Lotus Esprit Turbo (1987 – 2004) Review

Lotus Esprit Turbo (1987 – 2004) At A Glance


+The Esprit but improved, much faster and more capable than before, softened and more timeless styling, improved build with each newer version

-Values on the rise - so buy now

The 1987 Lotus Esprit benefited from a far-reaching restyle by Peter Stevens. Out went many of the sharp lines, to be replaced by a more organic aero-look. It worked, too - the X180 Esprit certainy looked like a contemporary product when launched, and still looks timeless today.

Both normally aspirated and Turbo versions carried on (although they went all-turbo within three years). There was a little more power and a little more weight, but overall the Esprit experience was uncorrupted by the update. The Citroën SM gearbox was replaced by a Renault GTA unit, along with outboard rear brakes.

In 1989, the Turbo SE was launched. It received a water-to-air intercooler, which Lotus called the chargecooler, and the power was increased to 264bhp. Exterior modifications were subtle -  changes to the bodykit and larger rear spoiler. Performance leapt by some margin, making the SE a true supercar contender. 

The S4 revision arrived in 1993 further enhancing the visual appeal of the Esprit with all manner of scoops, ducts, spoilers and bulges. The SE's engine was now made standard, and the gearbox and brakes being uprated accordingly. Buyers were grateful for the arrival of standard fit power steering (and Esprit first) as well as chunkier interior switchgear (now GM-derived). After all these years, the Esprit was still one of the best handling and riding supercars.

Also arriving in 1993 was the Sport 300 special edition. It boasted many developments first seen in the company's racing cars. It had new front and rear spoilers, as well as flared arches. The body was lighter and stiffer, and weight was down by 90kg. Brakes and suspension were uprated to cope with the raised power output of 300bhp. Just 50 were built, and most went privateer racing.


Ask Honest John

Is it worth restoring my friend's Lotus Esprit Turbo?

"A friend of mine is thinking of selling his 1990 Lotus Esprit Turbo. It has done about 15,000 miles and has been kept in a garage for the last six years on a SORN. He bought it nearly new and has had it serviced and MoT tested by a local garage, and some years the difference in mileage between MOTs is less than 200 miles. I am interested in buying it and taking it to car shows but I would like your advice as to the likely expense involved with putting it back on the road. Would you have any idea as to what it is worth at the moment? It is in beautiful condition with leather interior and sunroof, the red paintwork is like new but the A/C gas has gone. Will the tyres be any good after 20 years? Are there likely to be any problems with the engine and turbo? It has a manual gearbox. Will all the brake discs, pads, fluid, need replacing? I would really appreciate your advice."
It’s probably worth £5,000 - £10,000. The a/c will probably be £1,000 - £2,000 to repair/replace. It will need new tyres to be safe. There could be problems with the turbo. The fluid needs replacing. The brake discs, pads and pipes may also need replacing. It could be a real money pit.
Answered by Honest John
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What does a Lotus Esprit Turbo (1987 – 2004) cost?