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By Jim Flammang
March 27, 2002
Vehicle Overview Some sports cars change significantly every couple of years, while others go for years or even decades without dramatic revisions. Lotus definitely falls into the latter category with its long-lived, mid-engine Esprit sports car, which first saw the light of day back in 1976.
Following slight styling revisions for 2001, the Esprit hasnt changed appreciably for 2002, apart from some minor trim modifications. The company says that while the Esprit continues to evolve technologically, its classic styling isnt scheduled to receive any significant design modifications. Several changes made in 2000 included a recalibrated electronic control module, upgraded AP Racing brake discs and calipers, body-colored accents on the center control and door panels, and the addition of a body-colored rear license panel.
Based in England, Lotus has a formidable reputation for both engineering innovation and racing victories. Despite its British heritage, Lotus no longer is independent or even completely British. A majority interest in the company is owned by Proton, the national auto company of Malaysia.
Only 120 Esprits were sold in the United States during 2001, according to Automotive News. About 40 U.S. and Canadian dealerships carry Lotus sports cars. Racing victories include one triumph at the Indianapolis 500 and a class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans event. Lotus also produces models under the name Elise Sport 190, Exige and Motorsport Elise, but those vehicles are available strictly for competition and not street driving. The $90,820 sticker price for the Esprit includes the destination charge and a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax.
Lotus describes the composite body of the Esprit as a complex mix of sharp edges and subtle curves. The famed Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the low-slung, wedge-shaped styling. Functional air scoops cool the cars brakes, and an attention-grabbing wing perches atop the rear deck. A front valance with winglets sits ahead of the front wheel arches. A zinc-clad steel backbone chassis is used, and dual self-balancing fuel tanks are part of the Esprits features.
At 172 inches long overall on a 96-inch wheelbase, the Esprit is a few inches shorter than the Ferrari 360 Modena. Tires measure 17 inches in diameter in the front and 18 inches at the rear on OZ six-spoke alloy racing wheels. Lotus uses a fully independent suspension for the Esprit. A 25th Anniversary trim package is installed on current models. A glass roof panel is a $695 option, and customers can select special paint.
Serious sports car fans expect a snug, two-place interior, and thats precisely what they get in the Esprit. These are tight quarters for occupants who are more than 6 feet tall, which is no surprise in a car that stands only 45.3 inches tall. Hand-finished leather upholstery, power windows, central locking, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, remote keyless entry with an anti-theft system, and a multispeaker Alpine CD stereo are standard, but cruise control is not available.
Under the Hood
Designed and built by Lotus and breathing with the assistance of twin turbochargers, the mid-mounted 3.5-liter V-8 engine generates 350 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. Mounted behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle, the dual-overhead-cam power plant mates with a five-speed-manual transmission.
Lotus claims the Esprit can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in a swift 4.5 seconds, topping out at 175 mph. Also used by AC Cars in England, the V-8 engine has been in production for five years, and Lotus says it intends to keep the V-8 around for two decades.
Dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available.