Home Automobile 1998 Lotus Esprit V-8: About Darn Time

1998 Lotus Esprit V-8: About Darn Time

1998 Lotus Esprit V-8: About Darn Time


From the November 1997 concern of Automotive and Driver.

Since its debut in Paris in 1975, the Giugiaro-penned Esprit, among the many world’s supercars, has all the time been one thing of a red-headed stepchild. Not for its wedge­-of-Colby form—which to­day, frankly, is starting to look just a little moldy—however for its four-cylinder engine. In Membership Supercar, the value of admis­sion has all the time been a minimum of twice that many pistons, although a turbo’d six may move muster if it hailed from Stuttgart.

Twenty-two years into the Esprit’s life, Lotus has lastly fitted this cuneiform conun­drum with an alloy powerplant of appro­priate snootiness: 4 camshafts, 32 valves, eight cylinders, two Garrett T25 turbochargers, and a flat-plane crankshaft. Get all that {hardware} whirring harmo­niously and it whips up 350 horsepower—50 greater than the raucous 2.2-liter four-­banger produced within the previous Esprit S4S.

In fact, flat cranks are liable to drone and emit exhausting­-edged metallic thrashing noises which are—and this should be a coincidence—comment­ably just like the noises emanating from Lotus’s peaky previous Okay­-car–ish 2.2. With the throttle vast open, the brand new V-8 con­jures 89 dBA of cacophony, which is inside an aural hair of matching the trucklike din inside a Dodge Viper GTS.

Partly due to the turbos, the V-8’s response is not particu­larly Viperish, both. Sub-3000-rpm torque—the kind of grunt you would like whereas tootling round corners in second gear—is essentially AWOL. Actually, the V-8 disap­factors on virtually each depend till you are actually cuffing it exhausting, working to the 6900-rpm redline in every gear (the place the vibra­tion, by the way, units inside trim bits to buzzing in sympathy). Which can be while you discover the countryside starting to blur previous in dizzying spurts, like an 8mm dwelling film that has vaulted its sprockets.

Although the brand new V-8 might not sound Ferrari-esque, it actually evokes the Esprit to supercar velocities. Sixty mph now manifests in a spine-straightening 4.1 seconds—three-tenths faster than the previous four-cylinder Esprit S4S and seven-tenths ahead of the still-older Esprit Turbo SE. Actually, that 0-to-60 time locations this Lotus solely a tenth of a second behind a Viper GTS, which, after all, has the benefit of two extra cylinders and 100 additional horse­energy. The Esprit V-8 decimates the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 112 mph—three-tenths and 4 mph higher than the previous S4S. And it rushes to 150 mph 10.3 sec­onds ahead of the S4S, inserting this Lotus just one second shy of the 0-to-150-mph time of, say, a Ferrari F355.

HIGHS: Sheer velocity, as in 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds and a 173-mph prime pace.

High pace is up, too, from the S4S’s 162 mph to a extra provocative 173 mph, which comes with the V-8 bawling and fuming at 6100 rpm. Working at that clip round our normal four-mile high-­banked oval, the Esprit was secure—not precisely a rock, however as confidently planted as a CS Corvette working at a like pace.

What’s extra, the Esprit V-8 would have logged even faster outcomes have been its shifter not so diabolical. The linkage is stiff and imprecise and undergoes as many jerks and seizures between throws as Mark Fidrych. At random intervals, we have been locked out of first and reverse. Serving to under no circumstances is a heavy clutch—with abrupt takeup within the final inch of journey, plus suf­ficient driveline windup that you simply quickly study by no means to leap too rapidly out of the throttle lest you snap your passenger’s head. Round city, the Esprit resists being pushed easily.

Whether or not it is the fault of the brand new 18-inch Michelin rear tires we will not say, however this Esprit steered much less confidently than earlier examples. Though the steering is mostly progressive and properly weighted, it’s hesitant to self-center and isn’t altogether diligent about searching for straight forward, a nuisance on bumpy inter­states.

In fact, what Lotuses do greatest is deal with. Fortuitously, the brand new V-8 will increase the Esprit’s weight by solely 98 kilos and exaggerates its rear bias by a mere two per­cent. Skidpad grip hangs regular at a tendon-popping 0.94 g, identical because the S4S, identical as a Porsche 911 Turbo S. Pitch this Esprit exhausting into an on-ramp and it is as flat and vice-free as an Iowa councilman. In sharper turns, a gradual throttle will induce benign understeer; provoke the pedal and you will set off a few don’t-tread-on-me warning twitches, however the automotive stays much less more likely to swap ends than an Acura NSX.

LOWS: Heavy clutch, balky shifter, thrashy idle, cramped cockpit.

The experience is suitable by present supercar requirements, however should you reside close to really tough roads, beware: The suspension condones roughly one inch of supple flex earlier than the dampers stiffen into solid-steel I-beams. Fortuitously, the slim seats are comfy for four-hour stints, although the thin footwells taper inward in order that the driving force’s left foot has nowhere to relaxation besides atop—typically behind—the clutch.

The Esprit’s Brembo calipers—as large as particular person loaves of pumpernickel—­look and act like racing brakes. They work higher as friction builds. At first, pedal effort is excessive, however should you’re keen to flatten a Florsheim to have interaction the brand new Kelsey-Hayes ABS, you’ll be able to get rid of 70 mph in solely 165 toes. That is not far off our supercar normal of 151 toes, set by a 911 Turbo S.

Discriminating pedestrians nonetheless go berserk after they spy an Esprit, they usually usually guess at a sticker worth twice the fact. Our automotive seemed notably fetching and malevolent in Bat Masterson black, a shade that helps camouflage the tack-on wheel-well flares. Alas, peering out of an Esprit remains to be akin to peeking via a gun slit in a darkish bunker, so you will not see many passersby gesturing an appreciative thumbs up. You additionally will not see concrete parking stanchions, one in all which smote our take a look at automotive’s wing a concussive lick.

It is good that Lotus is holding the road on the Esprit’s worth. The V-8’s base, together with a $1300 guzzler tax (however earlier than luxurious tax), is $81,620. Examine that with the $80,645 sticker on the 1990 Turbo SE and you’ll see that the asking worth, over the previous seven years, has risen negligibly. In fact, the automotive has seemed the identical all these years, too. However that won’t matter. Solely 155 Esprit V-8s are earmarked for U.S. patrons this yr. Heck, should you have been to assemble each Esprit ever constructed, you’d have solely 9383 of the issues—concerning the variety of Explorers that Ford produced in a single week final July.

VERDICT: Although the V-8 locations the Esprit foursquare in supercardom, the remainder of the automobile is displaying its 22-year age.

That that is the best-assembled and quickest Esprit within the mannequin’s 22-year his­tory is undisputed. The paint on our raven bombshell, as an illustration, was one of the best we have seen on any Lotus. However the Esprit’s weird ergonomics—simply strive to function the Alpine stereo, we dare you—plus its pan­cake-flat windscreen and its archaic archi­tecture conspire to promote this automotive’s age just a little too freely. We will not assist questioning what Lotus’s engineers, given the fiscal wherewithal, may accomplish given a clear sheet of foolscap.

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1998 Lotus Esprit V-8
Automobile Sort: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe


Base/As Examined: $85,270/$85,270

twin-turbocharged DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port gas injection

Displacement: 214 in3, 3504 cm3

Energy: 350 hp @ 6500 rpm

Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm 

5-speed guide


Suspension, F/R: management arms/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 11.7-in vented disc/7.9-in vented disc

Tires: Michelin Pilot SX
F: 235/40ZR-17
R: 285/35ZR-18


Wheelbase: 96.0 in

Size: 172.0 in

Width: 73.5 in
Top: 45.3 in

Passenger Quantity: 49 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 8 ft3
Curb Weight: 3067 lb


60 mph: 4.1 sec

100 mph: 10.2 sec

1/4-Mile: 12.7 sec @ 112 mph
130 mph: 18.6 sec

150 mph: 29.7 sec

Rolling Begin, 5–60 mph: 5.4 sec

High Gear, 30–50 mph: 8.4 sec

High Gear, 50–70 mph: 6.7 sec

High Velocity (drag ltd): 173 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 165 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.94 g 


Noticed: 14 mpg

Metropolis/Freeway: 15/23 mpg 




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