Test Driving an Esprit
It's what you've been waiting for!
You'll need to Test Drive an Esprit before you Buy, but what to look for.
I can only advise you on my experience's of first drives and owning 2 Stevens Esprits (NA, SE), but I hope what I know can help those with less knowledge and those with more are welcome to add to this page with their advice.
Test Driving an Esprit, especially for the first time, is difficult when you're trying to determine possible problems while having your senses hit from all angles. It will not be like anything else you've driven (unless you've been lucky), just getting into the driving seat is a new experience and can be a little worrying when you see how much rear vision you have at your disposal while you seem to be lying down.
If you're following my advice on buying an Esprit, you won't have to worry too much about finding potential problems, as you can leave that to the expert you're paying, so you can enjoy the experience a little more. There are things you can check during your test drive, which apply to most cars. These include braking, hand brake (remember its on the floor near your right ankle (right-hand-drive)), any steering drifting, turbo pickup, gearbox feel (although none feel great), clutch slipping and general handling feel. In the end the Esprit is still a car, so most things apply as they do to any other car.
It's best to let the owner drive the car first, so you can get a feel and check things out without having to concentrate on driving. Make sure the radio's off so you can hear everything. This will also get you out of having to reverse the car out of drives or parking spaces (especially important on your first drive).
The more Esprits you drive the better you're knowledge will be. The gearbox is known as a poor part of the Esprit's make-up and normally will feel notchy. Remember to put it in first before selecting Reverse, although I don't suggest you do to much reversing on your test drives. Double de-clutching, which is advised when changing down the gears on an Esprit, maybe too much on a test drive, but it may help you with the notchy gearbox if you're having trouble. Pre S4 Esprit will be without power assisted steering, and will feel very heavy at low speeds. Post S4 the steering will be a lot lighter but very direct.
An Esprit is much wider than normal car, so be careful through tight spaces or going past parked cars, go slowly until you've got used to the width. I am still careful now as the last thing you want to do is knock off a wing-mirror, as they aren't cheap. You'll be looking at £300 each and you don't need that on a test drive.
Clutches on Pre 1999 V8's all tend to be a little on the heavy side which you may not be use to. All the pedals are very close together, so remember not to wear boots or anything with a large sole, as you'll be hitting both brake and accelerator at the same time (I think we've all done that). The Brakes feel isn't anything like a normal family car (although the Sport 350's feel is spot on) and if you've never driven one before you many think there's a problem. The brakes are good, but lack real feel, a bit MK2 Golf GTI for those that have driven one.
Be careful with your speed, although Esprit are VERY QUICK, they don't feel as fast as they are going once you've finished accelerating. Add that to the fact that some of the Speedo is covered by the steering wheel (pre V8 models). You might be seeing blue lights, or the flash of a camera before you realise you're going too fast. Also remember to check the dials to make sure that oil and water temperature are OK, that the turbo boost gauge is working.
On Turbo models, you'll need to let the turbo cool if you have a long test drive. Once the turbo's hot, don't switch the engine straight off when you stop as this will take the oil away from the hot Turbo and will not aid in it's cooling. Leave the engine running for between 1 and 2 minutes before switching off, allowing the turbo to cool.
Not exactly information on Test Driving, but it's handy to know where the boot and bonnet openings are. To pop the rear hatch, there's a handle behind the drivers seat (at your shoulder when sitting) and the fronts has a handle underneath the steering column, which feels and looks a little like a wire coat hanger. This needs to be pushed away from you to release the catch and pulled back when the bonnet is closed (I have forgot on a few occasion's). Also the VIN number is on a panel in the front bonnet, this will be needed to check against the V5 document.
The best advise I can give is to drive as many as possible. If anybody would like to add to this page please e-mail me which your experience's which I can add to this page to help enlighten us more.