Is The Lotus Esprit A Supercar?

The Lotus Esprit is an iconic car that first went into production in 1976. Lotus is a British manufacturer, and with the Esprit they had taken a completely new approach to the idea of a fast car. This still begs the question of whether or not the Lotus Esprit is a supercar.

The Lotus Esprit is considered a supercar. In fact, in its day it was just as fast, and sometimes faster than, Porsches and Ferraris. The Esprit has all of the elements that define a supercar, and it is also a great track day car.

Production on the Lotus Esprit ceased in 2004 and the car became an icon of British motoring. The value of classic Lotus Esprits will only rise over the years to come. Despite being an older car, the Esprit is still fast enough to be considered a classic supercar, but let’s take a closer look.

History Of The Lotus Esprit

Lotus is a British car manufacturer that was started by engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare. The exact starting date of the Lotus company is a contentious issue. Technically, the first Lotus car was built by Chapman in 1948. It was a racing car that he built in his garage.

But Lotus Engineering was formed in 1952 by Chapman and Dare, and the Lotus Group of Companies was formed some years later in 1959. This confusing origin story is often overlooked as most of the credit usually goes to Colin Chapman for the sporty and flamboyant cars that are built by Lotus, all the way through to the modern favorites like the Lotus Elise and the Exige.

Lotus Esprit

The Lotus Esprit was born in 1976 and offered a revolutionary new look for the cars of its day. The Esprit had sharp edges and a very menacing look. It found its fame in 1977 when it was featured in the James bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me, with that model currently owned by Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame.

Two Different Types

The Esprit has two main ‘groups’ of models. The first is the original sharp-edged car which had a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, which could kick out 156 horsepower. This amount of horsepower wasn’t far off the likes of the Ferraris and Porsches at the time. The car was also mid-engine, which gave it more stability and better handling in the corners.

The second group of Esprit cars (from 1988 onwards) had significantly softer edges thanks to a new designer. The 2002 Lotus Esprit now featured a 3.5L twin turbo V8 engine. The new engine produced 350 horsepower. At this point the Lotus produced significantly less power than other mainstream supercars, but the impressive handling model on the Lotus kept it running strongly against its competition.


Interestingly, Lotus wanted the Esprit to be an extremely rare car. In order to do so they only produced 11,000 cars over the Esprit’s 28-year life span. This way Lotus ensured that the Esprit would be a sought-after supercar that is a rare sight to see on public roads.

Each and every Lotus Esprit was completely hand built by a production team of just 21 people. The cars each took more than 500 man-hours to complete. Once the cars were built, they would be test driven around a racetrack before being shipped off to their new homes.

What Defines A Supercar?

These days it can be difficult to define what a supercar actually is. Many people confuse the various categories of cars such as supercars, hypercars, sports cars and exotic cars. In order to identify whether the Lotus Esprit is a supercar we need to look at the definition of supercar in more detail.

However, we also need to take the Esprit into context. There’s no point comparing it to a 2021 Lamborghini Aventador. We will need to compare the Esprit to the standards of its time. We are going to look at the 1976 and 2002 models, to see where they fit into their respective era’s definition of the word “supercar”.

Top Speed

The 1976 Lotus Esprit had a top speed of 159 mph. That’s quite fast considering this car was built completely by hand more than 45 years ago. If we compare that to a supercar such as the Lamborghini Silhouette built in the same year, the Lotus is slower by only 2 mph.

Fast forward to 2002 and cars have made significant progress. The latest Lotus Esprit has a monstrous V8 engine, and the car can now hit a top speed of 175 mph. It’s still able to compete against supercars despite lacking in straight line speed. Despite that, the Esprit was only 5 mph slower than the Ferrari 360 spider in a straight line.

In the top speed category, the Esprit can certainly challenge most supercars. It might not be the fastest, but it certainly has some respectable top speeds. But top speed isn’t the only thing that matters.


Acceleration has always been the stronger statistic for Lotus cars, and the Esprit is no different. The 1976 model could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. At the time, this car was ranked as having the 7th fastest 0-60 time in the world, beating a Porsche 911. It was only slightly slower than a Lamborghini Countach.

The 2002 model dropped down the rankings significantly due to the addition of a heavier engine. However, the lightweight body allowed the car to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, faster than a Ferrari 360 Spider, but slower than the Porsche 911 GT2.

Looking at the acceleration stats of the Lotus Esprit, it’s definitely up there with some of the best and most iconic supercars in automotive history, even if it wouldn’t be able to compete with the sub-3-second 0-60 times of modern supercars.


The 1976 Esprit had only 156 horsepower, but this is only slightly less than the Porsches and Lamborghinis of the time. The average horsepower for a supercar in the 1970s was around 180 horsepower, so the Esprit was not far off in that regard.

The 2002 Esprit had 350 horsepower, which was more than the Porsche 911 of the time. With this in mind, the 2002 Lotus Esprit can also be classified in the same category as other supercars.

Cornering Ability

The Lotus Esprit has had an excellent handling model since its beginnings in 1976. The car is designed to be aerodynamically efficient which gives it more grip at high speeds. In addition, its lightweight body and centralized engine gives the car excellent stability and responsiveness.

The Lotus Esprit’s real strength lies in its cornering ability, which is where it makes up for the lack of power and speed when compared to some other supercars. The excellent handling model on the Lotus esprit certainly makes it worthy of being called a supercar.

Lotus Esprit Specifications

Over the years the Lotus Esprit has seen various small changes made to it. The progress from the first model in 1976 to the final model in 2004 was quite amazing. Below, we will compare the specs from the first model to the very last model ever produced, to really make it clear just how far the Lotus Esprit evolved over the years.

Engine2.0L 4-cylinder3.5L V8
Horsepower156 HP350 HP
Top Speed159 mph175 mph
0-606.4 s4.3 s
Weight900 kg1300 kg

Comparing The Esprit To Other Supercars

In comparison to most other supercars the Lotus Esprit matches up well. It might not be the fastest car of them all, but it can certainly hold its own. On paper, the stats may be against the Esprit, however, on a racetrack it’s a completely different story. The Esprit’s incredible handling ability allows it to significantly gain on its competitors on track.

Is The Lotus Esprit A Good Track Car?

The Lotus Esprit is one of the best track cars in history. Its lightweight body makes cornering a breeze and the powerful engine can propel you down a straight quickly. Esprits have been built for the track, which is why each and every one was driven around a test track before it was released from the factory.

Is The Lotus Esprit Reliable?

The Lotus Esprit is a rather old car at this point, and as such any Esprit that is bought now will be at least 17 years old, and it could be up to 35. According to many online forums, the Lotus Esprit is infamous for breaking down and giving owners various issues.

Others have stated that their Esprits have not broken down but have had some small issues that need fixing over time. Either way, if you want to buy an Esprit you need to either be handy with tools or have a big budget for a mechanic.

Practicality Issues

While there have been reliability issues with the car, there are also some practicality issues to consider. The Lotus Esprit is a low car with a ground clearance of only 4.1 inches. In addition, the car only has two doors and a small trunk. This makes the car rather impractical, just like all other supercars tend to be!

Final Thoughts

The Lotus Esprit is a supercar that can comfortably take on some of the best cars of its day. For its time, the Lotus Esprit was one of the quickest supercars on the market. It was one of the rarest as well, and with only 11,000 cars built, you’re still very unlikely to see the Lotus Esprit out on the road.

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