Lotus recently revived the Esprit name, but what made the original so great?
Let’s go back to the 1975 Paris Motor Show, when the Esprit was launched. It had a 160 hp 4-cylinder engine and Fiat X1/9 taillights, no one would have guessed that this car would use.
It may have been underpowered, but like all Lotuses, it was very light. It had a weight of just 898 kg, helping make it one of the best handling cars of the time and the best of the Esprits according to the Esprit community. It’s also very rare with only 714 produced.
In 1987, the original Giugiaro styling was replaced with a completely new design by Peter Stevens (Of Jaguar XJR-15 and McLaren F1 fame). It also had a bump in power up to 172 hp on the basic model and 215 for the turbocharged models. From then on, not much happened, except for the redesign in 1993 which added power steering and styling tweaks. It now had 264 hp but weighted almost 500 kg more than the 1976 original. A final facelift in 2002 added a 3.5 litre twin-turbocharged V8 with 350 hp that it kept until its demise in 2004.
10,765 Esprits were produced during its 28-year run, and today you can pick one up from anywhere between $13,000 for a late 80’s model, up to $50,000 for one of the last ones.
To answer my question above, what made the Esprit great was its constant evolution. From a 160 hp 4-cylinder sports car to 350 hp V8 supercar, the Esprit was always a serious contender in its segment. I hope that should the new Esprit make it to production, it’ll continue the trend.
Photo credit: Lotus Esprit Sport 350: Pat Durkin / CC BY-SA 2.0