Is The Lotus Esprit The Most Affordable ‘Exotic?’
Photography Courtesy of Auctions America
I sort of have a “checklist” for vehicle characteristics. For instance, the Ferrari Testarossa is not my favorite Italian supercar, but it’s on the bucket list because it checks off so many novelties in one package. Flip-up headlights? Yup. Gated manual? I can hear the metal snikt now. A howling 12-cylinder? What a song. Mid-engine? Sì. Unmistakable exotic looks? Pininfarina has it covered. I remember when Testarossas were in the $70-$80k ballpark…but not anymore.
So what else is out there?
It may not be the fastest car in the world, or as prestigious as a Maranello car, but the Lotus Esprit certainly covers a lot of exotic car commonalities at a fraction of Ferrari pricing. If you don’t mind turning your own wrench, which we here at Petrolicious believe to be a healthy ritual, a Lotus Esprit might be the bargain supercar for you.
For example, this 1992 Lotus Esprit S4 Turbo that’s going up for auction on April Fool’s Day, with no reserve, is estimated to fetch between $25,000-$35,000—no joke. While that may not be pocket change, when you look at the big picture, it’s a lot of car for the money.
Five generations of the British wedge were made over a nearly 30-year production run, but Lotus kept the same overall look throughout. Why wouldn’t they? Its well-tailored proportions still look great today. The mid-engine layout not only provides exceptional balance, but also gives the Esprit that forward cabin supercar vibe. The short overhangs keep the design neat and purposeful. This rare fourth gen Turbo specimen (one of 625) isn’t as angular as the one 007 drove, but it still has that origami fold look.
Under the hood—I mean bonnet—rests a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-banger that puffs out 260 horsepower. Not mind-bending figures by today’s standards, but in a sub-3,000 pound fiberglass package it surges from naught to 60 in 4.7 seconds—nearly a second faster than the 5.7-liter C4 Corvette of the same year! No replacement for displacement? Puh-lease.
When quoting its specs when new, its quickness off the line and ~165 mph top speed compares favorably to modern-day sports cars—and that’s just sheer speed we’re talking about. Handling? Have you ever driven a mid-engine car? If not, you should as soon as possible. They’re delightful. With independent suspension and disc brakes at all four, its performance threshold is likely higher than your driving ability.
This S4 example being offered at Auctions America has enough modern creature comforts to stay usable. It was the first Esprit generation to get power steering standard—not necessary, but convenient without losing detrimental road-feel. The cabin has power windows, a radio, ample leather, air-conditioning, and a glass roof—how’s that for 1992?
If you’re in the market for a performance vehicle in the $30,000 range, the Lotus Esprit S4 Turbo is a tempting proposition? It’s got the looks, it’s got the layout, it’s got great pedigree, and the entry fee won’t break the bank. Just don’t blame us when you’re tired of convincing bystanders that it’s not a high-priced exotic.
– One of 625 S4s built (one of four such built in 1992, according to Auctions America)
– Factory books, keys, and service records
~264hp, DOHC 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, five-speed manual transmission, four wheel disc brakes, front and rear independent suspension. Wheelbase: 96 inches.
Chassis no.: SCCFC20B6NHF60100