Norfolk has borrowed AMG’s maddest engine for its sports activities automotive. Who did it higher?
Engine transplants (very similar to coronary heart, liver or kidney swaps, I presume with a wholesome lack of medical experience) are a tough enterprise.
There are numerous nice engines. There are some chic chassis. However not all of them are essentially pleased playmates. All of us adore the Lexus LFA’s wailing V10, do not we? However I don’t need one disturbing the peace in a Rolls-Royce Phantom. A Vary Rover feels born for a diesel V8. I don’t suppose they’d promote many if a shock Volkswagen joint-venture plopped within the thrummy little tyke from beneath the bonnet of an Up GTI.
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So what occurs while you take actually the maddest road-legal four-cylinder engine within the identified universe, and plumb it into the again of a British sports activities automotive? That’s what we’re right here to determine with the brand new Lotus Emira i4, powered by AMG. And simply to boost the primary impression, and make life a bit trickier for the Brit, we’ve introduced alongside the donor automotive. The Mercedes-AMG A45 S. The Saturn V rocket of scorching hatchbacks.
What with all of the hoo-hah over AMG deciding this engine was match to switch the V8 within the C63, it’s grow to be a little bit of a villain of late. And that’s a pity, as a result of it’s not the engine’s fault the place its masters resolve to ship it to work. And this powerplant, unsexily codenamed ‘M139’ is a masterpiece of unbelievable ‘ve vil make it vork’ German bloody-mindedness.
The turbocharger’s turbine spins on curler bearings to scale back friction and quicken-up spool time. The cylinders are coated in the identical hyper-slippery linings as a Mercedes F1 automotive’s V6. The entire engine weighs simply 160kg able to go, but within the A45 S it generates 415bhp. That’s over 200bhp per litre. Over 100 horsepower per cylinder. And but buzzing away in eighth gear, ensconced in a leather-and-metal-lined A-Class cabin, you possibly can virtually idiot your self into considering it’s a standard engine.
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Or you possibly can choose Race mode and it’ll pull your head off and eat it. Boy has this engine received a mood. It’s buzzy and revvy and doesn’t ship most urgency till it’s going berserk past 5,000rpm. It’s received a Japanese factor of tuner fury to it. It’s additionally flawed: there’s sufficient lag to get caught out by a turbodiesel van if you happen to’re sleeping, and the noise sounds overly augmented. Nevertheless it’s vastly thrilling. Expertise this and the engine in a Golf R or Audi S3 is about as invigorating as indoor examination revision on a balmy summer time afternoon.
So, massive pay rise ahoy for whoever at Lotus cleverly negotiated the usage of AMG’s livid four-pot? Hmm. Mood your frothing pleasure for only a second, as a result of right here come The Caveats.
Firstly, this engine develops 415bhp within the A45 S. Within the plain ol’ A45 ‘non-S’ that isn’t offered within the UK, it’s down at 382bhp. That’s strictly the engine that Lotus has employed. And since it required a brand new consumption and exhaust to breathe by now it lives in the course of a automotive, it’s been detuned (or retuned, if you happen to choose) to make ‘simply’ 360bhp.
That’s nonetheless loads of poke from an engine capability smaller than the bottle of milk in my fridge. However I may perceive if you happen to have been left underwhelmed, figuring out simply how rather more this motor’s received to offer.
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Then once more, with extra torque on faucet than the V6 and a faster-shifting gearbox as commonplace, the Emira i4 virtually embarrasses its supercharged six-cylinder stablemate by getting from 0-62mph in 4.4sec – only a tenth slower than the three.5-litre model.
Each vehicles will do over 170mph and within the time it takes an Emira V6 driver to heel-and-toe a downchange with the awkward pedals, an Emira i4 driver could have summoned the kickdown and been hurled ahead on a wave of enhance.
So don’t fear: it’s quick sufficient. And my hunch is that Lotus will go away the vary like this for a yr or two, then begin turning up the wick on the i4, deleting the V6 within the course of.
If and when that occurs, hopefully it’ll recapture a few of the misplaced fury of the A45 S. The Emira’s software of the identical oily bits is extra sanitised, much less banzai. However what you lose on sheer lunatic issue you get again in nuance: the turbo is rather more of a character within the Emira, wheezing and whooping and countering and hollering. It whooshes menacingly as you trundle about city and the wastegate sighs as you again off are good. Half old-school Noble, half early Audi RS automotive.
Pity in regards to the engine bay although, proper? Lotus says the rubber tub mat it has used to cover the Mercedes bits acts as a cooling characteristic. I reckon it acts as a ‘conceal all of the Mercedes badges’ characteristic.
So which might be greatest to dwell with? Effectively the Emira makes use of much less gasoline: we discovered it averaged round 32mpg, with the A45 all the time 1-2mpg worse off. At a 70mph motorway schlep the Lotus was doing virtually 50mpg. Spectacular.
This Emira had the Sports activities chassis set-up, with pointier entrance geometry and stickier tyres. It was hungry for cambers and fairly stressed on again roads. In the meantime we agreed Mercedes seems to have softened off the A45 only a smidge. It should have, as a result of the white automotive was a few thousand miles outdated and the trim hasn’t all began rattling but, like most A-Courses. So the A45, regardless of its 3am McDonalds drive-thru picture, is the extra easy-going automotive.
And total – in a consequence that shocked me, I need to say – it’s the extra entertaining drive. The place the Lotus has grip and composure however lacks steering suggestions and delicacy, the A45 provides you extra choices. It feels extra up on its toes within the corners, and with decrease limits on the exit, you’ll be able to exploit the chassis a bit more durable. The gearbox is far crisper on dwelling turf within the Merc, and you’ll’t get away from the very fact the engine is outrageous. A swivel-eyed, bark-at-the-moon madman for the ages.
You can also’t escape the very fact the A45 S – although vastly dear for an A-Class at over £63,000 – is sort of £20,000 inexpensive than an Emira i4 First Version. Which is all you’re in a position to purchase for the following 12 months. Cheaper trim ranges come later.
The Lotus will flip extra heads. Individuals will wave it out of aspect turnings extra typically. Fewer oxygen-thieves in tastelessly modified VW Group tat will attempt to interact you in an inner-city race to the loss of life. It’s a particularly fascinating, seemingly well-finished product.
However sat right here penning this a couple of days after they each went away, I can’t fairly justify the Emira’s worth, or get away from the sense the most effective of that automotive is but to return, whereas with the A45, it’s already right here.
Images: Johnny Fleetwood