Lotus Esprit GT3 | Spotted

Five years is a long time in the recent history of Lotus; five years ago was when we last featured an Esprit GT3. It was just before the Jean-Marc Gales era, before the vast expansion of available models and special editions. Now there's a new CEO at the helm in the wake of the Geely takeover, bigger projects imminent and, in theory at least, a brighter future on the horizon. 2014 seems quite a while ago.

Time has done no harm, however, to the appeal of the Esprit GT3. All of the Esprits will seem like classics now, what with the very last cars being made 15 years ago, and yet there remains something timelessly appealing about the stripped out four-cylinder special. Debate will rage forever more about its pros and cons of versus the V8s, but we can surely all agree on the most desirable Lotuses being the ones where yet more weight was removed - which is exactly what the GT3 did.

Indeed at 1,240kg, the GT3 was a staggering 150kg lighter than an S4S, meaning its fairly ordinary 240hp was enough for potent performance - 0-100mph was timed at 12.5 seconds in the Autocar road test. The handling was, as expected, stellar.

All of which was known before. Perhaps the discussion to have now on Lotuses like the GT3 is one of drivability and usability in a modern context. This Esprit is now more than 20 years old, and is approaching a point - given the scarcity of GT3s - where they might start being holed up to preserve condition and value. Opportunities to own them will only become more rarified (and more expensive to access) as the years pass by. Expect an intensification of both if a new Esprit ever emerges, and the chronic cheapness of the originals to be addressed.

This GT3, a beautifully preserved example, is Β£30k. In fact, beautifully preserved sells it short, the level of care and affection seemingly lavished on this Esprit over the past 16 years quite extraordinary. And although Β£30k is more than the GT3 we featured five years ago, try and find a performance car of any significance, especially those that were perhaps undervalued, that hasn't appreciated a little since 2014. Given that Β£30k can be paid for a 996-era 911 C4S with not many miles less on it, the GT3 looks even more tempting. Heck, you can pay Β£35k for an M3 Imola Individual.

While the Esprit won't provide quite the delicate thrills of an Elise, or the bombastic performance of the current V6 cars, there's a reason why the recipe continued for so long. By combining stunning good looks with great performance and the kind of dynamic prowess few could match, the Esprit always held a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts; with examples like this GT3 still available for reasonable money, hopefully that can continue for a little longer. We live in a world of Β£60k Sport 350s, don't forget, so they won't stay this way for ever...

1,973cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 243@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 216@3,750rpm
MPG: 22.5 (official claimed combined)
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1998
Recorded mileage: 52,000
Price new: Β£39,450
Yours for: Β£32,000

See the original advert here

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Comments (71) Join the discussion on the forum

  • sidesauce 23 Jun 2019

    "But it's a 2 litre, 4-cylinder turbo so I'm out..."

    Say the critics of the 718 Porsche and AMG45 etc.

    As well as this car has aged aesthetically, I seem to recall that reliability, build quality and ergonomics weren't its strongest suits?

  • SidewaysSi 23 Jun 2019

    Absolute bargain. A stunning driver's car.

  • j3gme 23 Jun 2019

    Will we ever see the re-birth of the Esprit ?..... I do hope so.

  • DevonPaul 23 Jun 2019

    sidesauce said:
    As well as this car has aged aesthetically, I seem to recall that reliability, build quality and ergonomics weren't its strongest suits?
    What??? This is a 1990s car - build quality of these cars was as good as it had always been from Lotus.


  • rockin 23 Jun 2019

    What the article doesn't mention is "why" the traditional 2.2 litre engine, used since in 1980, was reduced to 2.0 litres for this mid-1990s GT3.

    Around that time the Italian car market had an aggressive tax increase for any car over 2 litres. Lotus developed the 2-litre 920 version of its usual engine to take advantage of that tax break. Fewer than 200 of these engines were built but still Lotus needed to find somewhere to put them! Subsequently the engine was used for a final outing of Lotus' 4-cylinder cars running alongside the V8, introduced in 1996 and selling around 1,500 cars.

    I owned an Esprit for almost 10 years - wonderful car.

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