Esprit V8, V8-SE, V8-GT
1996 to 2003MY

97MY Esprit V8

In the 1997 model year, Lotus finally put to rest one of the biggest gripes that the automotive media had about the Esprit. It did this by introducing the Esprit V8.

Externally, the main differences between the 1997 V8 and its predecessor (the 1995 S4s - there was no official 1996 Esprit) is a new look to the front valance panel, twin tailpipe exhaust (one per side), and beautiful new AWI six spoke allow wheels. Internally, the 1997 V8 is identical to the S4s except for a small V8 logo on one of the gauges. The real difference lies under the decklid where the brand new 3.5 liter 350HP Twin Turbo engine known as the Lotus 918 breathes.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 97MY V8 includes. 

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98MY Esprit V8

As usual, Lotus introduces major changes in an incremental fashion. So it came as no surprise that in 1998 the Esprit V8 had other significant modifications.

The exterior of the 1998 Esprit V8 looks identical to the 1997MY except for the new rear wing. The wing looks slightly similar to the one on the previous model, but mounted on struts to raise its height, thus improving rearward visibility. I think it looks a little like a Salvador Dali rendition of the Lamborghini Diablo VT wing on steroids - not that that's a bad thing. And I must admit that the design has grown on me. But the big changes in 1998 came from the re-design of the interior and the gearchange.

The interior of the Esprit was re-done by replacing the binnacle with a much smaller unit that now only holds four gauges. The center console was also redone to make it smaller. Unfortunately, while doing this, Lotus also did away with the convenient storage tray on the tunnel top. As if storage room inside the cabin wasn't limited enough already. Since Federal models don't have a glovebox, this leaves you with the small bin between the seats and map pockets behind the seats as your only location to store CD jewel cases. 

Vents have been relocated to improve ventilation in the cabin. And, although they look similar to prior models, the a/c controls now actuate dampers and such electronically rather than mechanically.

Although the engine remains the same in 1998, the clutch was replaced to help remedy one of the Esprit's long standing ailments. The new AP Racing clutch has a smaller diameter and half the rotational inertia. This, combined with a new clutch hydraulics system helps reduce travel and reduces pedal effort dramatically. In addition, the gear-selector mechanism was re-designed and simplified to reduce some of the slop.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 98MY V8 includes.  

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99MY Esprit V8 SE and V8-GT

The only significant change for the 1999MY Esprit V8 and V8-GT is the use of, yet another, different wheel design. The wheel is again made by OZ Racing of Italy and looks like a smoother, rounder version of the AWI 6-spoke wheel found on the 97-98MY V8. The lug bolts are covered with a center cap similar to the one on the OZ Futura Modular 3-piece wheels (available as an option since the 95MY S4s) instead of being exposed as in the AWI wheel.

Also this year, the name of the standard V8 has been changed to V8 SE. However, unlike the previous SE which introduced some significant performance changes, there is no "special equipment" to differentiate this model from it's predecessor.

The Esprit V8-GT is a more stripped-down version and is not available in the USA. It does away with the rear wing and uses imitation leather. The speed is electronically limited to 170mph instead of the SE's 175mph.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 99MY V8 includes.  

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2000MY Esprit

The 2000MY Esprit varies only slightly from its predecessor. Differences are as follows:
  • AP Racing cross-drilled two-piece brake discs (320 mm) with four piston calipers replacing the previous Brembo System (1995-1999) on the front brakes. Rears retain the small single piston Brembo caliper on new mounting brackets to accommodate the larger 2-piece drilled discs. These are the same brakes found on the Sport 350. They should improve pedal feel and optimize heat dissipation (fade resistance) under sustained heavy braking.
  • Revised Engine Management System. Again, transplanted from the Sport 350, this new ECM  enhances torque application in lower gears providing improved in-gear acceleration and greater flexibility on demanding roads.
  • The standard  Lotus-O.Z. Racing six spoke aluminum alloy wheels now come with Lotus centers.
  • The optional Lotus-O.Z. Racing five spoke magnesium alloy wheels with Lotus centers offer a significant reduction in un-sprung weight. These are the same OZ Crono Magnesio magnesium wheels that came standard on the Sport350.
  • Center console and door inserts are now finished in the same color as the car's exterior paint
  • The tail-lamp and License plate surrounds are now finished in body color instead of black trim (1995-1999) to elegantly finish the rear of the car.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 00MY V8 includes.  

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2001MY Esprit

The 2001MY Esprit is almost identical to the 2000MY. There were promotional pictures of a red Esprit V8 which featured changes to the wheel and tire specifications. However, the only car to feature these was Arnie Johnson's (president of Lotus Cars USA) personal car. In this car, Lotus has finally decided to copy my prototype and use 18in wheels in the front as well as the rear. New wheel designs again update the look of the car. This time around the fashion was a 16-spoke OZ Nova with Lotus logo center caps. Tire sizes originally were to change to 235/35-ZR18 front and 295/35-ZR18 rear. However, in the end, the standard 17in fronts from previous years were retained. So, despite the pictures, no 2001MY vehicles were sold with this new wheel/tire package

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 01MY V8 includes.  

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2002MY Esprit

The 2002MY Esprit was introduced to the world in December 2001. It differs from prior models most notably on its rear. The rectangular Toyota taillights that have graced the rear of the Esprit since the 88MY are replaced with two pairs of round lights whose lenses are shared with the Elise S2. Additionally, the rear transom has new Esprit lettering in a beautiful mirrored font. This lettering is actually a decal that is available for installation to earlier models for about $15US from you friendly Lotus Parts Dealer. Around the front, the lip spoiler first seen on the Sport350 is standard on all cars. This spoiler is about 1 inch lower than the the previous one so be careful with those curbs and steep driveways. 

Wheel design has changed once again. The OZ Nova Monobloc16-spoke wheels first seen on the promotional shots and described in the 2001MY section have now become standard equipment for the Esprit.

The interior remains basically the same except for an anodized aluminum brake handle and aluminum door sill plates. Non-USA market cars have the Esprit logo on these plates whereas USA cars all feature a 25th Anniversary logo. The same logo is also replicated in the rear quarter window decals as well as stitched onto the headrests of the seats. The sill plates (with the Esprit logo, not the 25th anniversary variant) and brake handle lever are available for installation on previous models as well.

The other major difference between USA and non-USA cars is in the design of the exhaust and lower rear valence. While the non-USA cars are equipped with the same dual exhaust with one outlet pipe per side as in previous years, Arnie Johnson (LCU CEO) was given the option of an alternate configuration. Lotus offered to build either twin or quad centrally-mounted pipes. Since the car already had the new round taillights, choosing to go with quad piped would have appeared as an effort to imitate the Corvette configuration. Arnie chose to have the car have dual pipes with a drilled aluminum rear valence. Although the sound of the new exhaust is improved, the drilled look of the valence inspires thoughts of Swiss cheese. This has earned the valence the nickname of "the cheese grater". Some owners may consider painting the lower valence black to offer more contrast and tone down the look. The natural, unpainted finish looks best with dark body colors such as black or the beautiful new Metallic Green available for the first time this year.

For those who like the look of the new car, these modifications are also be available for retrofit to older Stevens' Esprits. Although at first glance it would appear that changes will require no more than the removal and replacement of the rear light assemblies and the license plate plinth, further inspection reveals that some body work is required. The prior taillight assembly rests on a one inch lip that must be removed from the body in order to accommodate the height of the new rear panel. Furthermore, the holes on the body that the light housings fit into must be enlarged. Other vendors such as Lotus Prepared by Claudius (LPbC) and SJ Sportscars (UK) have come out with solutions that mimic the new round tail light design but do not require the modifications.

One more thing to note is the illumination pattern formed by the round tail lights at night. Although one would think that the entire circumference of the assembly lights up, indeed only half of it does. This causes the lights to look more like a pair of opening on the left side and closing parenthesis on the right. Again LPbC has made modifications to the kit they sell which illuminate the entire housing.

Refer to the detailed changes section below to see what the 02MY V8 includes.  

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2003MY Esprit

The 2003MY Esprit was essentially unchanged from the previous year. The only differences in the design involved the removal or replacement of the various "25th anniversary" logos with a standard Esprit logo as seen on the non-USA versions of the car.

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