As Lotus pivots toward electromobility, it's a must-see for fans wanting to catch a glimpse of the brand's final ICE chapter.
Like many, Lotus hasn't been impervious to the challenges facing the automotive industry. With the all-new Emira, the brand is essentially saying goodbye to lightweight, ICE-powered sports cars as it prepares for a fully-electric future, starting with the reveal of a battery-powered SUV on March 29.
If you're a die-hard fan of the brand, this transition is, understandably, hard to watch. However, before Lotus changes its persona entirely, the company is offering a glimpse into its past, with factory tours of its iconic Hethel production facility. Originally paused in late 2017, the tour will reopen to the public on April 4 and will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes view of Lotus Cars.
The brand says visitors will be greeted by refreshments in the Retail Center, where they will learn about the company's transformation. Additionally, guests will be able to experience the future of Lotus showrooms firsthand. The story of the boutique automaker will be "brought to life" by an expert guide, who will lead visitors through older sections of the factory. This is where the now-discontinued Elise, Exige, and Evora models were once built.
The past will be left behind as the tour trundles over to the Emira section. Here, Lotus fans will be able to glean insights into the brand's new automated elements, which are novel for the company. However, aficionados will be pleased to know there's still a hands-on approach when it comes to the Emira.
Motorsport fans will salivate at the thought of seeing the Hethel test track in person. It is here, tucked away in the town of Norfolk, that racing icons such as Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Ayrton Senna once tore around the 2.2-mile circuit at thunderous speeds.
If you're lucky enough, you'll arrive at the factory on a day when you can opt for the Heritage Tour. This allows visitors access to Classic Team Lotus, a separately run business situated near the main facility. Here, countless Lotus race cars are to be found on display. Priced from £140 (approximately $184) per person, it's a touch more expensive than the regular tour, at £95 (around $125) per person.
Tours are an intimate affair, with just eight people per session. The two-hour experience promises plenty of excitement but you had better have an excellent memory; sadly, no photography is allowed. Guests will, at least, receive a unique lanyard and pin badge as a memento of their visit.
As the last gas-powered Lotus, the Emira is the brand's final swing at Porsche's inimitable 718 series which, ironically, is preparing to go fully electric. But with the choice of an AMG-sourced, turbocharged four-cylinder or a soulful V6, the Emira should be a fitting send-off for the brand's ICE era.