The Lotus Esprit V8 GT not only fans your vanity with its chiselled styling, with 350 bhp available readily, it performs as well as it looks too
Turbos, V8 boost Esprit up to mark Coming full circle, the Lotus Esprit V8 GT is now bang up-to-date in both performance and looks

SPEEDY EGO-MASSAGER

"HANDSOME man, handsome man," giggled the teenaged female, petrol-kiosk attendant.

I never have this effect on women, but then I am not often seen climbing out of a Lotus Esprit V8 GT. Forget what the car is capable of on the road, the ego-massage is just as important.

What she, and probably a lot others like her, see is an exotic, and probably very expensive sports car. Never mind that the basic, hard-edged, wedge shape dates back to before she was born or that the car comes at a substantial savings over other exotic mid-engined supercars.

The image and effect is just as strong as it was when the Esprit first saw the light of day back in 1975.

Back then, it bucked the supercar trend of sporting outrageous wings, bulges and air scoops, and also managed to rank as a supercar with only a four-cylinder engine.

In the new V8 GT guise, the Esprit has come full-circle with a mighty wing on the rear deck (an option fitted to our test vehicle), some extra cooling ducts and most importantly, a twin-turbocharged V8 providing the power.

And plenty of power, at that. The 3.5-litre V8 produces enough power to propel the Esprit from rest to 100 kmh in under five seconds, landing the car squarely in supercar territory. It does more than simply look fast.

The power is available from low revs right to the upper reaches of the 8,000 rpm tachometer. This flexibility makes it as easy to drive at regular traffic-speed as it does at warp-speed.

For an exotic mid-engined supercar, the Esprit makes an astonishingly accomplished commuter. Access is relatively simple, the engine never runs hot or misbehaves, and even the airconditioner copes well with our humid climate.

Some compromise has to be made though. The rear view is limited, the clutch is heavy, the gearbox stiff, and despite the power-assisted steering, some muscle is required to turn the wheel.

Surprisingly, the vehicle has a reasonably tight turning circle, making parking-speed manoeuvrability reasonably good.

High-speed dynamics are the name of the Esprit game though. Lotus has a reputation as a front-runner in chassis development and the Esprit V8 GT reinforces that reputation.

Steering is fast and precise and offers more feel with higher speeds. The ride is firm but still compliant, and the chassis makes the most of the phenomenal grip of the tyres, providing an exhilarating, and fairly fail-safe drive.

Bumps in high-speed corners might deflect the front tyres from your chosen course, but otherwise the chassis is so well-controlled that the Esprit does not need electronic driver's aids to keep most sane drivers out of trouble.

While the dynamics are exemplary, the design shows its age. The interior is comfortable and has been spruced-up compared with the earlier cars, but is let down by cramped footwells and details like the aircon controls which belong in a much cheaper car.

And while the boot space is quite large for a vehicle of this type, opening the cover can be tricky because more often than not, only one of the two latches releases when asked.

The Lotus Esprit V8 GT is exotic to some eyes, and a little dated to others. Either way, it offers supercar performance and handling for a price which no other supercar can approach.

And as a very nice bonus, it makes you handsome.

FAST FACTS

Lotus Esprit V8 GT

Price: $368,000 excluding COE

Engine: 3,506 cc, 32V, twin-turbo V8

Max Power: 350 bhp Max

Torque: 400 Nm

0-100 kmh: 4.9 seconds

Top Speed: 274 kmh

For Enquiries: Call Eurosports Auto on 565-5995