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Legends: Lotus Esprit Turbo
The turbocharged wedge we still long for

The Lotus Esprit Turbo was the last and best of the four-cylinder Esprits.

The Lotus Esprit Turbo was the last and best of the four-cylinder Esprits.

The original Lotus Esprit made its official debut at the 1975 Paris Motor Show, thrilling all who saw it. Its unique wedge design was crafted by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design. The unique wedge shape would live on in various forms for decades with numerous improvements and modifications being made. The Lotus evolved in Series, and the end of the Series 2 and all of Series 3 brought a turbocharged engine to the company's fine-tuned, exotic creation.

Turbocharging the Wedge

The front of the Lotus Esprit Turbo with headlights up

In 1980, Lotus launched the Essex Turbo Esprit (pictured above). It was a special edition, and Lotus only made 104 Essex Turbo Esprit with a dry sump engine. In 1981, the company switched to a wet sump turbocharged engine and ended the Essex part of the name. That year was the first for the Series 3 car, and the true Esprit Turbo was born. It had a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produced 210 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. This gave the car a top speed of over 150 mph and a 0-60 mph time under six seconds.

lotus esprit turbo hc parked in front of brick wall

Lotus marked the 21st anniversary of the company with a Turbo Esprit HC (high compression). This car saw a small bump in horsepower. Later that year, the first of the Peter Stevens' Esprits came out. Lotus hired Stevens to take the basic shape of the Esprit and revise it. The car’s body was made lighter and a little more rounded, but Stevens kept the same overall shape. As a result, it was faster. These models became known as the X180 cars due to the project number (pictured below).

Lotus Esprit turbo Front 3/4 view

Lotus smoothed out the hard edges of the Esprit in 1987 but kept its essential ethos. It also upped the ante at the end of the '80s with a new 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produced 260 hp and could be boosted to 280 hp in short bursts. This drove the car’s 0-60 mph time well below the five-second mark. Lotus claimed a top speed of over 160 mph.

Unforgettable Performance and Styling

Lotus Esprit Turbo profile view

What made the Esprit Turbo interesting was how Lotus managed to continue building on a good thing. The company took an exotic and sexy design penned by an Italian designer that was already fast and made it a serious contender in the supercar segment. It could challenge Ferrari and Porsche in its day and do it for much less money. That made the Esprit Turbo a special car.

Lotus Esprit Turbo with a ski rack and skis attached.

The Lotus Esprit Turbo is also an unforgettable car because of the films and cultural significance it has. The original Lotus was driven by the character James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and the Esprit Turbo made it to the silver screen in another Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only.” The car has garnered a huge fanbase over the course of its life, and Lotus was able to continue selling variations of the Esprit all the way to 2004, though the Esprit Turbo ended its life in 1992.

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