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Lotus Esprit V8:
Good or bad?
Words and Photos: Marcus

Well I'm sorry to say that it's bad. Listen, I'm a big fan of Lotus' cars, from the 7 to the Elise, but the Esprit has too many flaws to justify its $80,000 plus price tag. Yes, it does have some very good qualities; smoothresponsive steering, nice engine note, V8 torque down low and twin turbo boost up high. There are just too many problems for $80 grand.

Starting with the steering, it really feels smooth and communicative whenever you're in a corner with very little road vibration transmitted to the drivers hands. Although there was very little self centering in a straight line, the steering was definitely one of the high points of the Esprit. However, the worst thing about the entire car is the steering wheel with air bag which was sourced from a Pontiac Firebird.

The steering wheel is something that the driver is always in contact with, therefore it is extremely important that it be comfortable. The Lotus' steering wheel is both ugly and uncomfortable to use. Even in the 1999 model, Lotus has continued with the same wheel, this is amazing considering the redesign of the interior. Speaking of the interior, I was concerned that I would have trouble fitting my 6'2" frame into the Esprit fortunately, this wasn't a problem. There was a little peddle offset towards the center of the car and no dead peddle to rest your clutch foot. I won't make a big deal about this is, it's just something that you have to put up with on a mid seventies design.

Ingress and egress wasn't bad either, the door sill was manageable the only problem was the parking brake that you had to be careful not to snag your trouser cuffs on.

The interior had serious vision problem when shoulder checking at night. the angled inner glass right behind the drivers head and the side rear glass combined their reflections to make switching lanes at night in the city a nerve-racking experience (but one that you could probably get use to after a month or so.)


The engine has a lot of power, 350 horses and 295 pound feet of torque. I would have thought that with a 4 cam 3.5 liter twin turbo V8 it would have been more powerful. (I wanted more power.) Although with just over 3000 lbs. to move, the acceleration is sufficient. Because of the mid-engine weight distribution, traction off the line is rarely a problem. 0 to 60 times of 5.8 seconds are easily attained and if you're lucky 5.5 second times can happen on a cold day (as tested by my G-tech accelerometer.) I tested the car in Vancouver in November so yes it was cold and yes the traction of the Esprit was tested by the nearly constant rain (check the photos).

The engine sounds cool while moving the car too. You can definitely hear the difference between the European flat-crank V8 and the standard American V8. In the Lotus, it sounds like two separate four cylinder engines especially at idle. It vibrates like two four bangers at idle too. Even at 1500 rpm the drivers side rear view mirror visibly shook. Speaking of rpm, the engine revs to 2200 rpm when you start it up. This attracts unwanted attention to you (people think you are just showing off your fancy car) and good luck trying to sneak away from your one night stand. The turbo waist gate made the most interesting sound when it opened (lifting off the throttle). It was a very slow (two second) whoosh of air as if an elephant had just exhaled or sighed over your left shoulder.

The Esprit handled well as was expected, with the mid-engine and the good steering. I've come to the conclusion that all sportcars should have the engine behind the driver. My car is an MR2 and I'm use to the tail happiness of the car, so I expected the Esprit to handle in a similar way. It didn't, I wasn't hanging the tail out of every corner but when I did, it would often slide a bit then hook up and throw me into a tank slapper. I think this was because the cars turbos would rise quickly to 0.5 bar then back off to 0.4 bar reducing horse power simulating the effect of lifting off the throttle (something you don't want to do in a power slide). This handling problem could have been magnified by the soft suspension. It wasn't luxury car smooth but is was far softer than most high performance cars I've driven.

I would like to give you my opinion of the styling of this Lotus. While it is kind of interesting (looking best in black to hide all the part joints), it is really long in the tooth. It's time for a completely new design. Of course there's not enough money generated by the car to finance such an undertaking. It looks like a kit car, grafted on fender flares, over sized rear wing. The most attractive feature of the car was the 18 inch wheels. Even though the tail lights look all right, knowing that they were sourced from a Celica made the car somehow cheaper.

Mine is just one opinion though, many people did stare at the Esprit while I was driving it. During the ëGas town' late night photo shoot, one semi attractive woman walked pass the car and I three times and then finally said, "Don't you want me to pose with the car?" I replied "yeah, okay but you have to get into a bikini first." Needless to say she laughed and walked away, but I guess she liked the look of the car.

It didn't just look like a kit car, it also sounded like one because of all the squeaks and rattles. This Esprit manages to out squeak a C4 Corvette (now that's hard to do.) The majority of the squeaks came from the glass sun roof, but they also came from the doors and the rear hatch. The car only had about 20,000 miles on the clock, so the problem would only get worse as the car ages.

I also have to mention the lack of usable trunk space. I know that you should never judge a sportscar on trunk space, and I'm not, It's just that the giant rear wing does not raise up with the hatch so it is really in your way when you are trying to load something in or when checking the engine.
So if I had $80,000 to buy a car, would I buy an Esprit? Of course not. It's not fast enough, or good looking enough. I'd buy a used Porsche 993 and save the rest of the cash. 


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