PistonHeads Expert Opinion
If the Elise was the car that saved modern-day Lotus, then the Esprit was the car that defined it for almost 30 years. The brand was known for punching above its weight, unmatched dynamic excellence and a defiance in the face of adversity - all values encapsulated in the Esprit. It took on supercars with a four-cylinder turbo engine, it outhandled supposedly lighter and more exotic machinery, and it endured all the vicissitudes of Lotus’ plight as a manufacturer to remain on sale for 28 years.
First launched in the mid-1970s, the Esprit’s most significant updates came with the X180 of 1987 and the S4 of 1993, which eventually ushered in the V8 powerplant that the Esprit would end its life with in 2004. And although the car is of course best known for being the submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me, there were some truly great Esprits over the course of nearly three decades: think GT3, Sport 300, Sport 350, S4S and Essex Turbo, just for starters. Criminally undervalued throughout its life, the Esprit only really gets expensive for Bond homages and Sport 350s. Set aside £30k and you can buy a sports car experience like no other.