|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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
|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:
|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:
|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.
|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.
|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.
|93MYEsprit Turbo SE||The 93MY included the following changes:
|93-1/2MYEsprit Turbo SE||The 931/2MY was a transition into the later S4. It included the following
|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
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.
|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:
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.
|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.
|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.
|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
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|2000MY Esprit||The 2000MY Esprit varies only slightly from its predecessor. Differences
are as follows:
Refer to the detailed changes section below
to see what the 00MY V8 includes.
|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
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.
|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.
|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.
2004MY Final Run
|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
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.
The list price for the 2004MY is 94,125.00US.
|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.
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.
|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
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.
|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
S4 '95 M.Y.: 2000 onwards
S4S USA. 3000 onwards
S4S non-USA: 4000 onwards
Sport 300: 8001 onwards
Esprit V8: 5009 onwards
R 8030 ('94 model year Sport 300, serial 8030)
(Note: All N.A. & carburetor turbo models are non-catalyst. All fuel injection cars and all USA models are catalyst equipped.)
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:
'96 M.Y. S4 & non USA S4S: September '95
Introduction of V8 Twin Plate Clutch: February '97
|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.
|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
|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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