Esprit Turbo SE
to 1993MY

MY Esprit Turbo SE

The Esprit Turbo SE (Special Equipment) was sold in the US in what is known as the 1989
Model Year and was built until 1993MY after which time the S4 was introduced. Apart from twin oil coolers, different aerodynamics, and bigger wheels, what really sets this car apart from its predecessor is the addition of a water-to-air intercooler, which Lotus refers to as a "Chargecooler". This increased horsepower dramatically from 228hp to a transient peak of 280bhp. When new, SE's cost about $12,000US more than their non-SE counterparts.

In order to tell them apart, here are some cues:

SE's were introduced in May 1989. Check the date on the manufacture plate on the driver doorsill, it will also say if it is an SE. If the car you're checking out is anything like mine, the exterior SE badges (on the quarter windows) may have been removed. But there are still visual cues to help you determine if a car you see in a parking lot or driving by is indeed an SE: 

  • Side skirts are parallel to body, not scalloped or "pinched-in" at mid-door 
  • Front air dam is more "square-ish" and has 5 openings; the outermost openings are for the twin oil coolers, which non-SE's do not have. 
  • An air duct on each side of the air dam, ahead of the front wheels (oil cooler exhausts). 
  • All SE's have a rear wing (spoiler) of some kind. The wing on '93MY is slightly larger than other years. Most non-SE's (except commemorative editions, or aftermarket) do not have rear wings. 
  • Wider and larger wheels: Front 215/50ZR15 on 7inch wheels. Rear  245/50ZR16 on 8.5inch wheels 
  • And, of course, a big red rectangular box atop the engine that says "Lotus Chargecooler". 

Performance statistics included: 264 hp @ 6,500rpm (280hp peak), 261ft/lbs at 3,900 rpm, 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, top speed was 164mph. Boost was increased to 12.4psi.

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90MY to 91MY
Esprit Turbo SE

These were the safety years for the Esprit. The major introductions during this time were the inclusion of standard anti-lock brakes and driver side air bag. Unfortunately, the air bag installation was accomplished by grafting a steering wheel from a Pontiac TransAm - Yuck!

Also during this time, the driver-side a/c vents were moved to the instrument binnacle (dash). This was a huge improvement in reducing soreness from the dreaded FKS (Frozen Knee Syndrome). In the 1990MY FKS now stands for Frozen Knuckle Syndrome.

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92MY Esprit Turbo SE Highwing

There were no Esprits brought into the USA for the 1992 model year. The rest of the world received an Esprit with a new oversized wing known as the "highwing". This wing looks like a normal SE-style wing, but on much taller struts and with additional support struts that attached to the top of the tailgate. Although it helped to improve rearward visibility, most people regard this as one of the ugliest wing designs ever to adorn the rear of an Esprit.

Most Stevens' Esprits up until this year (except for commemorative editions) had a 3 separate pieces of glass in the rear view. The rearmost of these was known as the "glassback" and helped reduce the drag coefficient of the car. Unfortunately, this also contributed to a confusing array of reflections, especially during night driving.  The "glassback" design was replaced with an open tailgate with 2 oval vents (for engine cooling) this year. Again another attempt to improve the Esprit's dreadful rear visibility. The rest of the car remained unchanged.

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93MY Esprit Turbo SE

The 93MY included the following changes: 
  • A larger SE style rear wing. 
  • Except for commemorative editions, the 1993MY was the first USA Stevens' model without the glassback design. 
  • Revolution alloy wheels in painted black with a polished silver lip were an option. These are one-piece imitations of the three-piece ones found on the X180R limited edition. 
  • A front rubber lip spoiler to protect the underside of the front valance. 

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MY Esprit Turbo SE

The 93
MY was a transition into the later S4. It included the following changes: 
  • Passenger side airbag 
  • S4-style interior with (slightly) more head, leg, and shoulder room. 
  • Flush, body-colored exterior door handles. 
  • Wider opening doors. 

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