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Only the new Esprit truly reflected traditional Lotus values of lightweight, no-frills construction driven by a powerful engine.


Joie de Esprit

My first impression of the concept cars that Lotus previewed at the Paris Motor Show was somewhat disparaging. They showcased an entire new line of concept cars that offered a glimpse of the route the company might take in coming years. The revelation of five new models seemed an abrupt strategy departure for a company that has essentially created only three new models over the past 25 years.

While most of the motoring press welcomed Lotus’ evocation of their history by dredging up some of the classic monikers of its past like the Elite and Elan, there was also the unanimous opinion that of all the models, only the new Esprit truly reflected traditional Lotus values of lightweight, no-frills construction driven by a powerful engine.  The other cars, such as a bloated next generation Elise, a retractable hardtop Elite, and the 4-door Eterne, all seemed to place an unprecedented premium on luxury, resulting in heavier, less well handling cars, anathema to the principles that have guided Lotus’ philosophy since its earliest days.

It was a relief to many of us when Lotus backed off their ambitious plan.  The brand has apparently prioritized development of the Esprit only, meaning that the other luxurious concept cars will be relegated to the metaphorical back burner, where they will hopefully remain for the indefinite future.

Many people will recall the original Esprit of the ‘70s and ‘80s as the Union Jack-clothed James Bond car that turned into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Indeed, my first unforgettable view of the car was watching it get cinematically blown up by a very protective alarm system in For Your Eyes Only.  Though the original Esprit is now a dated symbol of its era’s obsession with wedge-shaped design, the model remains a favorite for many enthusiasts, and may forever be pegged as the car by which the brand is popularly identified.

With a modern take on the wedge, the new Esprit lives up to its predecessor’s dynamic stance (particularly with its one-piece glass windshield/roof).  Performance is expected to be no less riveting than appearance, with a 5.0 liter Lexus V-8 delivering 550 horsepower and propelling the car from 0 – 60 mph in the low to mid 3-second range.  Mated to a seven-speed paddle shift transmission, the engine should provide the kind of exuberant driving experience that has defined Lotus cars since the ‘50s.  Production examples are scheduled to hit showrooms in 2013. – Mike Daly

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