What's New for 2001
For 2001, the still-toothsome Lotus Esprit V8 is now shod in Dunlops rather than Michelins. This won't alter its ability to "corner like it's on rails," as illustriously stated by the "Pretty Woman."
Lotus Esprit. Most Americans know what it is, though this is probably due more to its brief appearance in "The Spy Who Loved Me" than any sort of advertising or automotive reviews. It's amazing what happens to a car's awareness factor when you equip it with rockets and a submarine periscope.
One of the more evergreen cars around, its basic shape and chassis design have been around since the Esprit debuted in 1975. For the majority of its life, a four-cylinder engine took up residence amidships. Obviously, a four banger isn't exactly synonymous with supercar performance, so Lotus finally managed to replace it with a twin-turbo V8 in 1997.
This all-aluminum 3.5-liter V8 generates 350 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 foot-pounds of torque. And while the engine doesn't sound nearly as exotic as a Ferrari's V8 (the turbos and flat-plane crankshaft conspire to keep the engine note rather dull), the V8 does provide ample forward thrust. Acceleration from zero-to-60 mph takes less than 5 seconds.
Last year, Lotus engineers recalibrated the engine's computer to improve torque delivery in the lower gears. This gives greater flexibility and response, especially when the car is being driven at slow urban speeds. For 2000 Lotus also swapped out the '99 car's Brembo brakes for AP Racing competition four-piston fixed brake calipers and upgraded disc brakes. The 320-mm diameter curved-vane discs are both vented and cross-drilled for improved ventilation.
The Esprit V8 is one of the best-handling cars sold in America. Driven at eighth-tenths, the car is a lot of fun. But if you have to hustle it at ten-tenths, it becomes somewhat unsettled. The Esprit's aging chassis and suspension design are the culprits. Newer cars like the Acura NSX, Ferrari 360 Modena and Porsche 911 all offer similar or better levels of performance while still managing to provide a more refined ride on city streets.
Another problem with the Esprit V8 is its interior. Tall drivers over 6-feet tall will feel claustrophobic once inside. The narrow seats can be comfortable for long durations, but the narrow footwells leave little room for the driver's left leg. Outward visibility is particularly bad, and the rearview and outside mirrors are virtually useless.
Discriminating pedestrians will go berserk when they spot an Esprit V8, and they often guess at a sticker price twice reality. In fact, pricing is in line with other top performance cars such as the NSX and Dodge Viper. The only options available are a sunroof and custom paint.
With so few Esprit V8s on the road, exclusivity is a guarantee. And it is unquestionably the fastest model in the car's 25-year history. If you are looking for speed and a Lotus badge, this is the car to get. But if practicality and reliability are important considerations for you, we would recommend the NSX or Porsche 911 Turbo.