Budget Exotic? 2001 Lotus Esprit V8

When it was new, the V8-powered Lotus Esprit was a relative bargain compared to other supercars of the era. Today, it still remains a very good deal on the collector car marketplace, often priced far lower than its contemporaries from Ferrari and Porsche. The turbocharged V8 delivered healthy performance out of the box, with 60 flying by in 4.5 seconds and going on to a top speed of 175 miles per hour; 350 b.h.p. was on tap, planted right behind the driver’s head. The seller has listed the Esprit here on eBay with only 12,152 miles and a very reasonable asking price of $49,888.

The Esprit has always been one of the more affordable exotics you could buy without having to be a millionaire several times over. The penalty of the late-production V8 was that you were still driving what amounted to the original design of the Esprit, which requires that drivers have a different expectation of comfort and convenience. The Esprit of this generation also hails from a period of time when GM owned the company, so there’s some evidence of parts bit scourging throughout. The biggest complaint about the V8 cars, however, was the UN-1 transmission from Renault that was overpowered by the turbocharged V8’s thrust, making additional horsepower out of the question.

This is all fixable, of course, with various reinforcement kits from the aftermarket. And really, if you’re not doing hard launch after hard launch, it may not even be a problem worth fixing. But once you’re past that, the Lotus really is a delightful option for performance that is hard to realize at this level and from this era at other price points. Speaking of era, if you’re following the Radwood scene, the Esprit really is an iconic car considering how many of these were emblazoned on posters on childhood walls. Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, Bond films, and other icons of the silver screen all sat behind the wheel of an Esprit; if you’re looking for 80s sports car prestige, this is it.

And, of course, just the engineering ingenuity of Lotus building its own twin-turbo V8 is hard to ignore. How often does a niche manufacturer like Lotus build their own supercar powerplant from scratch? It just doesn’t happen when it’s far cheaper to grab an engine from another manufacturer that’s already on the shelf. This generation of the Esprit also featured revised bodywork and suspension tuning, both resulting in a much more modern appearance and handling qualities than that of Esprits past. Overall, if the 911 market has left you cold to the idea of buying a supercar, the Esprit V8 raises its hand as a viable alternative with even more exclusivity.


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  1. PK

    With its awesome Citroën CX side mirrors ;)

    • JohnU

      Maybe it’s the Citroen that has awesome Esprit side mirrors 🤔

      Like 6
    • jwzg

      …and a Firebird steering wheel. Ugliest wheel to ever be installed in a car.

      Like 1
      • Jimmy Boy!

        I saw that pic, and thought “Holy hell, that’s the same steering wheel as my ’92 Firebird!”. LMAO

  2. DRV

    I can never buy a car that I passed up a few years earlier for twice the money.

    Like 1
  3. Coventrycat

    “Budget Exotic” is oxymoron.

    Like 6
  4. H5mind

    I’ve looked at these over the years, and think the best bargains are the later 4 cylinder turbos. Light, nimble, and enough HP to have fun without ending up in a YouTube compilation of “Idiots Crashing Supercars”. Plus, no worries about overpowering the transmission and better gas mileage.

    Like 5
    • Hank

      I had one. An ’89 Esprit, and it was great! Sold it to a fellow in South America.

    • Ken Jennings

      Not to mention, maybe enough room to work on the engine…maybe.

      Like 1
  5. wizzy

    Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious

    Like 4
  6. Intelpro

    Drove one of the original two sent to the US for testing by auto magazines. Rolls Royce was handling the marketing in the US and wanted miles put on them before turning over to the magazines. The interior glare from headlights of cars in the rear of me was insane. I couldn’t tell where they were. But the car was like a 140 mph go cart. A blast to drive in daylight, garnering the attention of cops everywhere.

    Like 2
  7. Intelpro

    Also, when introduced, it was a turbo 4 cylinder, not an 8 cylinder car.

  8. Fiete T.

    “Budget for an Exotic Headache”

    Like 4
  9. Poncho

    I doubt you can worry about gas mileage too much when buying a supercar. Supercar and fuel efficiency is relevant to throttle position/foot weight.

    Like 4
    • Lynn Member

      Lucas: the man who invented darkness!!!

      Like 2
      • R.Scot Rasmussen

        A mechanic I knew that specialized in European autos once told me: “If Lucas had invented guns, there would be no wars, as the weapons would constantly break, and prove to be completely useless.”

  10. Victor Anderson

    I’ve always liked the V8 Espirt, although I prefer the later ones with the round tail-lights. Dig the Elise S4 too – almost the same performance as the V8 twin turbo ones too. Personally I would spend the same amount of money and just get a Lotus Evora S — it’s faster, cheaper, more reliable, plus a heck of a lot cheaper (and easier) to keep. The other alternative is of course an Acura NSX – which also going to be cheaper to keep and more reliable. That being said — if you want something unique then this car is lot more rare than an Evora or NSX.

    Like 2

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