracks. In the future, that fast pace of change is translated to the roads and to the global automotive market of tomorrow."