The British automotive industry is known for producing premium sports cars. While the industry has big luxury companies like Bentley, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and McLaren, small brands also release sports cars in small production batches. Though these small British manufacturers do not have enough funds at their disposal, they manage to build thrilling sports cars. The minor British manufacturers include Noble, Ariel Motors Company, TVR, and Lotus Cars.

Founded in 1948, Lotus Cars is best known for its innovative engineering and quirky designs. The manufacturer is also known for building lightweight cars. Their models include the Emira, Elise, Elite, Elan, Eclat, and the Esprit. Yes, Lotus Cars have a thing for the letter 'E.' Amongst all models from Lotus Cars, the Esprit looks the most tamed in design and styling. However, the Lotus Esprit is far from tame. Here's everything you wanted to know about the Lotus Esprit.

10 Design Elements

Lothar Spurzem

While Lotus is famed for its eccentric designs, the Esprit has a relatively tamed look. The Lotus Esprit looks pretty simple compared to other models in Lotus Cars' lineup. Designed by legendary auto designer– Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Lotus Esprit features the polygonal 'folded paper' design.

Dave 7

Giorgetto Giugiaro is credited with popularizing the 'folded paper' format. Instead of the usual dramatic headlights Lotus Cars is known for, the Lotus Esprit has simple pop-up headlights. The Esprit's design is also angular and is maintained until the model's end in 2004.

9 Motorsports Participation

Lotus Esprit X180-R
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As a sports car manufacturer, Lotus Cars has been an avid participant in Motorsports. The brand even has a Formula One team. In 1992, former car racing legend– Doc Bundy used a Lotus Esprit X180-R to compete in the IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship, and he won.

Lotus Espirit-X180R
Lotus Esprit X180-R 

The following year, Thorkild Thyrring won the British GT Championship in an Esprit. Lotus Cars' Esprit also in the 1993 and 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Not long after, Brad Jones secured a win in the Australian Super production car series while driving a Lotus Esprit.

RELATED: Here's What Gearheads Forgot About The Lotus Elan

8 Television Appearances

Lotus Esprit S4

Like many great sports cars, the Lotus Esprit has had its fair share of media appearances. In 1977, the Esprit featured in a James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me." The Esprit in question was reconstructed into a submarine, and there were underwater scenes.

Lotus Esprit Underwater

It doesn't end there. A silver 1989 Esprit SE also starred in the famous movie– "Pretty Women." The supercar's most recent TV appearance was in 2014 when a Lotus Esprit S4 featured in season 1, episode 8 of Rick and Morty.

7 Cost Reduction Strategy

1993 Lotus Esprit Turbo
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Since Lotus Cars is a small manufacturer, they've developed strategies to reduce costs. To reduce the cost of building their luxury sports cars, Lotus Cars uses parts from other manufacturers.

1988 Lotus Esprit 2.2 Turbo

1988 Lotus Esprit 2.2 Turbo Parked

Esprit models made before 1993 were constructed with many British Leyland parts, and then from the mid-80s to the late 80s, Lotus Cars got parts from Toyota. After 1993, their major OEM was General Motors. Later, Lotus Esprit used a steering wheel from the Pontiac Trans Am while the fan motors were from the Ford Fiesta MK2.

RELATED: 10 Things Everyone Forgot About The Lotus Elite

6 Power Train

Lotus Esprit Turbo

While Lotus Cars gets most of its parts from other manufacturers, it makes its engines. The Lotus Esprit S1 uses a Lotus type 907 2.0-liter inline-four engine. To speed up the production of the Type 907 engine, Lotus Cars struck a deal and bought cast-iron blocks from Vauxhall.

Lotus Esprit Turbo

The Lotus Esprit S2 is fitted with a 2.2-liter type 912 engine with a power capability of 160 horsepower. In 1989, the 2.2-liter engine was improved, and its power bumped to 180 horsepower. For the Lotus Esprit S3, the manufacturer used turbocharged type 910 and 910S machines.

5 Performance And Handling

1988 Lotus Esprit 2.2 Turbo

1988 Lotus Esprit 2.2 Turbo Parked

Apart from their styling, the automaker is also known for building cars with excellent handling, and of course, the Esprit is no exception. The 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 has an output of 140 horsepower in the US trim and 160 horsepower in the European trim. Later in 1980, Lotus released a limited edition Essex Turbo, and it had 210 horsepower.

Lotus Esprit Rear
FotoSleuth via Flickr

In 1981, the manufacturer introduced their Lotus Esprit Turbo with the same 2.2-liter turbocharged engine from the Essex Turbo. A V8-powered Lotus Esprit was released in 1996 with up to 350 horsepower.

RELATED: 2021 Lotus Evora GT Review: A Driving Enthusiast's Dream

4 Running Costs


Lotus Cars started producing the Esprit in 1976 and ended production in 2004. Throughout the production timeline, 10,675 Esprit models were built. We're not sure how many of these cars got into the US, but it was a significant amount.


Even if Lotus Cars has ended Esprit's production, people still buy old models today. Now you can get a Lotus Esprit for about $25,000 on a used car website. Apart from routine car repairs, the Esprit doesn't seem to have any significant problems.

3 Lotus Esprit Series 1

Lotus Esprit Series 1
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The Lotus Esprit Series 1 is also known as the S1 and was produced from 1976-to 1978. Before the S1 was released in 1976, the manufacturer unveiled it at the 1975 Paris Motor Show. Lotus Cars employed Giorgetto Giugiaro to design the car, designing an angular exterior body design.

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True to Lotus Cars' philosophy, the S1 was built with fiberglass and weighed less than 1,000kg. The Esprit S1 is fitted with a 2.0-liter engine and has excellent handling though the US version was underpowered due to emissions regulations.

RELATED: Here's What The 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo Costs Today

2 Lotus Esprit Essex Turbo

Lotus Esprit Essex Turbo

According to auto enthusiasts, Lotus Cars used the Esprit Essex Turbo to experiment on a turbocharged engine. The Esprit Essex Turbo was released in 1980 as a limited edition model. Of course, the supercar shared the same exterior design as the Esprit Series 1.


The car's body panels are glass-reinforced plastic, resulting in a lightweight vehicle. Under the Essex Turbo, Lotus Cars used a galvanized steel backbone chassis. The Lotus Esprit Essex Turbo has 210 horsepower, 200 lb-ft of torque, and a top speed of 150mph.

1 Lotus Esprit X180-R

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The Lotus type 105 Esprit SE was used as a race car in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and the manufacturer wanted a road-going version of type 105. To meet this need, they built the Lotus Esprit X180-R coupe.

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Styled similarly to the type 105 Esprit SE, the X180-R featured a rear spoiler. Under the hood, Lotus Cars used a 2.2-liter 910S turbocharged engine capable of 285 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The Esprit X180-R also has Ap racing disc brakes and a galvanized chassis.

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