A-Z Supercars: Lotus Esprit

Turbocharging turned Lotus’s striking mid-engined wedge into a true supercar

The Esprit had been round since 1976, but it was the introduction of the Turbo model as an addition to the normally aspirated S2 (Series 2) Esprit in 1980 that signalled its arrival as a serious supercar, the 0-60 time tumbling to 5.6sec, the top speed climbing above 150mph, the always striking Giugiaro bodywork gaining skirts and spoilers and a whole new attitude.

With the Peter Stevens-redesigned S4 version introduced in 1987, the plastic- fantastic from Norfolk became the most spectacular celebration of intellect over muscle in supercardom. With just 2174cc and four cylinders, the turbocharged S4 developed a nominal 264bhp, although if running conditions were cool, the engine management allowed up to 280bhp – a staggering 120bhp more than the original, naturally aspirated S1. With a power-to-weight ratio of 232bhp/ton, the S4 could accelerate from zero to 60mph in around 4.7sec – faster than a Ferrari 512TR.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

The S4 also had arguably the finest chassis of any Esprit, with cornering abilities a world apart from the S2 Turbo’s. Turn-in was electric, grip borderline miraculous.

In its latter years, the Esprit was powered by a lightweight twin-turbo V8 and finally acquired the engine to do its brilliant chassis justice. Dramatic straight-line speed, phenomenal cornering power, stunning stoppers and responses that grew crisper, keener and more reassuring the harder you tried were the high points, a flat engine note and clunky gearchange the only real downsides.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Even at the very end with the be-winged Sport 350, when you only had to sit in one to know it was an old-school supercar with scattered, cheap switchgear, offset pedals, a cramped driving environment and poor visibility, the Esprit was all about driving dynamics, with handling and steering feel that were so pure they were still a match for any rival.

Specifications

Years made 1980-2004 Engine V8, 3500cc, twin-turbo (Sport 350)Max power 350bhp @ 6500rpm Torque 295lb ft @ 4250rpm 0-60mph 4.3sec Max speed 175mphPrice £66,135 new (1999), £30-£40,000 today (S350)

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/toyota/yaris/201932/toyota-gr-yaris-revealed-in-full-return-of-the-homologation-special
Toyota Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris revealed in full – return of the homologation special

One of most sought after hot hatchbacks of 2020 has finally been revealed: the Toyota GR Yaris
10 Jan 2020
Visit/honda/civic-type-r/202099/new-2020-honda-civic-type-r-makes-debut-at-tokyo-auto-salon
Honda Civic Type-R

New 2020 Honda Civic Type R makes debut at Tokyo Auto Salon

Honda has released the first images of the revised Civic Type R that’s being shown for the first time in Tokyo
10 Jan 2020
Visit/bmw/x3/202087/bmw-x3-m-2020-review-the-right-ingredients-in-a-very-wrong-package
BMW X3

BMW X3 M 2020 review – the right ingredients in a very wrong package

The first BMW X3 M previews the next BMW M3’s all-new powertrain, let's hope it doesn’t preview anything else
8 Jan 2020
Visit/hyundai/i30-n-hatchback/201775/hyundai-i30-n-versus-hyundai-i30-tcr
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 N versus Hyundai i30 TCR

Can Dickie Meaden beat Steve Sutcliffe in a straight(ish) race? We sent them to the Circuit Nuvolari with a pair of Hyundai i30 Ns to find out.
20 Sep 2019