At the 1998 British International Motor Show in Birmingham, Lotus showcased a new Esprit dubbed the Sport350.
At first glance, the new car looks identical to the 1998 V8-GT except for the use of new graphics, different wheels and the addition of yet another wing style. Lotus should get an award for the most new wing designs on a vehicle in any given time span. Since 1989 the Esprit has worn no less than 7 different wing styles. It seems this is their most creative (and inexpensive) way to update the look of the car year after year. This time, the wing design (made of carbon fiber) was actually borrowed from the Elise-based Lotus GT1 that participated in the 1997 FIA GT racing series. Unfortunately, some owners have complained that the wing is not very water resistant and actually warps if exposed to the rain and sun too much.
Unlike the Sport300, which boasted a significant increase in performance and horsepower over the standard Esprit of its time, the Sport350 has the same 350hp of the regular Esprit V8. The ECM has been recalibrated to redistribute the torque curve further down. But any improvement would be mostly due to a reduction in weight of almost 80kg. Most of this reduction can be attributed to a thinner lower body shell which is hand-laid as opposed to vacuum assisted (VARI) the standard way.
Braking performance is certainly improved with the use of the same huge 4-pot front calipers from AP Racing found on the Sport300. In this particular car, the blue-painted calipers clamp onto larger, 2-piece cross-drilled rotors that help make brake fade a thing of the past.
The fancy rotors and calipers can be seen through a set of new OZ Racing Crono Magnesio 5-spoke wheels that have the distinction of being the lightest road wheels money can buy. These wheels are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber that increases in size to 295/35 at the rear. Although car magazines claim that Lotus may have increased the tire width due to their reviewers' complaints of rear wheel spin, my guess is that the increase in size is most likely due to the fact that Pirelli doesn't make the P-Zero in the same 285/35 size found on the standard V8.
Other external styling features of the Sport350 include special silver paint, silver grille mesh in the lower body openings and a lower lip spoiler that is sure to scrape on many a driveway or speed hump. The blue theme of the calipers is continued elsewhere on the vehicle including the side skirts, the engine cam covers and on the seats and door trim.
The instrument binnacle cover and center console are made of genuine carbon fiber which is more likely for looks more than weight reduction. Touches in anodized aluminum can be found on the shifter and surround, the instrument facia, and the door panels.
Sport350 production was limited to 50 units, each with it's own numbered identification plate.
In late 1999 Lotus decided to make 8 Sport 350's especially for the USA market. Their specification is similar to those listed above for the ROW and Domestic market, with the exception of the silver/blue paint scheme, Sport 350 graphics on doors and top, blue seat inserts, the blue engine, blue calipers, and the carbon fiber interior. Two of these cars have now been totaled leaving only 6 remaining USA Market Sport 350's.
Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 99MY Sport 350 includes.