For any petrolhead of means, there will come a time in life when you have to ask yourself one question: to Porsche or not to Porsche?

If you’re in the market for your first sports car, the sensible money goes to Stuttgart. But when has owning a sports car ever been about being sensible?

What about excitement? About originality? About passion? Ladies and gentlemen, may I present my case for the Lotus Emira.

The latest model to come from this historic Norfolk manufacturer is the best looking car it’s ever made. Pound for pound, I think it might just be the best looking car any manufacturer has made. Even the wing mirrors are a work of art.

Lotus Emira
Lotus Emira

I always loved its predecessor the Evora – it was a hoot to drive. Yet the aesthetics never quite did it for me; the nose a little too long, the headlights too close together. But the Emira? Two words: hubba, hubba. It’s like Ferrari and Aston Martin had a love child, but there’s a chance Lamborghini was involved too – it was one of those nights.

I’ve been reviewing cars for nearly two decades now, and I can honestly say the Emira garnered more positive attention than any other car I’ve driven in this country. There is another reason for this beyond just its looks – it is proudly British. I mean, sure it’s owned by the Chinese and has a Japanese engine, but its design, its manufacturing and, most importantly, its spirit are purebred bulldog.

People wound down windows to stick their thumbs up; one young boy leant out of his to applaud as we drove by. Smiles would crack and jaws literally drop. There’s an innate appreciation by those in the know: in buying and driving this car, you must be a person of discernment and character.

And boy, does the Emira have bundles of character. Remember at school, there was the class clown always making you laugh; then there was the spoddy geek who smashed all the tests; and the jock who won every race? The Emira is all of them.

Ease yourself into the low, surprisingly comfortable alcantara bucket seats; and you’ll notice the dark interior is punctuated by a flash of red. It’s a protective guard for the ignition button beneath – a theatrical addition that plays to the car’s sense of drama. Lift it up, depress the button, and the fun really begins.

It’s fitting that you can see the Emira’s 3.5-litre V6 engine in both your rear-view mirror and through the rear windscreen. Like a watchmaker showing off its movement through a skeletonised dial, Lotus wants to put this masterpiece on display.

The engine is like a yappy puppy – loud, excitable and never seems to run out of puff. As I mentioned, it is admittedly based on a Toyota 2GR-FE V6 motor. And hey, Japanese reliability is no bad thing – especially in the context of a British sportscar. But by the time Lotus has finished with it, it’s packing 400hp and 430Nm of torque. Throw in some thunderous exhausts and a supercharger for good luck, and you’ve got quite the package in a car that weighs less than 1,500kg.

For the Emira, only purists need apply. It comes as standard as a manual – a wonderful, visceral, mechanical manual, where you slide up through the ’box with gleeful abandon. (You can opt for a six-speed automatic with paddle shift – but I beg you not to; you’d be missing the point.) There’s nothing like a machined metal gear stick for helping you feel in touch with a car. A black honeycomb grille shows through to the lower gear lever and selector gates, another window into the Emira’s engineering prowess.

For anyone who has experienced British sports cars in the past, there will be an expectation that things might be a bit, well, creeky. Not so the Emria. It even smells expensive. Every panel is tight. The stitching is on point. The door shuts like a safe. And if it rains, you will actually stay dry.

There are heated seats with 12-way adjustability and two memory presets linked to the door mirrors. There’s climate control, cruise control, keyless start and selectable drive modes. The 10-channel/560W audio system was developed with another British brand, KEF – and the aluminium speaker covers look as good as the system sounds.

From the driver’s POV, there’s a decent sized flatscreen with (mercifully) Apple Car Play, and on the dash in front of you – in the very centre of the cluster – a g-force meter. This is rather symbolic placement. If you were in any doubt about what kind of car you were driving, this settles it – it’s a pure thoroughbred ready for the track.

If you have to make do with English B-Roads, you’ll still have plenty of fun. Grip on to the reassuringly chunky steering wheel, plant your right foot, and let the good times roll. The Emira sticks to the tarmac with reassuring control; the steering undisguised by any electrical interference. There are few cars that feel quite so planted – a McLaren springs to mind, though. Praise indeed.

Lotus Emira

The Emira’s outright acceleration is fairly modest by supercar standards – 4.3 seconds gets you to 60mph – but because you’re so low, and it’s so loud, 30mph feels like 60mph; and 60mph feels like you might lose your licence.

It’s satisfyingly economical, too. We started our trip in town with 210miles in the tank. Half an hour later, in sixth gear hammering down the motorway, the range had gone up to 265mph – like it was somehow producing petrol out of thin air. (I do understand the science, before you write in.)

The Lotus Emira’s greatest party trick? It’s price. With the V6, it starts at £81,995. There’s a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘i4’ from AMG, which is even more tempting at £77,795. And there’s a new entry level Emira coming – priced from £59,995.

Perhaps most significant of all: this will be the last-ever petrol-powered Lotus. It’s the culmination of 70 years’ experience. It’s the perfect balance of beauty and beast. It’s quite simply the best Lotus yet. (Porsche who?) 

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