Full 2006 Panoz Esperante Review
What's New for 2006
A handful of new options debut this year: color-matched brake calipers, painted valve covers, a 10-disc CD changer and a couple of new 18-inch wheels.
Constructed in a small factory in rural Georgia, the Esperante is the realized dream of Daniel Panoz. Frustrated with the fact that exotic high-performance sports cars were the exclusive domain of European manufacturers, Daniel set out to build an all-American sports car that would not only challenge the world's top nameplates, but would do so with a more reliable, easy-to-own package than those often-temperamental Euros.
A marriage of Panoz's chassis expertise and readily available Ford V8 power, the Esperante has a sleek, Jaguar-like style. The body and impressively rigid chassis are hand-built and comprised of aluminum for light weight. Panoz has been a proponent of aluminum construction since the company opened its doors in the late 1980s. The chief benefit of aluminum is its ability to provide the stiffness of steel with less weight. Panoz uses aerospace methods to form the Esperante's body. An all-aluminum space frame serves as the car's backbone and carbon-fiber is used to join the body to the frame.
A 4.6-liter V8, gunning out 320 horsepower, sits under the long hood and drivers can choose between a manual or automatic transmission. Should a 5.1-second 0-60 time and a top speed of 155 (electronically limited) not be sufficient, there is also the GTLM model that ups the ante to 420 horsepower, thanks to a supercharger. The car's lightweight, rigid chassis and growling V8 make for a visceral feel on the road and impressive numbers at the track.
While it may not possess all the electronic wizardry found in the latest German roadsters or the outright performance of a Corvette Z06, the Esperante has something else -- a raw, unencumbered feel that gives it a personality that the competition left behind long ago in search of new customers.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Both coupe and roadster versions of the Panoz Esperante are offered, each available in base, GT and GTLM trim levels. Standard features include a full leather interior, a power top for the roadster and a Rockford-Fosgate audio system. Optional are carbon-fiber spoilers, a variety of BBS alloy wheels, upgraded Brembo brakes, a 10-disc CD changer, custom-matched luggage and even matching golf bags. The GT adds more aggressive suspension tuning, a lighter body and revised fascias. The GTLM includes all of the GT's equipment plus a supercharged engine.
Powertrains and Performance
A Ford-based 4.6-liter V8 with 320 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque powers the base and GT versions of the Esperante. The GTLM includes a supercharged version of that V8 good for 420 hp. A five-speed manual is standard, with a four-speed automatic available as an option. Panoz claims that the non-supercharged Esperante will run from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, through the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds and on to a top speed (limited electronically) of 155 mph.
Safety: Traction control and antilock brakes highlight the safety features list. Side airbags and stability control aren't available. Panoz claims that the Esperante's aluminum intensive and modular construction makes the sports car more crashworthy, especially in side impacts.
Traction control and antilock brakes highlight the safety features list. Side airbags and stability control aren't available. Panoz claims that the Esperante's aluminum intensive and modular construction makes the sports car more crashworthy, especially in side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
An elegant cockpit features a center-mounted instrument panel, white-faced gauges, real wood trim (carbon fiber is optional) and a gorgeous aluminum shifter. A few strange elements are present, however, such as a headlight switch obviously sourced from Ford, hidden power mirror controls and a hand brake that can be a knuckle bruiser if care isn't taken when releasing it. Wind buffeting with the top down is minimal. A plastic rear window is disappointing, given that the Esperante's competitors all have glass in back.
With its bellowing exhaust and a shifter that moves with the precise action of a rifle bolt, the Panoz Esperante is a blast to rip through the gears. The acceleration doesn't seem to let up as speed climbs. And when the road gets twisty, a balanced chassis and minimal body roll allow rapid progress to be made without having to endure a harsh ride. The demerits are few, but include a touchy steering rack that's down on road feel.