The project began in the early 70s when Colin Chapman started to work with Giugiaro to work on a new sports car based on his Maserati Boomerang concept. After some initial work and scale prototypes, Chapman was not satisfied and put the project on hold until a second more successful try based on a modified Europa chassis.
In 1976, the Esprit S1 or Series 1 finally got out of the Hethel production line to replace the Europa and was powered by a Lotus 2L 4 cylinder engine producing 160hp coupled with a Citroen(!) 5 speed gearbox. Weighing less than a ton, needless to say that it was quite a car for its time! However, due to the few units produced and drivetrain reliability issues, the S1 is a pretty rare occurrence on our roads today.
In 1987, Lotus revised their copy with the S2 model which featured loads of aesthetic changes including a change of the rear taillights from a Fiat X1 to a Rover SD1 model. As you can understand, it was common at the time for companies like Lotus to use many outsourced parts from other manufacturers for their production. The S2 still offered a N/A engine.
The S3 and Turbo variants then offered a substantial upgrade through their design and features, while sharing the same chassis and body. For this model, the final version of the 2.2L engine offered 172hp in N/A form and 215hp in the Turbo version.
The S4 refreshed in 1993 offered a more 90’s look with rounder shapes and revised body to modernise the lines and offered power steering for the first time while the power output remained the same as the SE at 264hp. From 1996, the more desirable V8 was available and boasted 349hp thanks to it 3.5L twin-turbo until its retirement in 2004.
Your affinity with a specific model will probably depend on your date of birth, as for me being born in the late 80’s, I was always attracted by the S4 version with a V8 configuration. Though as I got older, my focus shifted on the S2 variant… Prices start at around £25K for a S2 or 2.2 and more like £30K for an S4 or V8 variant. Which one you go for then is completely up to you as the Esprit offers a decent range of variants that can fetch over £100K for the S1. However, you still get plenty to choose from in the £20 – £30K range. Prices for that model have been rather steady, and now seems to be the right time to look into those models.