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Lotus Esprit
aka {{{aka (Type here, not up there)}}}
Production 1976 - 2004
Class Supercar
Body Style 2 door, 2-seat Mid-Engined Coupe
Length 4415 mm
Width 1885 mm
Height 1150 mm
Wheelbase 2420 mm
Weight 1380 kg
Transmission {{{transmission + drive}}}
Engine 3.5L Turbo V8 DOHC
Power 349 [email protected] rpm/40.80 [email protected] rpm (V8)
Similar {{{similar (competition)}}}
Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro
Peter Stevens
Russell Carr

The Lotus Esprit was a sports car built by Lotus from 1976 to 2004. The Silver Italdesign concept that eventually became the Esprit was unveiled at the Turin motor show in 1972, and was a development of a stretched Lotus Europa chassis. It is held to be among the first of designer Giorgetto Giugiaro's "folded paper" designs. Originally, the name Kiwi was proposed, but in keeping with the E naming format of Lotus tradition, the name was changed to Esprit. Historically it was able to match or better most of its contemporary rivals' performance in many areas, which included the Ferrari 308, 328, F355, and 360 Modena, as well as many Porsche sports cars in a production life that lasted nearly 30 years.

The Early Esprit (1976-1980)


Esprit Concept

The Esprit was launched at the 1975 Paris and London auto shows and went into production in June 1976. These first Esprits eventually became known as S1 (or Series 1) Esprits. These fiberglass bodied cars were initially powered by the Lotus 907 4 cylinder engine previously used in the Jensen Healey. The engine displaced 2.0 liters, produced 160 bhp in European trim (140 bhp in US/Federal trim), and was mounted longitudinally behind the passengers (similar to the Lotus Europa). The transaxle was a 5 speed unit previously used in the Citroën SM and Maserati Merak; it also featured inboard rear brakes as was racing practice at the time. The series 1 embodied Lotus’ performance through light weight mantra, weighing under 1000 kg. The car gained some fame through its appearance in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) where it converted into a submarine.

The original Esprit was lauded for its handling and is said to have the best steering of any Esprit. However, it was generally regarded as lacking power, especially in markets such as the U.S. where the engine was downrated for emissions purposes, and Lotus’ claim of 0-60 in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph may be thought of as optimistic. Actual road test times indicate a top speed of around 133 mph and 0-60 in 8 seconds. [1]

The S1 Esprit can be distinguished from later Esprits by a shovel-style front air dam, Fiat X1/9 taillights, lack of bodyside ducting, and Wolfrace alloy wheels. Inside the car, the most obvious indication of a S1 Esprit is a one-piece Veglia instrument cluster.


The S2

A series of improvements made to the Esprit during its initial run culminated in the S2 (or Series 2) Esprit. The most obvious of these changes are intake and cooling duct "ears" located behind the rear quarter window, Rover SD1 taillights and an integrated front spoiler. S2 Esprits also used 14" Speedline alloy wheels designed specifically for Lotus. Other changes included relocating the battery from above the right side fuel tank (under the rear quarter window) to the rear of the car, adding an access door to the engine cover and replacing the Veglia instrument cluster with individual gauges made by Smiths and a different style of switches.

During this era, a claimed (but improbable) 100 Special Edition cars were made to commemorate Lotus’ racing victories, commonly known as the John Player Special (JPS) among collectors after Lotus’ racing sponsor at the time.

The S2.2 was produced as a stopgap model in 1980, identical to the S2 but with an enlarged (2.2 liter) type 912 engine used. This kept horsepower the same, but bumped up torque to 160 lb ft. from 140. These cars are extremely rare even among Esprits and only 88 are thought to have been produced. [2]

The Turbo (1980)

The Essex Esprit Turbo

In 1980 the first factory turbocharged Lotus, the Essex Esprit was built, and these special editions were superseded by a production turbo car. The new turbocharged engine was known as the 910 type, and produced 210 horsepower, with an impressive 200 lb ft. of torque. 0-60 mph could be achieved in the low 5 second range, with a top speed of over 150 mph.

These performance improvements were coupled to a revamping and strengthening of the rear suspension, where an upper link was added to alleviate strain on the halfshafts, along with brake improvements (with the front suspension upgraded again in 1985) Turbo cars are recognized by an aerodynamic body kit with a ducktail spoiler and boxy bumpers, with more and larger ducts all around. Essex cars were delivered in a special livery, and Essex cars (and early turbos) possessed 3 piece compomotive wheels and dry sump oiling.

In 1981 the Esprit (two Esprits actually) was again used in a Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.

The Giugiaro designed Esprit’s final incarnation, the turbo HC, was produced in 1986. Higher compression (from 7.5:1 to 8:1) yielded 215 hp and 220 lb ft. of torque. Lotus created the HCi, with Bosch jetronic fuel injection, for markets with high emissions standards such as the US. Creating this amount of power from only 2.2 liters continued the Esprit tradition of remarkable specific output. [3]

The refinements of the Turbo Esprit were carried on to its naturally aspirated sister, making the Esprit S3 a car that had much appeal to those who wanted a driving experience without a turbocharger. The S3 can be distinguished from a turbo by its smaller air dam, lack of ducting on the sills, and rear end without the ducktail spoiler as well as different, mesh lined intake fins.

The Peter Stevens redesign (1988)

In 1987 a new version of the Esprit was introduced, incorporating rounder styling cues given by designer Peter Stevens of McLaren F1 fame. A new Lotus patented process was introduced to create the new body called the VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection) process, which offered more advantages than the previous hand laid process. Kevlar reinforcement was added to the roof and sides for roll-over protection<ref></ref>. This time the tail-lights were sourced from the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. Giugiaro is said to have liked the restyling, claiming it was perhaps too close to his original design. The Stevens styled cars retained the mechanical components of the previous High Compression Esprit and Turbo Esprit, but introduced a stronger Renault transaxle, which necessitated a move to outboard rear brakes. The North American Esprit Turbo retained the Citroen gearbox for 1988 MY only. The Esprit's Type 910 engine retained 215 bhp and 220 ft-lbs, but reduced its zero to sixty from 5.6 seconds to 5.1 seconds, with a top speed of over 145 mph. The exterior style changes were accompanied by a freshening of the interior, allowing a little more space for the occupants. The Stevens styled Esprit is often known by its project code of X180. The Stevens Esprit was in the short lived TV series "The Highwayman" in 1988 but it was only seen twice as the show was cancelled after only 10 episodes.

The Esprit was again improved with the addition of a water to air intercooler known as the chargecooler producing the SE. Horsepower was increased to 264 with 280 available on overboost, and zero to sixty times reduced to an amazing 4.6 seconds, with a top speed of over 160 mph. The chargecooled engine was known as the type 910 S. Modifications to the body kit are also noted. Again the Esprit continued to keep a small or nonexistent gap between itself and competition from rivals such as Ferrari and Porsche.

Along with the SE, Lotus produced the little seen Esprit S, a midrange turbocharged car offering fewer appointments and 228 hp, as well as the standard turbo still offering 215 hp. The N/A and turbo were cancelled after 1990, and the S in 1991.

Esprit SEs were in the films Basic Instinct and Pretty Woman.

The Esprit was a popular and successful addition to the American Bridgestone Supercar Championship and as a result Lotus produced the SE-based X180R, with horsepower bumped to 300 and with racing appointments. The Sport 300 was a derivative of the X180R sold in Europe. These are known as the fastest of the 4 cylinder Esprits and among the most desirable. [4]

In 1993 another exterior and interior revamp of the car resulted in the S4 which was the first model to include power steering. This car was succeeded in 1995 by the S4s, which upped power to 300 bhp while retaining the comfort of the S4. This car was to be the end of the line for the Esprit but a cancelled project for a front engine car had left Lotus with a compact V8 and no car to put it into.

The V8 (1996)


The Esprit V8 used Lotus' self developed all-aluminum, twin-turbocharged (Garrett T3/60 turbos) 90-degree V-8, Code-named Type 918, in front of the same Renault transmission as before with no Chargecooler. Derek Bell developed an uprated gearbox that overcame a lot of the gearbox problems with a much thicker single piece input shaft. The Type 918 engine was detuned from a possible 500 bhp to 350 bhp to prevent gearbox damage due to the fragility of the Renault transmission<ref> Esprit</ref> . Zero to sixty miles per hour came in at 4.4 seconds with a top speed of 175 mph. Some examples of the engine are noted however to suffer from a leaking cylinder liner problem.

Alongside V8 models was produced the GT3, a turbocharged 4 cylinder car with a 2.0 liter chargecooled, turbocharged engine as used in Italian market cars previously.

In 1998 the V8 range was split into SE and GT specs, both cars with a much changed interior configuration, both offering similar performance with the SE being the more luxurious of the two.

The ultimate incarnation of the Esprit came in 1999 with the Sport 350. Only 50 were made [5], each offering 350 horsepower (as per the name) and various chassis and braking improvements. By this time the Esprit could reach {{#ifeq:|on|0000000000000060{{#ifeq:{{#expr:(km/h)*0}}|0|000000000000km/h}}}}{{convert/{{#if:1|mi/h}}|60|{{#ifeq:{{#expr:km/h*0}}|0|0}}|km/h|-1|||r={{#ifeq:{{{sp}}}|us|er|re}}|d=LoffAonDbSoff|s=}} in 4.3 seconds as well as reaching 0-100 in 9.9 seconds, and weighed 1300 kg as a result of their hand laid fiberglass bodies.

Esprit production continued on until 2004, Lotus content on producing the Esprit with little development aside from minor cosmetic changes including a switch to 4 round taillights in 2002. Over 28 years a total of 10675 Esprits were produced.

The Future

Car photo 208676 7.jpg

An "Esprit Replacement" is in the works at Lotus currently, and is the subject of much speculation, with many (inaccurate) spy shots and renderings in magazines. This car was intended to be introduced in 2008, but current assumptions within the company imply that the actual release date will be December 2009. It will be using a BMW V8 engine. The new design is targeted to compete with cars such as the Ferrari F430 and the Lamborghini Gallardo among others, with pricing in the region of $130,000.

Esprit designers

Giorgetto Giugiaro

  • Esprit - 1976–1977
  • Esprit S2 - 1978–1981
  • Esprit JPS (John Player Special) - 1978–1979
  • Esprit S2.2 - 1980–1981
  • Esprit Essex - 1980
  • Esprit S3 - 1981–1987
  • Turbo Esprit - 1981–1986
  • Turbo Esprit HC - 1986–1987
  • Turbo Esprit HCi (Bosch Fuel Injected) - 1986–1987

Peter Stevens

  • Esprit - 1987–1990
  • Esprit Turbo - 1987–1990
  • Esprit SE - 1989–1991
  • Esprit S - 1991
  • Esprit SE HighWing - 1992–1993


  • Esprit S4 - 1993–1996
  • Esprit 300 Sport - 1993
  • Esprit S4s - 1995–1996
  • Esprit GT3 - 1996–1999
  • Esprit V8 - 1996–1998
  • Esprit V8 GT - 1998–2001


  • Esprit - 2002–2004


As with many of their cars, Lotus used parts from other cars to cut down development costs. Esprits before 1993 have many British Leyland parts and after 1993 have many GM (Vauxhall, Opel) parts. G Esprits have Citroen gearboxes and S Esprits have Renault gearboxes [6]. The door handles come from Morris Marina and were kept until the S4 model in 1994 when instead GM Calibra door handles were used [7]. Early models used a Momo steering wheel, later had the same as the Pontiac Trans Am. Until 2002 it had rectangular Toyota rear lights from the 1985 Toyota Trueno/Sprinter and RWD Toyota Corolla Coupe, later replaced with the same round light as the Lotus Elise II. The aerial mount and whip on the S4 and V8 is the same as the GM Calibra and Tigra. The side mirrors are from Citroën CX. Non SE foglamps from about 1989 are GM Astra mk1. The fan motors come from Ford Fiesta mk2. The alternator on the V8 models is a standard GM unit also found in the V6 GM Omega [8]. The front suspension came from the Opel Ascona.


See Also


Proton Holdings Berhad

Proton | Lotus Group Plc. | Lotus

Current: Elise · Exige · Evora

Upcoming: Elite · Elan · Esprit · Eterne

Historic: Excel · Eclat · Europa · Europa S

Concept: APX Concept · M90 · 340R · Exige GT3 · Hot Wheels Concept · Eco Elise Concept · M250 Concept · Evora 414E Hybrid Concept · Evora Carbon Concept · Etna Concept · City Car Concept · Elise Concept · Elan Concept · Esprit Concept · Elite Concept · Eterne Concept

Performance: Carlton · Cortina · Zytek Elise

Racing: T127 · 2-Eleven · Evora Type 124 · Evora Cup · Cosworth KV Racing IndyCar · Mk1 · Mk2 · Mk3 · Mk4 · Mk5 · 6 · 7 · Mk8 · Mk9 · 10 · 11 · 12 · 15 · 16 · 17 · 18 · 19 · 20 · 20B · 21 · 22 · 23 · 24 · 25 · 27 · 29 · 30 · 31 · 32 · 33 · 34 · 38 · 39 · 42 · 43 · 48 · 49 · 56 · 56B · 63 · 64 · 72 · 76 · 77 · 78 · 79 · 80 · 81 · 85 · 86 · 87 · 88 · 91 · 92 · 93T · 94T · 95T · 96T · 97T · 98T · 99T · 100T · 101 · 102 · 105 · 107 · 109 · 112 · 114 · 115 · 119 · Exos Type 125

Group Lotus · Lotus Racing · Lotus Sport · Colin Chapman

Colin Chapman Corporate website A Division of Group Lotus

External links

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