Lotus Esprit 4th Generation
|1987 to 1993|
|Engine||2.0 L type 920 turbo I4 (Italy only) 2.2 L type 912 I4 2.2 L type 910/910S turbo I4|
In 1987, a new version of the Esprit was unveiled, incorporating rounder styling cues given by designer Peter Stevens (who later designed the McLaren F1). A new Lotus patented process was introduced to create the new body, called the VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection) process, which offered more advantages than the previous hand laid process. Kevlar reinforcement was added to the roof and sides for roll-over protection, resulting in an increase of the Esprit's torsional rigidity by 22 percent. Giugiaro is said to have liked the restyling, claiming it was perhaps too close to his original design. The Stevens styled cars retained the mechanical components of the previous High Compression Esprit and Turbo Esprit, but introduced a stronger Renault transaxle, which necessitated a move to outboard rear brakes. However, the MY 1988 North American Esprit Turbo kept its Citroën SM type transaxle and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system used in the previous model year.
The car's Type 910 engine retained 215 bhp (160 kW; 218 PS) and 220 lb·ft (298 N·m), but decreased its zero to sixty from 5.6 seconds to a varied time between 5.4- 5.1 seconds and a top speed of over 150 mph (240 km/h). The exterior style changes were accompanied by a redesign of the interior, allowing a little more space for the occupants. The Stevens styled Esprit is often known by its project code of X180.
In 1989, the Esprit was again improved with the GM multi-port, electronic fuel injection system and the addition of a water to air intercooler, which Lotus has named the Chargecooler, producing the SE (Special Equipment). This inline-four engine was known as the Type 910S. Horsepower was pushed up to 264 with 280 available on overboost and zero to sixty miles per hour times reduced to 4.7 seconds with a top speed of over 160 mph (260 km/h). Several modifications were made to the body kit as well, like side skirts which are parallel to the body, five air ducts in the front air dam, wing mirrors from the Citroën CX and the addition of a rear wing.
Along with the SE, Lotus produced the little seen Esprit S, a midrange turbocharged car offering fewer appointments and 228 hp (170 kW), as well as the standard turbo still offering 215 hp (160 kW). The N/A and lower-powered turbo were cancelled after 1990, and the S in 1991. Another unusual variant was a two-litre "tax special" developed for the Italian market, fitted with an intercooled and turbocharged version of a new 1,994 cc (2.0 L) version of the venerable 900-series four-cylinder engine. Equipped with SE trim, this appeared in December 1991 and produced 243 PS (179 kW) at 6,250 rpm. Beginning in the fall of 1996, this engine became available in other markets as well.
The Esprit was a popular and successful addition to the American IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship and as a result Lotus produced the SE-based X180R, with horsepower bumped to 300 and with racing appointments. The Sport 300 was a derivative of the X180R sold in Europe, which included many modifications. These are known as the fastest of the four-cylinder Esprits and among the most desirable.
The Stevens Esprit played a role in the film Pretty Woman after Ferrari and Porsche declined the product placement opportunity because the manufacturers did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes. Lotus saw the placement value with such a major feature film and supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE. Sales of the Lotus Esprit tripled during 1990 and 1991.
The car was also seen in Basic Instinct, The Rookie, Taking Care of Business and If Looks Could Kill / Teen Agent, as well as the short-lived TV series The Highwayman.
- Esprit – 1987–90
- Esprit Turbo – 1987–90
- Esprit SE – 1989–91
- Esprit S – 1991
- Lotus Esprit X180R - 1991-92
- Esprit SE HighWing – 1992–93
A Lotus Esprit SE, in the Basic Instinct Movie (1992)