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By Jim Flammang
March 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview Dont expect anything different for the 2003 Esprit V8, one of the seldom-seen but highly praised sports cars on the U.S. market. A spokesperson for Lotus Cars U.S.A. Inc. said there have been no revisions this season for the V-8-powered rear-wheel-drive coupe that first appeared back in 1976. For the low-production British two-seaters ardent fans, that might actually be good news.
Last year, however, the Esprit got a redesigned rear body panel with round taillights, twin outlet tailpipes and an aerodynamic lip spoiler for the legendary Lotus Sport 350. New high-backed seats displayed an embossed Lotus logo, and the interior gained aluminum accents. Crystal-titanium-finished, multispoke, OZ Racing one-piece alloy wheels were also installed.
Based in England, Lotus has a formidable reputation for engineering innovation and winning races. Despite its British heritage, Lotus is no longer independent or even totally British. A majority interest in the company is owned by Proton, the national auto company of Malaysia.
About 40 dealerships in the United States and Canada handle Lotus sports cars. Lotus also produces a highly regarded Elise model for sale elsewhere in the world. Starting in mid-2004, the Elise will be available in the United States. Lotus proclaims a future product strategy that will include a new family of exciting models over the next few years.
Lotus has described the Esprits composite body as a complex mix of sharp edges and subtle curves. Low-slung wedge-shaped styling was penned by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. 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 installed. Current Esprits have AP Racing curved-vane brake discs and calipers. Functional air scoops cool the brakes, and a wing perches atop the rear deck.
Measuring 172 inches long overall on a 96-inch wheelbase, the Esprit V8 is a little shorter than the Ferrari 360 Modena. The tires are 17 inches in diameter in the front and 18 inches at the rear and enclose six-spoke alloy wheels. Lotus uses a fully independent suspension for the Esprit V8. A glass roof panel is optional, and customers can select special paint.
Two occupants fit in the snug interior, which is no surprise because the car stands just 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 fitted with twin Garrett T25 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 engine mates with a five-speed-manual transmission. Lotus claims the Esprit V8 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in a swift 4.4 seconds and that it has plans to keep the V-8 around for two decades.
Dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available.