Ardent fans of this low-production British two-seater might be disappointed when they learn that this is the Esprit V8’s final season, but Lotus has already introduced its Elise model, which will enter the U.S. market for 2005. Powered by a V-8 engine, the rear-wheel-drive Esprit coupe first appeared in 1976. This highly praised sports car is seldom seen, but it’s easy to spot.
Final models will have stainless-steel front and engine-cover grilles and a restyled rear valance. A signature plaque on the intake plenum is signed by the engine builder. The seats have a diamond stitch pattern and perforated trim. The short-throw gearshift lever is topped by a brushed-aluminum knob and a Lotus badge. Climate-control knobs are also composed of brushed aluminum. A customer nameplate plaque appears on the dashboard, and each buyer gets a limited-edition hardcover Esprit history book. A sunroof is optional.
The Esprit got a redesigned rear body panel with round taillights, twin outlet tailpipes and an aerodynamic lip spoiler in the 2002 model year. New high-backed seats displayed an embossed Lotus logo, and the interior gained aluminum accents. Multispoke, crystal-titanium-finished OZ Racing one-piece alloy wheels were also installed.
Based in England and founded by Colin Chapman in 1952, Lotus has a formidable reputation for engineering innovation and racing victories. Lotus has proclaimed a “future product strategy that will include a new family of exciting models over the next few years.”
Lotus describes the Esprit V8’s composite body as a “complex mix of sharp edges and subtle curves.” The Esprit’s 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 front tires measure 17 inches in diameter, while 18-inchers are used in the rear. The Esprit V8 has a fully independent suspension.
The snug interior seats two occupants, 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 an Alpine CD stereo are standard. Cruise control is not available.
Under the Hood
Designed and built by Lotus and fitted with twin Garrett T25 turbochargers, the midmounted 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.
Dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available.