Last of old school Lotus- Esprit V8 GT

Car Specifications
Engine: 
3506cc, Twin Turbo
Cylinder Layout: 
V8, 32 valves, DOHC
Top Speed: 
274 km/h (electronically governed)
Transmission: 
5-Speed Manual
0-100km/h: 
4.9 seconds
Power: 
350 bhp at 6500 rpm
Torque: 
400 Nm at 4250 rpm

Lotus is not exactly a household name but few are those enthusiasts who have not heard of this UK specialty car manufacturer. Their founder, the late Mr. Colin Chapman was more renown for his Formula One cars and penchant for making cars as light as possible for a given task. Back in 1975, Lotus introduced the original Esprit based on a fiberglass body bonded to a steel backbone. Indeed even Ferrari and Lamborghini used this technique, as it was the best technology at that time. What really launched Lotus on a worldwide scale was its exposure in the early James Bond movies.

Today, Lotus is on the verge of leaving behind its glass-fiber past and moving into an all aluminum era. However the last vestige of its glorious past is still the Esprit, now heavily revised to compete in today’s supercar arena. To some this represents what Lotus was all about in its glory days. This Esprit uses the pinnacle of Lotus’ engine development, its own mid-engine V8 displacing 3.5-litres, double fed by twin-turbos, raising power to a huge 350 bhp at 6500 rpm and 400 Nm of torque

Once ensconced within the cozy passenger capsule it is not hard to see that the Esprit is now much less kit car and more modern. The tall door sills are not as intrusive as in the newer Elise and offer better ingress and egress which immediately bodes well for the Esprit. Even the ladies who shun the Elise would not mind the Esprit which may come in handy justifying this purchase to your significant other.

Although the interior is wrapped in a sombre black it is inviting and is actually comfortable. Surprisingly the driver’s view out is pretty good despite using the original flat pane windshield. Sure the rearward vision is somewhat compromised but the forward view is surprisingly good as it must be to judge the extremities of the low squat car. Although the ergonomics are generally acceptable, be prepared to work for the pleasure, as controls like the steering, clutch and gear change are not as light as a normal saloon’s.

Apart from that, driving the Esprit was quite straightforward. Sure the clutch pedal is offset but is decently light for something that has to cope with 350 bhp. Just the thought of using all those horses is incentive enough to put up with a little legwork.

The V8 is right up to date with superb tractability even at low revs. With the foot to the floor, the engine spools up with little evidence it is turbocharged but it does comes on boost at around 2500 rpm and packs a real wallop by 3000 rpm, not relenting until the 7200 rpm redline. The benchmark 100 km/h is dispensed with in a scant 4.9 seconds after take-off and legitimizes its claim to supercar status.


A lot of its dynamics can be attributed to its mid-engine layout and the extreme cab forward design in relation to the front wheels. One sits very close to the front axle and this lends to the impression of immediate response to the steering. To help keep the rear axle in check, rather wide Michelin tyres are used, so prodigiously shod to quell wheelspin and resist oversteer tendencies.

Mostly the Esprit has a near neutral feel thanks to the rear suspension’s geometry. However the Esprit never encourages you to take liberties with it. The firmly weighted steering is precise and informative so shows up the rest of the chassis but that’s when driving pretty hard. To use all the power in corners beckons lurid oversteer, definitely not one for the faint hearted.

The Esprit has a wide breadth of abilities but certainly one of its strengths is long distance touring, the stiff suspension offering some reprieve on open roads. The truth be told, the Esprit’s best trick is in overtaking. Drop a gear or two and get ready for warp speed. The engine just slings you into the horizon in a very addictive way.

Admittedly the Esprit is not a perfect supercar. But its strengths are substantial ones and the rest you have to live with. The Esprit looks the part with large, oversized wheels and a distinct wedge styling. Also, to get in or out no longer requires a contortionist’s act and you’ll find decidedly comfortable accommodation thanks to the seats. For the golfers, Lotus engineers carved out just enough space in the rear compartment for a full set of clubs and a soft bag as well.

photos by AL

Fast Facts : Lotus Esprit V8

BODY: Two-door coupe, Glass fiber reinforced Resin and steel backbone chassis.

ENGINE: 3506cc, Twin Turbo, V8, 32 valves, DOHC, Fuel Injected, Max power: 350 bhp @ 6500 rpm Max torque: 400 Nm @ 4250 rpm

TRANSMISSION: Five-speed manual gearbox

STEERING: Assisted Rack and Pinion system

BRAKES: Ventilated Disc brakes all round

SUSPENSION: Double Wishbones all round

ACCELERATION: 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds

TOP SPEED: Electronically limited to 274 km/h

FUEL CONSUMPTION: Combined cycle: 13.3 litres/100 km

STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Leather Seats, Air-Conditioning, Alarm-Immobilizer system, Alloy wheels, Central locking, Power windows, Stereo system.

PRICE in 2000: $368,888 without COE. Includes six months road tax and licence plates. 2-year warranty.

 

Summary
The Esprit V8 is indeed as Lotus claims, up to date. It roars or purrs like any of the current breed of super engines mitigating the rest of the drivetrain and chassis that although good enough needs to better match the superb engine. But this Esprit is meant to have Old World charm, to capture what supercars were in their heydays, a tough, sinewy and burly breed that separates the men from the boys. - AL
Photos: 
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