Wapcar Automotive News – The Toyota MR2 may have been an icon, but the Lotus Emira could have executed the mid-engine formula a little better
Like other automakers, Lotus has spent the past two years reinventing itself. The Elise, Exige and Evora have all been dropped in favor of the Lotus Evija, which is not only the brand’s first EV, but also one of the fastest EVs introduced to date. Lotus’ era of ultralight and agile sports cars may be coming to an end, but Lotus Emira is here to test the internal combustion engine.
That said, Lotus and Toyota have been working hand-in-hand for years, and while the latter plans to revive its own mid-engined model – the MR2 – it was Lotus who beat the manufacturer to the punch. Japanese automaker to introduce a new model, entry-level sports car placed between engines.
It is true that the Toyota MR2 was never considered a premium sports car. While the Japanese compact sports car has a market share commensurate with special editions like the MR2 TRD 2000GT, it has made clear that it is a viable alternative to the Ferrari 348. Even before that crowned the JDM kingdom, the MR2 has received one of the coolest car monikers – the “poor man’s Ferrari”.
With modest ambitions is the use of cheaper materials, and this can be seen in the largely plastic interior of all generations of the MR2. On the other hand, the Lotus Emira is certainly not an accessible car. While that never stopped the Elise or Exige from feeling basic inside, the Emira took it to the next level to compete with other higher-end models like the Porsche 718. This is also the second Lotus model, after Evora, to have an infotainment screen next to the digital instrument cluster and use high-quality materials (compared to Elise / Exige). The latest internal combustion Lotus clearly doesn’t want to be, and that’s where the $100,000 starting price is very clear.
In addition, according to the latest information, the next Toyota MR2 will be a collaboration between Toyota, Daihatsu and Suzuki, which means it will be an affordable model. It will arrive in 2025, shortly after the GR86 is phased out, scheduled for the same year.
Still outdated despite modern features
2022 Jenson Button shoots Lotus Emira ahead of his US debut Lotus
There aren’t many high-performance vehicles these days that offer rear-wheel drive, the light weight paired with a manual transmission, and the relatively large V-6 engine. The Emira does this exceptionally well, especially with its Toyota-sourced V-6.
The 3.5-liter 2GR-FE engine can be found in many vehicles such as the Toyota Camry and Avalon, as well as Emira’s predecessor – the Evora. The engine has a supercharger, giving the Emira 400 hp (299 kilowatts) and 320 lb-ft (430 Nm). The V-6 variant is available with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, both of which are derived from Aisin.
The other version of the Emira comes with the M139, the 2.0-liter turbo-four from the Mercedes AMG A45 S. In the Emira, the engine is said to produce just 381hp compared to the AMG’s 415hp, though Lotus. may have made its own software tweaks. This engine does not have a manual transmission option and is only paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission 8G-Tronic also from Mercedes.
In the past, Lotus was known for three things: lightness, simplicity and mobility. While the modern era has removed all but simplicity from the equation, Emira still embodies the other two aspects. While the curb weight of 3,097 pounds (1,405 kg) is almost light by Lotus standards, it’s almost as light as you can get, these days, from a usable sports car.
Note also that the Emira still has hydraulic steering, a rarity these days as most automakers are now opting for the electrically-assisted equivalent. Of course, the advantage of Lotus Emira is being able to “talk” to the driver much better.
Lotus EmiraLotus 2021
While the MR2 was a fast car in its day, especially in turbo form, the Emira uses a compact sports car formula that puts the mid-engined engine and adds power. Official performance figures for the Lotus Emira 2023 are yet to be quoted, but with at least 360 hp at use, a 0-60 mph (97 kph) sprint should be around 4.0 seconds.
Meanwhile, we know the top speed is 180 mph (290 km/h). To do that, the most powerful version of the MR2 – the GT-S – can sprint to a top speed of 97 km/h in an impressive 5.5 seconds.
For speed toys, that won’t matter as much, but Emira is also the ICE-powered Lotus for the easiest entry and exit. With an aggregate luggage capacity of 12.4 cubic feet (351 liters), it’s also the brand’s most practical two-seater to date. If Toyota really wants to bring the iconic MR2 back, perhaps it should take a page from Lotus’ book, no matter who it works with.