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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For The Esprit delivers excellent handling, quick acceleration and good fuel economy

Against It has a cramped cockpit, a lack of safety equipment, and the V8's engine note is all wrong

Verdict The interior betrays the Esprit's 1980s heritage, but it’s a proper supercar

Go for… V8

Avoid… GT3

Lotus Esprit Coupe
  • 1. If you're looking at a car from 1996-98, check the alloys, as some suffered hairline cracks
  • 2. Parts are expensive and the service intervals are only 6000 miles apart, which makes this an expensive car to run
  • 3. Suspension and brakes should be overhauled annually to keep them in tip-top condition
  • 4. Beware of failing turbochargers and catalytic converters that can die on you
  • 5. Anyone six feet tall or more will struggle to get into the driver's seat
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Lotus Esprit Coupe full review with expert trade views

Okay, so the basic design is 25 years old, but that doesn’t matter if the driving experience is this good. A proper member of the supercar pack, the Esprit’s got pin-sharp steering and goes in and out of corners with balance and poise. The ride is cracking, too. There’s a real suppleness to it that you don’t expect from a two-seater coupe that’s so close to the road.

Versions in the 1998-2003 bracket were very refined in comparison with early ones, and the rough edges had been smoothed out. Sadly, the engine doesn’t make a V8-style noise.

Getting in the cabin isn’t easy, with low doors and even lower sills. Once you're inside, the car can’t hide its 1980s heritage; it looks and feels dated by modern standards and anyone approaching six feet tall will struggle to get in it. There are no airbags, and the boot is small, too.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Was a good supercar but is dogged with gearbox problems

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

Three models were available and specialist dealers who know the Esprit well are the best place to look for them.

The standard V8 was launched in 1996, powered by a 3.5-litre 349bhp turbocharged engine linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. In 1998, there was an improved model with a revised interior and some mechanical changes. There followed another upgrade in 2002, when it got new wheels and rear light clusters.

The basic V8 is the one we like best, and if you can find a post-2002 example, it will hold its value best. The second version was the V8 GT, which sold from 1997-2001, and was essentially a V8 with GT3 trim. Finally, there was the GT3 itself, which was a stripped-out model – no wood or leather here – with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo unit and 240bhp. It was available from 1996-99.

Trade view

John Owen

Loads Of Trouble Usually Serious

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

There’s quite a lot of bad news here and only a little bit of good. If you’re looking for a car that’s going to be cheap to buy and run, the Esprit isn’t it. The two-seater’s formidable reputation goes before it, so you’ll have to pay top dollar for these end-of-life examples.

Needless to say, parts are expensive, and the service intervals are an eye-watering 6000 miles apart. Our advice would be talk to owners about running costs before buying. Internet fan forums are a good place to start.

Insurance cover will also hit your wallet hard, as you’re looking at a maximum group 20 policy with all Esprits.

There is some good news, however – you won’t have to fill it up as often as you might think. Fuel economy is actually pretty good for a car of this type, with the official figure a respectable 21mpg.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Was a good supercar but is dogged with gearbox problems

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

Reliability with the three cars reviewed here is generally pretty good, mainly because Lotus has had many years to tweak and fettle the Esprit, and get everything to work just right. The engine is the company’s own and hasn’t proved to be troublesome, and the same story is true of the chassis. The interior is a bit more fragile, but overall the Esprit should last the distance.

Beware of failing turbochargers, and catalytic converters that can die on you, while the suspension and brakes should be overhauled annually to keep them in tip-top condition. Check the age of the alloy wheels, because hairline cracks were found on them from some 1996-98 cars.

Of course, make sure that the 6000-mile service schedule has been followed and continues to be. It can seem harsh to some owners shuddering at running costs, but it's important to ensure trouble-free motoring.

Trade view

John Owen

Loads Of Trouble Usually Serious

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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