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The Sunday Times – December 2003
by Jason Dawe

This year marked the end of an era in the world of supercars. The last Lotus Esprit rolled off the production line, ending a run of 27 years and 10,500 cars. During its illustrious life the car has twice starred as James Bond's preferred from of transport, adorned thousands of bedroom walls and has seen the power of its engine grow from 160bhp to 350bhp.

But while purists may hanker after early Series 1, 2 and 3 cars it was their mechanical fragility that led wags to say Lotus was an acronym: "Loads of Trouble, Usually Serious". Early cars had four-cylinder engines, but in 1996 a V8 was added to the line-up, and from 1998 all Esprits were V8 powered. Buyers with budget of £20,000 or more can now buy one of these impressively reliable post-1996 V8 cars.

Powered by a Lotus-designed 350bhp twin-turbo V8, the car weights just 2,821lb, making for spectacular performance. It hits 175mph, and the 0-60mph sprint is dispatched in just 4.5 sec.

The mid-engine, rear-drive configuration blesses the car with superb handling, although the omission of a traction control system can catch out the unwary, particularly in the wet. Huge performance demands huge brakes, and the V8 Esprit obliges with cross-drilled discs and four-piston callipers.

Post-1998 V8s are available in two trim levels, GT or SE. Both produce the same power but the lower-spec GT is a little quicker thanks to the omission of air-conditioning, leather upholstery and rear spoiler, which have 110lb. But most buyer preferred creature comforts and chose the costlier SE.

All Esprits have a reputation for lumpy gearboxes and heavy clutches. The Renault-sourced gearbox in the V8 is better than the predecessors but still not the nicest to use.

Sound from the engine, located just behind the driver's head, is disappointingly unassuming, so many owners add a sports exhaust system. Prices vary from a few hundred pounds for a dealer-supplied back box to more than £2,000 for a full race system, so check what's fitted.

Vision out of the cabin is limited and the boot spoiler makes reversing an act of faith. Cabin quality improved post-1998 with a revised instrument binnacle and lower transmission tunnel. Headroom is adequate, but check roof linings for water leakage on cars with sunroof. Owning any supercar is expensive – the Esprit will challenge your pocket with its large tyres, group 20 insurance and fuel consumption. Discs and pads are a frequent expense – expect a set every 12,000 miles, at £700 a time.

With the Lotus Esprit now out of production the last of the breed look set to become future classic. Residual values on earlier models remain strong. As supercars go, these strong residuals, the unfussy V8 engine and surprisingly large boot make the last of the Lotus Esprit a realistic supercar purchase.

Many of the best cars tend to change hands through the 26 official Lotus dealers, so it's worth looking at the website www.lotuscars.co.uk, or see the Car Locator section of www.sunday-times.co.uk/driving.

Model Lotus Esprit V8 SE
Engine V8, 3506cc
Power 350bhp
Transmission Five-speed manual
Fuel 21.2mpg (combined)
Acceleration 0 to 60mph: 4.5sec
Top Speed 175mph

Lotus Esprit V8 SE with full service history, 1999 S-Reg with 30,000 miles.
Pay £26,000 at a dealer with warranty, or £23,500 privately

2001 Y-reg TVR Griffith
2000 X-reg Morgan Plus Eight
1996 P-reg Porsche 911 Carrera coupé
1994 L-reg Aston Martin DB7 coupé
1986 D-reg Ferrari 328 GTB

 VALUES Lotus Esprit V8 SE
 Mileage 20,000 30,000 50,000
 1999 S Trade £23,800 £22,750 £20,550
  Retail £27,250 £26,000 £24,000
 2000 W Trade £28,200 £26,850 £24,250
  Retail £33,750 £32,250 £29,750
 2001 Y Trade £31,500 £29,950 £27,400
  Retail £37,000 £35,500 £33,000

Standared GT models worth £1,000 less than equivalent SE. Source: estimates based on confidential CAP black book prices.
'Trade' is what a dealer would pay to buy your car: 'retail' is what you would pay a dealer


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