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How do the different models drive?


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Whenever a new model Esprit came out the press were always complimentary about how much better it was than the car it replaced. So I was surprised when classic car magazines more recently reviewed the development of the Esprit and caid things like when the turbo came out, driving the car bacame a physical experience and that the early Stevens cars were bland.

Now we have several owners on the forum who have more than one Esprit or have had different models over the years. I want to know what they think about how the driving experience of the different models compares. I went for an early NA car because I had read that they had the sweetest steering, something that most new cars lack. But was I right or did the magazines mislead me?

Help me out, folks.

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i'm a test drive addict, so i've driven everything i could find. i prefer as little between me and the road as possible, so i'd say your car is more fun than the stevens cars. however, the newer cars are less rattly, while still retaining the overall feel of your car. i've not driven any esprit whose steering could not be described as sweet. maybe some were heavier than others, which i personally like. not sure what those journalists were expecting.

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I have an S4 and my partner renu has a sport 350, i havent driven the sport 350 i hvae managed to get on the insurance this year, but since my little bump the other week i think getting a drive is a way off. Renu has driven my car and loves the gear change which she says is far smoother than her car. when I bought the car from Paul Matty he and his sales manager both said it was the best geat change in an Esprit thay had ever driven, possibly the previous owner used it as a daily drive. Incidently he traded up to an elise at 71 years of age.


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I used to have a 1989 Turbo, now I have an 1994 S4.

I much prefer the power steering. I can point the wheels where I want to go more quickly, and I can take one hand off the wheel to change gears no matter how much I'm steering. To me, it feels safer, more comfy, allowing more acrobatics on the road, and still I feel in contact with the road.

I prefer the shorter throw gear change on the S4, but it's not a dramatic difference.

The S4 brakes suck big time. The ABS is a coward and releases the brakes too early, and anyway I don't even want ABS on a sports car. The brakes are too small to avoid fade if tracking. And I'm having trouble fixing problems due to system complexity. The 1989 with its simple setup and its too weak brake booster was much nicer, although it too would fade on tracks.

The chargecooled engine with a slightly smaller turbine makes the S4 much faster than my old Turbo. This is not just a gimmick, the difference is huge.


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Can't see how tbh.

They all share an extremely similar chassis and (the 4 pots) weight.

The stevens cars are all pretty much identical on suspension (the later cars I beileve have conical bushes but other than that you can chop and change.

Word from Lotus is the only major change was the damping. The V8 certainly feels more planted at the rear and when jinking you feel the pendulum effect ore where as the GT3 feels lighter on the steering and perhaps a bit more lively in the handling (although it's actually difficult to tell).

The only other aspect to consider is the tyres - the later S4s cars had more rubber on the road which would help handling somewhat. The GT3 and the other 4 pots I've been in (Bib's NA, Jasons SE and so on) don't really feel that different in capability.

You're going to see difference if you push the car - I think people just get excited over the acceleration which generally got faster (with the exception of the GT3) as the range went on from NA to V8.

I was also tempted to get an NA a while back, Bib's car is the only one I've been in and it's no less an Esprit than the others.

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The steering on the S3 Turbo is a little bit heavier than the S2, and they feel pretty similar until when you reach 3000 RPM , the Turbo makes it take off like a rocket :blink:

Early Stevens feel /drive the same as the Turbo Esprit, and the SE has more power and even heavier steering. :)

I think you will be pleasantly surprised how your car drives when you have it back on the road B)

The only reason I got the Turbo Esprit over the S1 or S2 was that I needed the extra oomph! :)

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My S3 N/A felt lighter and more nimble than the SE which is heavier at the wheel.

I don't mind this at all as i buy into the 'gorrilla arms needed' supercar feel and

the whole point of the lotus was to get away from the assisted and cosseted feel

that my Supra had. Although i do think it's reasonable to expect PAS on the later

cars, as they would be a joke alongside their contemparies without such luxuries.

I see my old S3 as a totally different beast to the SE and hard to compare fairly.

On an open stretch of motorway - the SE! On a winding cotswold lane - the S3!


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not owning any esprit yet, but had tested a 1991 Esprit SE Turbo..

what I like the most is the handling!! (it's definitely exotic car level!)

the respond is quick and precise!

for the acceleration, the 4cylinder turbo is a thrill...but I think the V8 Twin Turbo will be a wild beast!

and forget to mention, the pedals are so closely to each other..(and very small)

it's really "pure" racing car feel!

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I've driven my NA obviously (if anything thinks it's slow, I'll see you on the twisties eh!) a '98 V8-GT, a 97 GT3 (well, 3 of them), and a 92 SE all for periods of time and a brief pop around in an 86 Turbo. Most of these cars have been in the personal collection of B33 ENN who incredibly kindly lets me drive his cars at absurd speeds for fun!

The GT3's are the mutts, great cars, incredibly precise and with engine tweaks superbly fast. Perfect to drive at great speeds through country roads which extreme confidence that the car will do what you wish and then some. Can't fault them perhaps apart from the enthusiastic abs but you can drive to that.

The V8-GT was of course a nice car but the engine doesn't feel engaged and although I enjoyed the power I felt it took me too close to it's performance envelope limits too quickly which lead to me driving it, err, slowly (in respect of it's limits, not neccessarily in real terms) Not fun when the back twitches at high speed due to 'more' power than you wish being sent to the wheels and I don't enjoy driving a car which I don't have complete confidence in.

The 92 SE High Wing is a terrific drive. Loads of power (overtaken many lambo's in this which may be attributed to slow lambo drivers but ho-hum, I was in front!) and great road holding at extremes and again superb steering and balance. A car which inspires trust in it's abilities and allows one to push it with confidence in the more demanding roads. Lovely car, can't fault it but it does feel the heavier car to the GT3 in respect of it's driving most probably due to lack of power steering.

My NA, great car which I of course love dearly and will never ever be parted from. Never had a problem keeping up and overtaking turbo cars apart from on motorways but I didn't buy a ricer, I wanted a performance car which will give me pleasure through demanding roads. If I want to fly along in a straight line at great speeds I'll get in a plane! It would benefit from a more responsive and torquier engine but that's soon to be resolved in my case.

To be fair, most of these cars have been modified from stock with larger wheels amongst other changes, but I hope that the above is of some help all the same, innit :blink:

88 Esprit NA, 89 Esprit Turbo SE, Evora, Evora S, Evora IPS, Evora S IPS, Evora S IPS SR, Evora 400, Elise S1, Elise S1 111s, Evora GT410 Sport

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Esprits are not about top speed, especially in this day and age. Many super saloons these days can reach 180mph+ and needless to say cumbersome supercars like lamborghini have been for years.

The feeling of speed in a car is relative to the clear space in front of you on a road. In country lanes you can feel like you are doing Warp 7 but only be doing 60-80mph. This is where the fun factor is for the enthusiastic driver.

In this respect the Esprit has always been the superior supecar as it feels like it was made for "spirited maneouvering" - as Pingu describes it. For example, this has made the Elise very successful and greatly respected, but it is no supercar in it's power or size.

Of the versions I have owned, I feel the GT3 version is the best in handling, weight and performance of the turbo variants.

Essentially, it's a lighter Se/S4s with a lower capacity motor. Change that by modding or upgrading the motor and you have the definitive Esprit in my opinion - FGRC :)

But driving around the turbo's own envelope is not my favourite engine type. I much prefer the smooth predictable power and torque delivery of NA and supercharged cars.

These give you the most confidence in roadholding and limits when driving down roads where the grip levels and hazzards may be subject to constant change.

On a race track, a turbo car will probably be very good to drive, but on real roads, where safety concerns and run-off margins are very different, I feel it will be the lesser experience against a well sorted NA or supercharger.

In that point I think the X180NA is probably the most fun, especially for someone new to supercars and fast driving. The communication between engine and chassis is a lot more precise.

However, the lack of power from the Lotus NA motor is what puts many off thinking it is a contender.

With some well thought modifications, it is possibl to get 250bhp from a 2.2NA. That's above the region of a standard GT3.

A bit more tweaking and you can approach 300bhp, S4s/S300 territory. You'll also sound much better, have better fuel consumption and less mechanical problems :blink:

Hoping to have a demonstration car at a meet near you next year. See if you can keep up! lol :)

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  • 12 years later...

I think the days of finding an S1 destined for the scrapheap have gone.

Like many classic cars before it, the S1 is now a salvageable concern. With the S2 and Turbo closely following, the others won't be far off before too long.

The S1 has the kudos of being the first of the range, and like Jaguar E Type S1s their mechnical shortcomings are outweighed by their iconic status, and unadulterated design.

S1 garage finds (who in the UK stores their cars in a barn? Few) are still to be found. I know of 3 in the past 8 months.

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2 minutes ago, Fridge said:

I think the days of finding an S1 destined for the scrapheap have gone.

Like many classic cars before it, the S1 is now a salvageable concern. With the S2 and Turbo closely following, the others won't be far off before too long.

The S1 has the kudos of being the first of the range, and like Jaguar E Type S1s their mechnical shortcomings are outweighed by their iconic status, and unadulterated design.

S1 garage finds (who in the UK stores their cars in a barn? Few) are still to be found. I know of 3 in the past 8 months.

I keep meaning to check the build numbers of S1 versus the Dvla registry of cars still active and work out the gap of potential cars that could still be found in RHD. Sorry, for scrap heap meant dormant cars that just dropped of the radar but beyond current owners budget or skill set to restore!

I have a loving home ready for such a basket case but expect there is a queue. 

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Definitely a queue, and folk with ready cash and their S1 RADARs set to the max.

The figures on that 'How Many Left' site are useless. As the figures rely upon folk registering their cars correctly. Though someone may have extrapolated an approximate figure.

I've counted 50 RHD S1s on the road world-wide, with 2 of them in Japan, US (including the Bond 'hero' museum car) and at least 1 in Oz. However these do not take into account those locked away from prying eyes, or languishing in lockups throughout the land.

Edited by Fridge
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1 hour ago, Giniw said:

Uh oh, a LHD S1? Do you happen to know its price range?

@Giniw I haven't seen the car close up, but I believe it's better and cheaper than this one. It's in Monaco White.

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