Model Information

Esprit Designs Throughout its 20-plus year history there have been many variations of the Lotus Esprit. However, any Esprit can be lumped into one of two major categories. The first category is what is commonly referred to as the Giugiaro Esprit; named after the original Italian designer of the car. This category includes any car built before the 1988 MY (model year). It is distinguished by sharp angles and a wedge shape that has been compared to everything from a doorstop to a spaceship. This is the Esprit that was popularized by the James Bond films: The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only.

In 1988, designer Peter Stevens who is also famous for designing the McLaren F1 supercar softened the crisp edges of the Esprit. It was featured in the movies: Basic Instinct, Pretty Woman, and If Looks Could Kill. With subtle modifications, this is the shape of the current day Esprit V8.

This Fact File is heavily slanted towards information on the Stevens Esprit. This is due mostly to two reasons: 1) It is the type that I am most familiar with; and 2) There are already plenty of books you can buy with info on the older cars.

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Building an Esprit 

The process of building an Esprit is truly a work of art. Unlike other modern factories where cars are manufactured  mostly through the aid of automation and robotics; the Esprit is still built completely by hand. This ensures that each vehicle built is truly unique and perfect when it leaves the factory.

The Esprit production line was established back in 1976. Nothing has changed much since those days a quarter of a century ago. Currently there are only 21 people on the line. Each car takes about 584 man-hours to assemble. With multiple people working on the car, total assembly is accomplished in about one week. One car is rolled out of the assembly line every business day. Upon completion, each vehicle is driven on the test track. After the test drive, the car is put on a lift and thoroughly inspected and adjusted. Afterwards, the car is test driven a second time to verify everything is perfect. 

The book Supercars - Lotus Esprit Turbo by John Simister, has a whole chapter and lots of pictures documenting the process of building the car.

If you are interested, Lotus also offers free weekly guided tours of their assembly line. Contact the factory at Hethel for an appointment.

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The Early (Giugiaro) Years Although they looked fast, the very first Esprits were very under-powered. Horsepower of the Lotus Type 907 engine was a meager 160hp.

In the early 1980's a turbocharger was added to the Type 910. This improved performance to 210hp @ 6,500rpm and 200ft/lbs torque at 4250rpm. 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, top speed was 140+ mph.

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88MY Esprit Turbo This was the year of the first Peter Stevens Esprit. It was the year the name was flipped from Turbo Esprit to Esprit Turbo. The 1988MY was essentially re-skinned 1987 Turbo Esprit. Its engine had a Bosch fuel injection system and the same Citroen gearbox. Engine compression was 8.0:1 and boost was increased to 9.5psi. Output was 215hp, 220ft/lbs torque. 0-60 in 5.1, top speed 146mph.

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89MY Esprit Turbo 1989 brought the GM Multi-Port Fuel Injection, which gave the car more horsepower. Other changes included outboard brakes and a change to the current Renault-based gearbox. Engine horsepower increased slightly to 228hp.

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89-1/2MYEsprit Turbo SE The Esprit Turbo SE (Special Equipment) was sold in the US in what is known as the 19891/2 Model Year and was built until 1993MY after which time the S4 was introduced. Apart from twin oil coolers, different aerodynamics, and bigger wheels, what really sets this car apart from its predecessor is the addition of a water-to-air intercooler, which Lotus refers to as a "Chargecooler". This increased horsepower dramatically from 228hp to a transient peak of 280bhp. When new, SE's cost about $12,000US more than their non-SE counterparts.

In order to tell them apart, hear are some cues:

SE's were introduced in May 1989. Check the date on the manufacture plate on the driver doorsill, it will also say if it is an SE. If the car you're checking out is anything like mine, the exterior SE badges (on the quarter windows) may have been removed. But there are still visual cues to help you determine if a car you see in a parking lot or driving by is indeed an SE: 

  • Side skirts are parallel to body, not scalloped or "pinched-in" at mid-door 
  • Front air dam is more "square-ish" and has 5 openings; the outermost openings are for the twin oil coolers, which non-SE's do not have. 
  • An air duct on each side of the air dam, ahead of the front wheels (oil cooler exhausts). 
  • All SE's have a rear wing (spoiler) of some kind. The wing on '93MY is slightly larger than other years. Most non-SE's (except commemorative editions, or aftermarket) do not have rear wings. 
  • Wider and larger wheels: Front 215/50ZR15 on 7inch wheels. Rear  245/50ZR16 on 8.5inch wheels 
  • And, of course, a big red rectangular box atop the engine that says "Lotus Chargecooler". 
Performance statistics included: 264 hp @ 6,500rpm (280hp peak), 261ft/lbs at 3,900 rpm, 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, top speed was 164mph. Boost was increased to 12.4psi.

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90MY X180R On October 9, 1990, Lotus Cars USA put for sale twenty World Challenge Race Car Replicas built to commemorate the success of Doc Bundy in the 1990 SCCA Escort World Challenge. The cars listed for approximately $134,000, although none were probably sold at that high a price. The last of the twenty cars was finally sold for about $70,000 in 1996, years after it was built. The specifications for the cars were as follows:

 Body

  • Monaco White paint work 
  • Deep skirt front air darn 
  • Front-wheel air deflectors 
  • Optimized competition rear wing 
  • Reduced ride height 
  • Road type full roll cage 
  • Matt black exterior mirrors 
  • Opening composite roof panel 
  • World Challenge decals 
  • Parts vendor identification kit 

 Chassis

  • Fully adjustable competition suspension 
  • 225145-ZR 16 Goodyear Eagle front tires 
  • 225/50-ZR 16 Goodyear Eagle rear tires 
  • Revolution 3-piece racing wheels 
  • AP Racing 4-pot [piston] caliper brakes 
  • Competition brake discs with cooling ducts 
  • Revised steering geometry 
  • High-rate suspension springs 
  • Monroe shock absorbers with competition valves 
  • Brembo disc parking brake 
  • 'Get you home' tire inflator replacing spare wheel 

 Powertrain

  • Increased capacity engine chargecooler 
  • Hand-finished cylinder head 
  • Competition oil pan with anti-surge baffles 
  • Limited-slip final drive differential 
  • Competition transmission casing 
  • Special gear-selector forks 

 Interior

  • Black doeskin upholstery 
  • Perforated hide-wearing surfaces 
  • Competition-type bucket seats 
  • Black anti-glare instrument panel 
  • 225mph electronic speedometer 
  • 4in tachometer 
  • Optimized foot pedal locations 
  • 'Trackgrip' brake-pedal location 
  • Competition-developed left foot rest 
  • Aluminum heel rest plate 
  • Door-mounted grab handles 
  • Lightweight gray carpet 
  • Reduced sound deadening package 
  • Cabin and windshield beater 
  • Optimized interior package deleting clock, ashtrays; map pocket and air conditioning. 

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90MY to 91MY Esprit Turbo SE These were the safety years for the Esprit. The major introductions during this time were the inclusion of standard anti-lock brakes and driver side air bag. Unfortunately, the air bag installation was accomplished by grafting a steering wheel from a Pontiac TransAm - Yuck!

Also during this time, the driver-side a/c vents were moved to the instrument binnacle (dash). This was a huge improvement in reducing soreness from the dreaded FKS (Frozen Knee Syndrome). In the 1990MY FKS now stands for Frozen Knuckle Syndrome.

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92MYEsprit Turbo SE There were no Esprits brought into the USA for the 1992 model year. The rest of the world received an Esprit with a new oversized wing known as the "highwing". This wing looks like a normal SE-style wing, but on much taller struts and with additional support struts that attached to the top of the tailgate. Although it helped to improve rearward visibility, most people regard this as one of the ugliest wing designs ever to adorn the rear of an Esprit.

Most Stevens' Esprits up until this year (except for commemorative editions) had a 3 separate pieces of glass in the rear view. The rearmost of these was known as the "glassback" and helped reduce the drag coefficient of the car. Unfortunately, this also contributed to a confusing array of reflections, especially during night driving.  The "glassback" design was replaced with an open tailgate with 2 oval vents (for engine cooling) this year. Again another attempt to improve the Esprit's dreadful rear visibility. The rest of the car remained unchanged.

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92MY Sport300 This is the hot-rod, 300-hp, race-ready version of the X180 racecar. It's not available in the US, so don't even think about it. But just in case you're curious, refer to the detailed changes section below to see what it included. 

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93MYEsprit Turbo SE The 93MY included the following changes: 
  • A larger SE style rear wing. 
  • Except for commemorative editions, the 1993MY was the first USA Stevens' model without the glassback design. 
  • Revolution alloy wheels in painted black with a polished silver lip were an option. These are one-piece imitations of the three-piece ones found on the X180R limited edition. 
  • A front rubber lip spoiler to protect the underside of the front valance. 

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93-1/2MYEsprit Turbo SE The 931/2MY was a transition into the later S4. It included the following changes: 
  • Passenger side airbag 
  • S4-style interior with (slightly) more head, leg, and shoulder room. 
  • Flush, body-colored exterior door handles. 
  • Wider opening doors. 
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94MY to 95MY Esprit S4 In the 1993-1/2MY, the interior of the SE was redesigned to make the cabin a little roomier. This interior was also to become the interior of the new Esprit S4 in the 1994MY. In that year, the rounded exterior of the Peter Stevens' Esprit became rounded even further. This redesign was masterfully done by Julian Thompson, who later went on to design the famous Elise Roadster.

The most significant change was the redesign of the rear spoiler, which was smaller and mounted halfway up the rear of the hatch or decklid. This improved rearward visibility by moving the spoiler out of the line of sight of the rear view mirror, but it also gave the Esprit an awkward look from certain angles. The other major exterior changes introduced with the S4 were to the front and rear bumpers and valance panels and to the side skirts, which now featured conical-shaped intakes. The Esprit also received beautiful new 5 spoke alloy wheels and power steering this year. Horsepower for the S4 remained at 264 hp.

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95MY to 95-1/2MY Esprit S4s The Esprit S4 was built for 94 and 95MY. In 1995 a special package was introduced known as the S4 "Sport" or S4s. The most dramatic external cue to differentiate it was a new "hoop" rear wing that gave the car a more contemporary look but again made rearward visibility more difficult. This is also the same wing found on the Sport300. Gorgeous OZ 3-piece alloy wheel, again from the Sport300, were an option that gave the car a more aggressive appearance. These wheels were wrapped around a new set of Brembo calipers and discs.

Essentially the S4s is a Sport300 in S4 clothing. The Sport300 engine with its 300bhp, enlarged inlet valves, modified cylinder head, re-calibrated ECM with higher boost (1.0 bar), increased capacity oil sump, Garret T3/60 turbo with enlarged compressor wheel, 300 horsepower is all there.  It does not have the Lotus Limited Slip Differential of the Sport300, however.

Recently, I had the good fortune of acquiring a new S4s. The following is some of my personal impressions with my new baby.

First the bad stuff:

The clutch pedal is *a lot* heavier than before. It probably requires twice the foot pressure as my old SE. It is also much more digital (on-off) in nature, so it takes a little more skill to release smoothly. I think this has to do with the fact that they moved the pedal box forward in the car to increase leg room. In doing so, they have limited the travel of the pedals. This has caused two unwanted side effects: 

  1. the clutch pedal releases much closer to the front bulkhead than before. What this means is that the wheel well now interferes a little more with your feet than before. It takes more concentration to make sure that the clutch is fully released than before. If your foot is a little too far to the left, the pedal won't go all the way down to the floor. 
  2. There is now very little room left behind the clutch pedal. This used to be my favorite place to put my left foot when I wasn't using the clutch. Now, my foot doesn't fit back there. I feel a bit more uncomfortable in longer drives because I don't know where to put my foot. 
The accelerator is a lot more responsive than before. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The "foot travel-to-RPM change" ratio is a lot smaller than it used to be. While this throttle response is definitely a good thing when you're trying to accelerate, it is more annoying when you're trying to relax. Your foot has to be in the same, rock-steady position, otherwise you may find your speed varying by 20 MPH. In a long trip, your legs and feet will get tired more quickly.

Turbo lag is almost non-existent. Now you may be asking yourself:  "Why on earth would this be a bad thing?". It isn't. However, since boost comes on a lot more quickly and smoothly, the trademark "whack on the back of the head with a nine iron" is gone. Consequently, the car feels slower than the SE. Trust me, IT'S NOT! It's just that the sudden, instantaneous power rush is gone.

The steering wheel sucks. It came out of the GM parts bin and it shows. The rim is stitched but it's made out of imitation leather. It is definitely thinner than the Nardi wheel on the SE without the airbag. I miss that chunky feeling enough that I might be willing to replace it with a Momo wheel, even if it does mean I have to do without an airbag.

Although the lumbar area of the seats is much more supportive, the seat cushion is not. The SE seats felt like they held your rear in place under the tightest turns. The S4s seats feel like you would be sliding all over the place.

I miss my glove compartment. I usually drive alone, so having a passenger-side airbag is of limited use. I run out of space for CD jewel cases.

Now the good stuff:

You get the smoother body of a S4, but with a Sport 300 style wing replacing the awkward little S4 wing. Some people don't like the S4s wing and prefer the smaller SE wing instead. I like both, but I think I might prefer the newer one. The S4s has outrageous looks and the new wing seems to fit this image a lot more than the understated SE wing. I definitely get a lot more compliments on it. Both the SE and S4s wing block rear view about the same amount. However, since the SE wing sits lower, the view is bisected by the wing. This allows you to see vehicles that are up close below the wing and those farther away above it. In the S4s, the wing blocks the upper portion of the view, so you get a little more view of things close up, but the vehicles farther away are completely concealed.

The brakes are a lot better. They have ABS and have Brembo calipers and huge ventilated discs. The shiny black Brembo front calipers look nice through the wheels too.

The shifter has a redesigned short-shift mechanism. This means that the mile long travel of the 1-2 shift has been significantly reduced. It is now slightly less than 2 inches from first to second. The shift feel is also more precise with less slop.

The S4s has an upgraded spring and shock package. It doesn't feel any less stiff than the SE suspension, yet it seems to take bumps on the road in a much more civilized manner.

The leather is a lot nicer feeling. It is the same Connolly leather found in the Rolls Royce. It has a softer, silkier feel.

This is the first Lotus I have owned with power steering. It makes a real difference when you're trying to park. The only annoying part is the noise the power steering pump is making. I don't know if this is normal and I will have to get it checked out.

The turn radius on the car is spectacular. It literally feels as if you are rotating about the center of the car. It's almost like when a military tank puts one tread in forward gear and the other in reverse; the tank just sits there spinning. Between this and the power steering, I seem to be able to maneuver around the tightest turns.

The S4s is more civilized and smoother at speed than the SE. It almost feels as if you're going slower than you really are - which is not a good thing when you're trying to avoid getting speeding tickets.

The doors open wider, allowing for easier entry/exit from the vehicle. However, the larger seat bolsters of the S4s seats do restrict access a bit more than the SE.

This is not standard, but my S4s came with a Flowmaster muffler with dual exhaust. The sound is absolutely glorious! It's got that deep, gurgly V8 rumble and that throaty wail at high RPMs. The only problem is that it's hard to sneak into my neighborhood without waking everybody up. :-)

The car has an ultrasonic alarm/immobiliser and the US-standard JVC in-dash CD player. The stereo sounds very nice, but usually prefer to pop up the roof panel and listen to the exhaust note instead. The new roof-mounted whip antenna  is nicer than the power antenna on the SE and will be one less thing to break. Some people say it makes the car look like a remote control car, though! Oh, the stereo actually talks to you!

Norfolk Mustard is the most perfect shade of yellow on the planet. It has just the right amount of orange in it to keep it from looking "lemony". The color is extremely similar to the yellow used in traffic signs and the envelopes that Kodak photos come in. I call it "Kodak Gold" or (more appropriately) "Arrest me Yellow"! I get tons on compliments on the color of the car.

Finally, the other day I took the car for a spin. At one point, as I was shifting between second and third, I glanced down to the speedo to see I was going about 90mph. All I could think of was: "I still have 3 more gears to go!"  Another time I was on the on-ramp to the interstate. Before I merged in, I was already going 115. Pray for me not to get a speeding ticket in this thing or someone will have to post bail.

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97MY Esprit V8 In the 1997 model year, Lotus finally put to rest one of the biggest gripes that the automotive media had about the Esprit. It did this by introducing the Esprit V8.

Externally, the main differences between the 1997 V8 and its predecessor (the 1995 S4s - there was no official 1996 Esprit) is a new look to the front valance panel, twin tailpipe exhaust (one per side), and beautiful new AWI six spoke allow wheels. Internally, the 1997 V8 is identical to the S4s except for a small V8 logo on one of the gauges. The real difference lies under the decklid where the brand new 3.5 liter 350HP Twin Turbo engine known as the Lotus 918 breathes.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 97MY V8 includes. 
 

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97MY to 98MY GT3 The GT3 was introduced by Lotus in 1996 as an "entry-level" Esprit. By putting a smaller, less-powerful 2.0 liter engine and deleting some of the luxury options of the Esprit they made the Esprit affordable to a new market of supercar owners.  The GT3 is not available for sale in the USA because it doesn't comply with federal regulations. Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the GT3 includes.  

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98MY Esprit V8 As usual, Lotus introduces major changes in an incremental fashion. So it came as no surprise that in 1998 the Esprit V8 had other significant modifications.

The exterior of the 1998 Esprit V8 looks identical to the 1997MY except for the new rear wing. The wing looks slightly similar to the one on the previous model, but mounted on struts to raise its height, thus improving rearward visibility. I think it looks a little like a Salvador Dali rendition of the Lamborghini Diablo VT wing on steroids - not that that's a bad thing. And I must admit that the design has grown on me. But the big changes in 1998 came from the re-design of the interior and the gearchange.

The interior of the Esprit was re-done by replacing the binnacle with a much smaller unit that now only holds four gauges. The center console was also redone to make it smaller. Unfortunately, while doing this, Lotus also did away with the convenient storage tray on the tunnel top. As if storage room inside the cabin wasn't limited enough already. Since Federal models don't have a glovebox, this leaves you with the small bin between the seats and map pockets behind the seats as your only location to store CD jewel cases. 

Vents have been relocated to improve ventilation in the cabin. And, although they look similar to prior models, the a/c controls now actuate dampers and such electronically rather than mechanically.

Although the engine remains the same in 1998, the clutch was replaced to help remedy one of the Esprit's long standing ailments. The new AP Racing clutch has a smaller diameter and half the rotational inertia. This, combined with a new clutch hydraulics system helps reduce travel and reduces pedal effort dramatically. In addition, the gear-selector mechanism was re-designed and simplified to reduce some of the slop.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 98MY V8 includes.  

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98MY Esprit V8-GT For 1998 Lotus also introduced a new model known as the V8-GT. This model adopts the spirit of the GT-3, but with a V8 engine under the skin. It distinguishes itself from the standard V8 by stripping away some of the niceties such as a/c, stereo, leather interior, and rear wing. These deletions result in a weight reduction of about 100 pounds. Although, in theory, the power to weight ratio is increased by this, Lotus quotes identical performance specs for the V8 and V8-GT. The price, however, is drastically reduced by more than $15,000US. Of course this makes no difference to those of us in the USA, since the car is not for sale here. 

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 98MY V8-GT includes.  

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99MY Esprit V8 SE and V8-GT The only significant change for the 1999MY Esprit V8 and V8-GT is the use of, yet another, different wheel design. The wheel is again made by OZ Racing of Italy and looks like a smoother, rounder version of the AWI 6-spoke wheel found on the 97-98MY V8. The lug bolts are covered with a center cap similar to the one on the OZ Futura Modular 3-piece wheels (available as an option since the 95MY S4s) instead of being exposed as in the AWI wheel.

Also this year, the name of the standard V8 has been changed to V8 SE. However, unlike the previous SE which introduced some significant performance changes, there is no "special equipment" to differentiate this model from it's predecessor.

The Esprit V8-GT is a more stripped-down version and is not available in the USA. It does away with the rear wing and uses imitation leather. The speed is electronically limited to 170mph instead of the SE's 175mph.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 99MY V8 includes.  

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99MY Sport350 At the 1998 British International Motor Show in Birmingham, Lotus showcased a new Esprit dubbed the Sport350. 

At first glance, the new car looks identical to the 1998 V8-GT except for the use of new graphics, different wheels and the addition of yet another wing style. Lotus should get an award for the most new wing designs on a vehicle in any given time span. Since 1989 the Esprit has worn no less than 7 different wing styles. It seems this is their most creative (and inexpensive) way to update the look of the car year after year. This time, the wing design (made of carbon fiber) was actually borrowed from the Elise-based Lotus GT1 that participated in the 1997 FIA GT racing series. Unfortunately, some owners have complained that the wing is not very water resistant and actually warps if exposed to the rain and sun too much.

Unlike the Sport300, which boasted a significant increase in performance and horsepower over the standard Esprit of its time, the Sport350 has the same 350hp of the regular Esprit V8. The ECM has been recalibrated to redistribute the torque curve further down. But any improvement would be mostly due to a reduction in weight of almost 80kg. Most of this reduction can be attributed to a thinner lower body shell which is hand-laid as opposed to vacuum assisted (VARI) the standard way.

Braking performance is certainly improved with the use of the same huge 4-pot front calipers from AP Racing found on the Sport300. In this particular car, the blue-painted calipers clamp onto larger, 2-piece cross-drilled rotors that help make brake fade a thing of the past. 

The fancy rotors and calipers can be seen through a set of new OZ Racing Crono Magnesio 5-spoke wheels that have the distinction of being the lightest road wheels money can buy. These wheels are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber that increases in size to 295/35 at the rear. Although car magazines claim that Lotus may have increased the tire width due to their reviewers' complaints of  rear wheel spin, my guess is that the increase in size is most likely due to the fact that Pirelli doesn't make the P-Zero in the same 285/35 size found on the standard V8.

Other external styling features of the Sport350 include special silver paint, silver grille mesh in the lower body openings and a lower lip spoiler that is sure to scrape on many a driveway or speed hump. The blue theme of the calipers is continued elsewhere on the vehicle including the side skirts, the engine cam covers and on the seats and door trim.

The instrument binnacle cover and center console are made of genuine carbon fiber which is more likely for looks more than weight reduction. Touches in anodized aluminum can be found on the shifter and surround, the instrument facia, and the door panels.

Sport350 production was limited to 50 units, each with it's own numbered identification plate. 

In late 1999  Lotus decided to make 8 Sport 350's especially for the USA market. Their specification is similar to those listed above for the ROW and Domestic market, with the exception of the silver/blue paint scheme, Sport 350 graphics on doors and top, blue seat inserts, the blue engine, blue calipers, and the carbon fiber interior.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 99MY Sport 350 includes.  
 

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2000MY Esprit The 2000MY Esprit varies only slightly from its predecessor. Differences are as follows:
 
  • AP Racing cross-drilled two-piece brake discs (320 mm) with four piston calipers replacing the previous Brembo System (1995-1999) on the front brakes. Rears retain the small single piston Brembo caliper on new mounting brackets to accommodate the larger 2-piece drilled discs. These are the same brakes found on the Sport 350. They should improve pedal feel and optimize heat dissipation (fade resistance) under sustained heavy braking.
  • Revised Engine Management System. Again, transplanted from the Sport 350, this new ECM  enhances torque application in lower gears providing improved in-gear acceleration and greater flexibility on demanding roads.
  • The standard  Lotus-O.Z. Racing six spoke aluminum alloy wheels now come with Lotus centers.
  • The optional Lotus-O.Z. Racing five spoke magnesium alloy wheels with Lotus centers offer a significant reduction in un-sprung weight. These are the same OZ Crono Magnesio magnesium wheels that came standard on the Sport350.
  • Center console and door inserts are now finished in the same color as the car's exterior paint
  • The tail-lamp and License plate surrounds are now finished in body color instead of black trim (1995-1999) to elegantly finish the rear of the car.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 00MY V8 includes.  
 

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2001MY Esprit The 2001MY Esprit is almost identical to the 2000MY. There were promotional pictures of a red Esprit V8 which featured changes to the wheel and tire specifications. However, the only car to feature these was Arnie Johnson's (president of Lotus Cars USA) personal car. In this car, Lotus has finally decided to copy my prototype and use 18in wheels in the front as well as the rear. New wheel designs again update the look of the car. This time around the fashion was a 16-spoke OZ Nova with Lotus logo center caps. Tire sizes originally were to change to 235/35-ZR18 front and 295/35-ZR18 rear. However, in the end, the standard 17in fronts from previous years were retained. So, despite the pictures, no 2001MY vehicles were sold with this new wheel/tire package

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 01MY V8 includes.  
 

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2002MY Esprit The 2002MY Esprit was introduced to the world in December 2001. It differs from prior models most notably on its rear. The rectangular Toyota taillights that have graced the rear of the Esprit since the 88MY are replaced with two pairs of round lights whose lenses are shared with the Elise II. Additionally, the rear transom has new Esprit lettering in a beautiful mirrored font. This lettering is actually a decal that is available for installation to earlier models for about $15US from you friendly Lotus Parts Dealer. Around the front, the lip spoiler first seen on the Sport350 is standard on all cars. This spoiler is about 1 inch lower than the the previous one so be careful with those curbs and steep driveways. 

Wheel design has changed once again. The OZ Nova Monobloc16-spoke wheels first seen on the promotional shots and described in the 2001MY section have now become standard equipment for the Esprit.

The interior remains basically the same except for an anodized aluminum brake handle and aluminum door sill plates. Non-USA market cars have the Esprit logo on these plates whereas USA cars all feature a 25th Anniversary logo. The same logo is also replicated in the rear quarter window decals as well as stitched onto the headrests of the seats. The sill plates (with the Esprit logo, not the 25th anniversary variant) and brake handle lever are available for installation on previous models as well.

The other major difference between USA and non-USA cars is in the design of the exhaust and lower rear valence. While the non-USA cars are equipped with the same dual exhaust with one outlet pipe per side as in previous years, Arnie Johnson (LCU CEO) was given the option of an alternate configuration. Lotus offered to build either twin or quad centrally-mounted pipes. Since the car already had the new round taillights, choosing to go with quad piped would have appeared as an effort to imitate the Corvette configuration. Arnie chose to have the car have dual pipes with a drilled aluminum rear valence. Although the sound of the new exhaust is improved, the drilled look of the valence inspires thoughts of Swiss cheese. This has earned the valence the nickname of "the cheese grater". Some owners may consider painting the lower valence black to offer more contrast and tone down the look. The natural, unpainted finish looks best with dark body colors such as black or the beautiful new Metallic Green available for the first time this year.

For those who like the look of the new car, these modifications are also be available for retrofit to older Stevens' Esprits. Although at first glance it would appear that changes will require no more than the removal and replacement of the rear light assemblies and the license plate plinth, further inspection reveals that some body work is required. The prior taillight assembly rests on a one inch lip that must be removed from the body in order to accommodate the height of the new rear panel. Furthermore, the holes on the body that the light housings fit into must be enlarged. Other vendors such as Lotus Prepared by Claudius (LPbC) and SJ Sportscars (UK) have come out with solutions that mimic the new round tail light design but do not require the modifications.

One more thing to note is the illumination pattern formed by the round tail lights at night. Although one would think that the entire circumference of the assembly lights up, indeed only half of it does. This causes the lights to look more like a pair of opening on the left side and closing parenthesis on the right. Again LPbC has made modifications to the kit they sell which illuminate the entire housing.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 02MY V8 includes.  
 

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2003MY Esprit The 2003MY Esprit was essentially unchanged from the previous year. The only differences in the design involved the removal or replacement of the various "25th anniversary" logos with a standard Esprit logo as seen on the non-USA versions of the car.

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2003-1/2 and
2004MY Final Run
Esprit
Lotus has been selling the Esprit in the USA market for several years by means of government waivers that have allowed it to bypass some of the stringent federal regulations implemented in recent years. Every year, these regulations get tougher and waivers are harder to get approved. Additionally, Renault gearbox production has all but dried up. Rumor has it that Renault offered to sell the gearbox manufacturing plant to Lotus. They declined; most likely for financial reasons but also because the Renault gearbox is already a relic that cannot handle the power that the Esprit's V8 engine is capable of. In fact, the V8 output had to be detuned from a potential 500HP to only 350HP to prevent gearbox damage.

Due to these factors, Lotus has decided to cease production of the Esprit after more than 27 years. Production ended in December 2003 for USA market cars while other markets finished earlier in the year. Now that the current Esprit build run is complete, Lotus Cars USA will be relying on the sale of the Federal Elise to keep them in business in the USA market. The Elise started being delivered in July 2004 for approximately $39,000US and features a Lotus-modified, 190HP version of the Toyota Celica GTS 4-cylinder engine.

The last production of 33 Federal Esprits was know as the "Esprit Final Run Edition". In all states except California, this car was be labeled as a 2004MY. In California, the car was sold as a 2003-1/2MY car. This was done to avoid some of the more stringent environmental regulations which went into effect for that state for 2004 and newer cars. These regulations would have involved further development of the ECM software code at a  great expense to Lotus. Since this was the last year of production, it was decided it would be more sensible to simply refer to those cars as 2003-1/2 cars instead.

The 2004MY Esprit Final Run Edition has a few modifications to distinguish it from previous models.

  • Bilstein Dampers with stiffened settings and adjustable spring platforms
  • Uprated Eibach Springs
  • Smart Tire system monitors temperature and pressure of each tire individually
  • New unpainted Stainless steel mesh grills
  • Esprit decal in rear quarter windows has an etched finish
  • Stainless steel plaque with the engine builders name on the plenum
  • All mesh grilles on the front valence and engine compartment are stainless steel in silver finish rather than black.
  • The tow how is silver in most models (although I did see some with back tow hooks)
  • Stainless steel perforated rear valance ("cheesgrater") with new rounded slots and a satin finish
  • The quilted stitching on the seat backs and perforated leather on the seat bottoms and door panels
  • Passenger side airbag cover is embossed with the Lotus roundel
  • Elise style climate control knobs with a brushed aluminum finish
  • New style shorter gear knob is finished in brushed aluminum and topped with a Lotus Badge

The list price for the 2004MY is 94,125.00US.

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The Future Esprit Recently, Tony Shute from Lotus Cars, LTD.  invited several of us to a seminar with the Lotus design team. The goal was to discuss the design issues for the future Esprit replacement. All attendees were required to sign non-disclosure agreements and  no cameras were allowed. However, I can tell you that the Esprit replacement program is well under way and that there is already at least one test mule running on the track at Hethel. The test mule is using a modified Esprit V8 body for camouflage but with a much wider front and rear track. A new engine supplier has already been chosen and we were shown a preliminary 1/6 scale clay model of the car. I can't say much about the shape of the new car except that the wedge styling is still there (for those who feared a larger scale Elise). and is a blend between a Gallardo and the current Stevens Esprit. We were invited to cast our votes on various names for the new vehicle. Although there is the possibility Lotus will reuse the Esprit name, another name may be chosen. Some of the suggested names were rather interesting.

There is no official word on when the replacement will be available; but the current speculation is that a new car will be released at the Paris Motor Show in 2006 in time to celebrate the 30th year anniversary of the introduction of the original Giugiaro design. Once more data is officially released, this site will updated to reflect it.
 

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Special Editions Lotus loves celebrating milestones by coming out with special editions of Esprits all the time. There have been John Player Special Editions, Jim Clark Special Editions, 40th Anniversary Special Editions, etc, etc, etc. When looking at a used Esprit, don't let yourself be fooled by the dealer into paying too much more for one of these. When you think about it, Lotus has made so few cars, that every car is, in effect, a "limited edition".

The only major exception to the above statement (other than the Sport300 and Sport350) is the limited production of twenty X180R models mentioned above. These race-ready Esprits sold for $134,000US when new, and are definitely going to be worth more in the used-car market.

By the way, for trivia's sake, at one point five out of the twenty X180R's belonged to Microsoft employees. 
 

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Detailed Changes in the Esprit from 1988MY - On The following is a detailed list of all the changes and modifications that have been made to the Esprit range since 1988 when the Stevens Esprit was introduced.

VIN
There are three variations of the VIN; prior to '98 M.Y. there is one for domestic and non-USA export markets, which complies with European Economic Community (EEC) directives; and one for the USA which complies with requirements laid down by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). From '98 M.Y. - On, a common coding is used. For details on how the VIN is coded refer to the VIN topic in the next section.

NOTES
1. Prior to '98 M.Y., different serial number sequences are used for the following variants: 

     S4 prior to '95 M.Y.:  0001 to 0010, then 1011 onwards 
     S4 '95 M.Y.:   2000 onwards 
     S4S USA.   3000 onwards 
     S4S non-USA:   4000 onwards 
     Sport 300:   8001 onwards 
     Esprit V8:   5009 onwards 
2. For change point identification in this manual, only VIN characters 10 (model year) and 14 to 17, (serial number) will be listed. e.g.: 
    R 1242 ('94 model year S4, serial 1242) 
    R 8030 ('94 model year Sport 300, serial 8030) 
ESPRIT MODEL HISTORY - '88 to Present
(Note: All N.A. & carburetor turbo models are non-catalyst.  All fuel injection cars and all USA models are catalyst equipped.) 
    '88 Model Year Introduction       October '87
    Esprit (N.A.); U.K. & Export 85 D 3000, 85 A/E/G/H/S 1000 
    Esprit Turbo; U.K. & Export 82 D 3000, 82 A/E/G/H/S 1000 
    Esprit Turbo (H.C.P.I.); USA F - 2000 
    As prior '88 M.Y. cars except: 
    • Peter Stevens designed body, Lotus O.Z. wheels, open back (N.A.) or glazed (Turbo) tailgate.  Non-USA cars; Renault transmission. USA spec.: Citroen transmission (as prior '88), Bosch fuel injection. 


    USA Esprit Turbo 'Limited Edition':       March '88
    As '88 M.Y. USA cars except: 

    • Pearlescent white body, wheels & mirrors 
    • Open back tailgate 
    • Strut mounted rear spoiler 
    • Sony compact disc auto-changer 
    • Elm instrument masks 
    • Silver fascia plaque. 


    '89 Model Year:        October '88
    Esprit (N.A.); U.K. & Export 85 D 3374, 85 A/E/G/H/S 1087 
    Esprit Turbo: U.K. & Export 85 D 3374, 85 A/E/c/H/S 1087 
    Esprit Turbo (M.P.F.I.); USA      F - 2500 
    As '88 M.Y. cars except: 

    • Heated door mirrors 
    • Central door locking 
    • Electric filler flap release. 
    • USA spec.: Lotus/Delco multi-point fuel injection, Renault transmission. 


    40th Anniversary Commemorative Esprit Turbo (Except USA): November '88
    As '89 M.Y. cars except: 

    • Carburetor Turbo (U.K.) or M.P.F.I. versions. 
    • Pearlescent white body, wheels & mirrors 
    • Strut mounted rear spoiler 
    • Front spoiler bib 
    • Sony compact disc auto-changer 
    • Elm instrument masks 
    • Silver fascia plaque. 


    Esprit Turbo 'S.E.' (Chargecooler): 82/F 5000  May '89
    As '89 M.Y. cars except: 

    • Air/water charge air cooled turbo engine with Lotus/Delco fuel injection 
    • 16" rear wheels and Goodyear Eagle tires 
    • Revised suspension geometry 
    • Restyled front spoiler and sill ducts 
    • Strut mounted rear spoiler. 


    Commonisation of 'Eagle Chassis':      May '89
    N.A. RHD 85 D 3582 
    Turbo RHD 82 D 3587 
    N.A. & Turbo LHD     85/82 D 1152 
    USA spec. RHD 82/F - 2728 
    USA spec. LHD 82/F - 2749 
    As '89 M.Y. cars except: 

    • Chargecooler type chassis and suspension, with 16" rear wheels and Goodyear Eagle tires. 


    '91 Model Year Esprit, Esprit 'S' & Esprit 'S.F.': M 0001  October '90
    U.K. only - Carburetor Turbo (Esprit) 
    U.K. only - M.P.F.I. Turbo (Esprit 'S') 
    Export - M.P.F.I. Turbo (Esprit) 
    Worldwide - Chargecooled M.P.F.I. Turbo (Esprit S.E./Esprit) 
    SE' designation dropped for chargecooler cars in non-USA LHD markets to avoid trademark infringement. 
    (N.A. model discontinued) 
    As 'Eagle Chassis' or Esprit Turbo S.E. except: 

    • ABS brakes. 
    • Carburetor model has open back tailgate, 4-slot rear valance (as previous N.A.), and 'no fogs' front spoiler. 


    '92 Model Year Esprit & Esprit 'S.E.'   N 0001   October '91
    U.K. only - Carburettor Turbo (Esprit) 
    Worldwide - Chargecooled M.P.F.I. Turbo (Esprit S.E./Esprit) 'SE' designation dropped for chargecooler cars in non-USA LHD markets avoid trademark infringement. 
    As '91 M.Y. cars except: 

    • Increased interior space with revised pedal box and interior trim, wider door opening. 
    • C/cooler models; open back tailgate with oval vents, high mounted spoiler, front spoiler bib. 
    • Carb. model; 'S.E.' type sills. 


    '93 Model Year Introduction: March '93
    Esprit S4 (U.K. & Export, not USA): VIN: P 0001 to 0010, 1011 onwards 
    As '92 M.Y. Chargecooler specification with following changes: 

    • Restyled front bumper and spoiler, bonnet, sills, rear aerofoil, transom spoiler, rear valance. 
    • Power steering. 
    • Front suspension geometry altered with provision for camber adjustment. 
    • Rear suspension camber changed, with provision for adjustment. 
    • 17 inch Lotus styled 5-spoke alloy wheels, with 215/40 ZR17 (front) and 245/45 ZR17 (rear) Goodyear Eagle GS-A tires. 
    • New door window lift mechanism, incorporating 'one touch' and obstruction sensing. 
    • New door lock mechanism and CDL, with single key operation of vehicle locks. 
    • Megamoss vehicle alarm includes 'deadlocking' and engine crank immobilization. 
    • Restyled interior including: fascia, crash pad and glovebox lid, seat upholstery, instrument layout and carbon fiber look-alike masks, center console and tunnel trim, door panels, steering wheel.
    • Elan type front side/turn lamps, new front fog lamps and interior lamp 
    • Electric vacuum pump 
    • Tailgate-mounted radio aerial. 
    • Revised 'High Torque' RH shift transmission. 
    • New wheel changing scissor jack. 
     

    Sport 300: June '93
    U.K. & Export (not USA) VIN: P 8001 
    As Esprit S4 specification with following changes: 

    • Lightweight body, bonded-in roof, scuttle brace, enlarged wheel housings with wheelarch extensions, '92 style front bumper/spoiler, fog lamp recesses now brake cooling ducts, '92 style rear bumper, valance and sills. New rear aerofoil. 
    • Reinforced chassis, bolt-in engine bay brace, roll cage mountings. 
    • 300 bhp engine with J3/T4 turbocharger, increased boost pressure, recalibrated ECM, larger inlet valves and ports, raised fuel pressure, combined chargecooler rad./condenser on non a.c. cars. 
    • Lotus limited slip differential, uprated clutch cover and flywheel. 
    • Revised front and rear suspension springs and dampers. 
    • Larger front and rear brakes, with AP Racing 4-piston calipers and ventilated discs at all four wheels. 
    • Separate parking brake calipers. 
    • 3-piece O.Z. wheels with 245/45 ZR16 (front) and P315/35 ZR17 (rear) Goodyear Eagle GSC tires. 
    • Alcantara interior trim 
    • Senotex instrument masks 
    • Larger tachometer and electronic speedometer 
    • Molded bucket seats 
    • Anti-slip pedal pads 
    • Individually numbered header rail plaque. 


    '94 Model Year Introduction: July '93
    Esprit S4 (U.K. & Export inc. USA): VIN: R 1090 
    Sport 300 (U.K. & Export, not USA): VIN: R 8012 
    U.K. and Export S4 and Sport 300 unchanged. 
    USA S4 introduced with following changes from U.K./Export spec.: 

    • Different window lift motors with no 'one touch' or obstruction sensing. 


    Dual S.l.R. for USA and LHD Export: September '93
    Esprit S4 (USA & LHD Export): VIN: R 1163 
    Introduced as legal requirement for USA cars, and as option in some LHD markets. 
    S.I.R. equipment as driver only S.I.R. with following changes: 

    • Passenger side inflator module mounted in place of glovebox. 
    • Passenger side knee bolster. 
    • New DERM and dual pole arming sensor. 


    Revised Wiring Harness: December '93
    Esprit S4 LHD: VIN: R 1242 
    Esprit S4 RHD; VIN: R 1250 
    Sport 300; VIN: R 8030 
    As previous with following changes: 

    • Wiring harnesses rationalized. 
    • Electrical components resited inc. engine bay components to RHR wheelarch. 
    • Addition of sensing switches to front bonnet and tailgate for alarm and illumination. 
    • Addition of front luggage compartment lamp, and 'lights on' buzzer (non-USA). 
    • New type inertia switch RHF engine bay, and Elan type electric aerial for some markets, LHR quarter. 
    • New engine coolant header tank, with incorporation of chargecooling system. 


    Brembo Brakes: June '94
    Esprit S4 Non-USA:  VIN: R 1443 (+ R 1377)  July '94 
    Esprit S4 USA:   VIN:  S1391   June'94 
    (Not applicable to Sport 300) 
    Introduction on USA cars coincides with intro. of otherwise unchanged '95 M.Y. USA S4. 
    Changes include the following: 

    • Front brakes: four piston calipers and larger discs. 
    • Rear brakes: new calipers and larger ventilated discs. 
    • Rear circuit pressure limiting/proportioning valve deleted. 
    • Revised front hubs and rear hub carriers. 
    • 16" spare wheel supplied to clear new brakes. 


    '95 M.Y. S4 & S4S: January '95
    S4 (non-USA): VIN: S 2000 (+1496) 
    S4S (USA); VIN: S 3000 
    S4S (non-USA) VIN: S 4000 
    As previous with following principal changes: 

    • Caerbont instruments with 100 mm speedo & tacho, analogue clock. 
    • Oil temp. gauge and ice detection deleted. 
    • Footwell lamps added. 
    • Revised trim stitching. 
    • Walnut veneer replaces 'carbon fiber' instrument panel and door finishers. 
    • Sport 300 style seats on non-USA S4S. 
    • S4S: 285 bhp engine with revised turbo, inlet valves & ECM. Uprated clutch cover. 
    • Non-USA S4S: Enlarged body wheelhousings, wheelarch spats, Sport 300 rear aerofoil. 
    • Non-USA S4S: Wider O.Z. Futura 3-piece wheels with Michelin 235/40 ZR17 front & 285/35ZR18 rear tires. Revised springs & dampers. 
    • USA S4S: O.Z. Futura 3-piece wheels in unchanged size with unchanged Goodyear tires. 
    • Non-USA S4S: Uprated chassis with reinforced backbone & revised rear spring platforms. 


    Introduction of 'CFC Free' R134a Air Conditioning System: March '95
    S4. VIN: S 2031 (RHD) S 2017 (LHD) 
    S4S (non-USA): VIN: S 4035 (RHD) S 4006 (LHD) 
    S4S(USA): VIN: S 3012 
    Sport3OO: VIN: S 8059 
    Changes include the  following: 

    • New compressor with high-pressure relief valve incorporated on rear cover; service Shraeder valves replaced by snap connectors in the suction and discharge hoses. 
    • Square shaped parallel flow condensers (2 oft) mounted side by side and plumbed in parallel. 
    • New separate chargecooler radiator. 
    • Receiver-drier with changed molecular sieve material. 
    • New hoses and pipework for increased permeability gas. 


    Commonized Undertray: May '95
    S4: VIN:  S 2034 
    USA S4S: VIN: S 3095 
    Body lower molding commonized with non-USA S4S (enlarged wheelhousings)

    '96 M.Y. S4 & non USA S4S: September '95
    S4; VIN: T2044 
    non-USA S4S: VIN: T 4126 (+4096) 
    Sport3OO: VIN: T8064 
    Specification unchanged. Note that USA models starting with S 3000 are considered 95-1/2MY. No official '96 M.Y. USA cars were built.

    Esprit V8: May '96
    Esprit V8: VIN: T 5009 
    As S4S with following principal changes: 

    • New Lotus type 918 3.5 litre twin turbo V8 engine. No chargecooling. Lotus/Vertronix engine management. 
    • Kelsey-Hayes ABS-415 antilock brake system. 
    • Chassis modifications to accommodate engine and exhaust system. 
    • Cooling system includes recirculation pump and diverter valve. 
    • Larger capacity 'pull-type' clutch. Type UNi 027 transmission with higher 5th ratio and reverse gear brake. 
    • New one-piece road wheels and restyled front spoiler. 
    • New variable displacement a.c. compressor. 
     

    Esprit GT3: October '96
    Esprit GT3; VIN: T 2100 (not USA) 
    Based on S4 model with following changes: 

    • 2 liter (type 920) 250 bhp engine. 
    • No back pressure valve or throttle jack. 
    • No tailgate mounted aerofoil. Swiss type rear transom spoiler lip. 
    • Single fuel filler on LH side. 
    • GT3 decals along door bottoms. 
    • Sport 300 type seats with backs painted body color. 
    • Cloth/vinyl interior trim. 
    • Senotex instrument masks. 
    • Body color composite gear lever shroud. 
    • Aluminum gear lever knob. 
    • Optional panel lamps rheostat; alarm; door edge, bonnet and footwell lamps; lights on buzzer; one touch windows. 


    '97 M.Y. Esprit V8 & GT3: May '96
    USA V8:  VIN: V 5075 (May '96) 
    Non USA V8: VIN: V 5215 (Oct.'96) 
    GT3:  VIN: V2111 (Oct.'96) 
    Specification unchanged.

    Introduction of V8 Twin Plate Clutch: February '97
    EspritV8; VIN: V5280 
    Many cars also retrofitted. 

    • New lightweight flywheel 
    • Low inertia twin plate clutch assembly 
    • Cast iron clutch housing 
    • Pedal downstop 
    • Re-calibrated ECM. 


    '98 M.Y. Esprit V8 & GT3: October '97
    Esprit V8: VIN: W 5408 plus 5374, 5382, 5385 
    GT3: VIN: W 2200 plus 2192 
    As previous with following principal changes: 

    • Restyled interior with compact instrument binnacle, new center console and tunnel top. 
    • Four instrument set, new tell tale clusters, Elise style push switches. Deletion of boost and oil temperature gauges and time clock. 
    • Cobra 6422 security system with remote operation. 
    • Revised interior climate control system, with rotary selector switches and electro-pneumatic flap operation. Stepper motor water valve. New face level vents. Separate re-circulation switch. 
    • New windscreen wiper arm, washer bottle and pump. 
    • V8: Restyled rear aerofoil mounted on tailgate. Locking gas strut for tailgate. 
    • V8: New low effort clutch release system with new hydraulic cylinders and rigid pipe. 
    • V8: Revised clutch fork and stiffer alloy clutch housing. 
    • V8: Revised twin cable gearchange mechanism dispenses with translator. Modified transmission selector cross shaft. Adopted on GT3 together with lower third gear and final drive ratio in June '98 at VIN 2272.. 
    • New Kelsey-Hayes EBC 430 anti-lock brakes electro-hydraulic control unit. 
    • Single Fuel filler.


    Esprit V8-GT: January '98
    Esprit V8-GT: VIN: W 5442 
    As with Esprit V8 with following principal changes: 

    • No rear aerofoil.
    • Long type rear body spoiler.
    • Matte vinyl interior trim.
    • No a/c. (compressor retained for belt routing)
    • V8-GT decal in rear quarter windows.


    Esprit Sport 350: October '98
    Sport 350: VIN: W 5603 
    Limited edition of 50. As Esprit V8-GT with the following principal changes: 
    (Esprit V8 adopts V8 SE moniker to aid identification.)

    • Lightweight handlay lower body half (except SIR cars)
    • Carbon Fibre 'GT1' style rear aerofoil with alloy end plated. Sculpted alloy mounting plinths.
    • Front spoiler extension skirt and rubber lip.
    • New Aluminium body color with 'Sport 350' graphis on doors and sill treadplates. Blue decal tape in sill ducts radiator air intake. Grilles in front valance colored titanium.
    • Magnesium 'Crono'O.Z. wheels in charcoal, with Pirelli P Zero Tires marginaly wider (295) on rear.
    • A.P. Racing 4-pot alloy front calipers, finished in blue with Lotus lettering.
    • Seats with increased lateral support on cushion and backrest/ Seat facings in blue Alcantara.
    • Center console, instrument binnacle, gear lever tray & lower switch panel in satin finish carbon fiber. HRS switch moved to upper switch row.
    • Blue Alcantara door insert panels with body color feature strips.
    • Anodised aluminium instrument mask, gear lever knob, and gear lever gaiter ring. Aluminium plaque on windscreen with limited edition no. 
    • Drilled alloy pads on clutch and brake pedals.
    • Monroe N65 dampers and stiffer springs front and rear. Uprated anti-roll bar.
    • Increased wall thickness chassis tubes around engine bay.
    • Re-calibrated ECM with re-profiled boost curves.
    • Blue painted plenum and cam covers.


    99M.Y. Esprit V8 SE, V8-GT, Sport 350 & GT3: November '98
    V8 models; VIN: X 5657
    GT3;          VIN: X 2287
    Non-USA models unchanged. USA model only: 

    • Revised evaporative emission system. 
    • Anodised aluminium instrument mask, gear lever knob, and gear lever gaiter ring. 
    • Drilled alloy pads on clutch and brake pedals.


    00M.Y.     
    V8 models; VIN: Character 10, 2000 M.Y. = Y
    USA Model only:

    • Emission control: Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) system.
    • AP Racing braking system (as Sport 350).

All markets:

    • Road wheels center cap revised with Lotus badge.
    • Engine: "Lotus" on cam covers machined finish.


    01M.Y.     
    V8 models; VIN: Character 10, 2001 M.Y. = 1

    • Emission control: Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) system commonized for ROW.
    • Engine: USA specification (EGR) commonized for ROW.
    • AP Racing braking system, ROW from VIN 1 0184.
    • Rear license plate plinth and valence aerofoil in body color.


    02M.Y.     
    V8 models; VIN: Character 10, 2002 M.Y. = 2

    • New rear lamps (circular) reflectors & transom panel.
    • New front lip spoiler & extension panel (as Sport 350).
    • OZ Nova sixteen spoke wheels
    • New Esprit decal (all markets) & 25th anniversary Edition (USA only) on transom.
    • Exhaust: twin center outlets & infill panel to bumper (USA only).
    • Seats: optional two-tone trim, fixed rake passenger seat, taller head restraint (Euro only).
    • Silver door trim panels.
    • Alloy parking brake handle.
    • Stainless steel sill plates, Esprit or 25th Anniversary (USA).
    • Fascia serial plate: 25th Anniversary (USA).
    • Headlining option in beige.
    • Satellite Navigation (UK & Euro).
    • Paint: new color range).


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Esprit Production Numbers Until 2003 The following production numbers were provided by Patrick Peal, ex-communications director for Lotus. In the table, HCPI refers to the high-compression engine variant of the Esprit, GMP4 refers to the cars built with the General Motors multiport fuel injection, and Interclr refers to the "SE" variants that have the Lotus Chargecooler engine.

Current Esprit production is about 150 cars per year. However, Lotus is also busy building the Elise roadster at a rate of about 3,000 cars per year.

It's interesting to note that, in 28/years of production, less than 10,000 Esprits were built. By comparison, Porsche builds more than 30,000 cars per year, Ferrari, builds between 3,500 and 5,000 per year, and Ford builds more than 10,000 vehicles per day! In fact, Ford sells more than 30,000 Explorer SUVs in a month! Now you can see why Lotus is a true limited-production, exotic supercar, and why it's so hard to find a dealer or parts for your car. 
 

Year
Esprit
Turbo
HCPI
GMP4

SE

S4
Sport300
S4s

V8

1976 
134 
               
1977 
580 
               
1978 
553 
               
1979 
474 
               
1980 
80 
57 
             
1981 
185 
116 
             
1982 
160 
205 
             
1983 
84 
343 
             
1984 
104 
418 
             
1985 
127 
262 
62 
           
1986 
72 
136 
246 
           
1987 
78 
186 
298 
           
1988 
176 
387 
375 
120 
         
1989 
90 
103 
 
121 
563 
       
1990 
22 
51 
 
698 
       
1991 
 
 
113 
       
1992 
 
   
172 
   
1993 
       
62 
233 
25 
   
1994 
         
339 
30 
 
1995 
         
46 
331 
 
1996                 260
1997                 177
1998                 241
1999                 197
2000                 219
2001                 N/A
2002                 N/A
2003                 N/A
2004                 N/A
Total
2919 
2274 
881 
252 
1608 
622 
64 
332 

1094

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Recent USA Sales Numbers According to Clyde Shepherd from LCU these are the numbers of Esprits that have been delivered in the USA. When you look at these numbers you realize why seeing an Esprit on North American roads is such a rare sight and is a true exotic supercar.
 
Model Year Model Number
1990 SE 211
1991 SE 107
1991 Jim Clark 20
1991 X-180R 20
1992 SE 3 (Canada market only)
1993 SE 118
1994 S4 137
1995 S4 82
1995 S4s 145
1996 No USA models 0
1997 V8 132
1998 V8 95
1999 V8 113
1999 Sport 350 8
2000 V8 91
2001 V8 97
2002 V8 100
2003 V8 98
2003.5 & 2004 V8 33

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So which should I buy? The first decision to make is what body style, Giugiaro, or Stevens do you like best. Some prefer the crisp edges and more angular shape of the former, others prefer the rounder curves and contemporary looks of the latter. If you're into the newer-looking body style, note that most people (except for true Lotus enthusiasts) can't tell the difference between anything built from '88 to '97. Actually, most people can't tell the difference between a Giugiaro and  a Stevens Esprit unless they're parked side-by-side.

If you're into carburetors and you live in the USA, you only have one choice of body styles because only early Giugiaro models had carburetors. In the non-USA markets, a few carbureted cars were built through 1992. If you like the improved reliability of fuel injection, you still have a body style choice. 1985-87 models had the Giugiaro body with the benefits of a Bosch CIS fuel injection system.

It is generally agreed that build quality improved over the production history of the car. So the general rule in the quality and reliability department is, buy the newest car you can afford. Apparently my SE never got this memo until recently. Note: this is also known as "blame everything on the PO (Previous Owner)". The reliability of my S4s, however, has been spectacular.

In the performance department: my friend, Ron, had an '87 Turbo Esprit and when he first drove my SE he could not believe the difference in power. He said mine was A LOT faster. Later, when he drove my S4s, he was truly blown away by its acceleration. He also prefers the Renault gearbox on my cars better than his Citroen-built gearbox. I recall that shifting gears in his felt "clunky". Driving the Esprit V8 is even a step beyond that is power and torque. Although it "feels" a bit slower than the S4s, this is only because power comes on more smoothly across the entire rev band.

The most important recommendation is to buy a car with a verifiable service record. Don't, I repeat, don't buy a "fixer-upper". It's not that I don't think there is some merit to rebuilding your own car back from the dead. It's just that, Esprit parts are extremely expensive. If you buy a car that needs a lot of repairs, you will soon come to realize that you would've been better off financially buying a better/newer model. The first time you hear that the flywheel you need will cost $1500, or that the window decal costs $80, you'll remember what I said. 
 

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