The V8 Twin Turbo in the Esprit certainly has character but throws out the power
with a smooth whooshing noise quite distinct the rumble and roar you get from an American
Off with the old...
All is not lost though. Whipping off the superfluous back box and bolting on
short pipes reduces the tone of the engine to a more pleasing rumble, and driven with
healthy doses of the right foot, it produces lovely popping and banging on the overrun.
Just find yourself a narrow street and you'll soon be scaring the pensioners.
...on with the new
It has to be said though, the music produced by this simple conversion is
superior to the cacophony eminating from some of the sports conversions on the TVR V8s.
I'll get me coat...
Dave Lanagan reports
TVR - strange way to start a report on a Lotus but then, that's where I'm coming from.
Since the age of 12, washing Dad's car and seeing a gleaming red 400SE go past every
morning, I've loved TVRs and followed their progress through to the latest, greatest
Cerbera. I love Cerberas. Everyone knows that I'm a TVR junkie, but I just had to
have a look around as I've got a Tuscan order on the way and I fancied seeing what else
was worth a look, to have something different before the Tuscan arrives sometime in 2000
or 2001. Hence the trip to a Lotus dealer...
After sitting in a Ferrari 348, 355 (couldn't afford but wanted a sit) and then the
Lotus, I've come to one very important conclusion that us Cerbera owners are spoilt by one
of the most attractive interiors - period. Anything else looks dated as soon as you get
in. The Lotus's dash was very user friendly although small heater controls and GM parts
bin stalks were off-putting. Then again I'll have to get used to those for the Tuscan and
I found in practice that they're a very ergonomic design.
Rear visibility is appalling but only really slightly worse than the Cerbera whilst the
doors shut a lot more solidly and I found that starting the car up didn't produce any of
these squeaks or rattles that a certain magazine reported. Maybe my ears are just used to
a certain degree of cabin noise from TVR ownership! One more thing before I get onto the
interesting bit - the handbrake is really weird, set down by your right calf. You pull the
handbrake on as normal but then push it back down again. The handbrake is then set and you
can leave the car. Cerbera owners will be pleased to hear that the handbrake worked
perfectly well though.
The Sport 350 is a special edition of the twin turbocharged 3.5 V8 Esprit. Only fifty
have been made and they include various extras such as:
Lightened, magnesium wheels.
Deeper front air intakes.
Special paintwork and decals.
Plaque on the dash indicating the build number.
Special blue and black interior including liberal use of carbon fibre.
Tuned engine to give more low down torque.
Sitting in the Lotus was like sitting in a GT racer, the low seating position, close
pedals and just the feeling of the engine being right behind you, really made it feel very
different to the Cerbera. Then the engine was fired up, a lovely sound but not like a V8
TVR at all (maybe because it isn't!). I don't know why journalists have slated the engine
note of the Esprit, it's a racy sound but not a deep grumbling V8. The best bit is that
you can hear those turbos, which makes up for it all.
Esprit vs Cerbera
Speed-wise, the Esprit delivers power very much like the 4.2 Cerbera. i.e.
higher up the rev range which I have to say I prefer. Going through Hyde Park on our way
out up onto the A4, I bounced the car off the rev limiter more than once and have to say
the engine is fantastic, even if it doesn't have as good a sound as a TVR. The gearbox is
nowhere near as bad as the mags would have you believe. It's not as good as the Cerbera's
(which I love), but then it has a linkage to worry about too, but I found it ok. The
clutch is as digital as the Cerbera's, you treat it exactly the same and it's fine as long
as you slip it a little as you pull away.
The other aspect of the Lotus is my favourite, hence last, bit - THE
HANDLING! This is the only thing that I want to improve on from my 4.2, the
performance isn't a problem as it's fast enough. I'm not worried about going any faster in
a straight line. Going around corners however, I would like to have less body roll and be
able to carry a bit more corner speed. The Lotus wins so well here, it's indescribable. I
was amazed, I thought the Cerbera was good but this Lotus mashes it completely giving a
much more stable, controlled, dare I say enjoyable experience!!
If you want straight line superiority in the speed stakes, pose-ability and to keep the
costs low then stay with a Cerbera 4.5. If however, you want to drive down A-roads with
bends in them whilst still having nigh on the same acceleration of a Cerbera and still
attract as many looks then I suggest tracking a Sport 350 down. The problem is that only
fifty will ever be produced and they are more expensive than a 4.5. I'm just hoping that
the Tuscan will knock our socks off like this!