Lost Concept Cars: Lotus Esprit


The thorn in the side of the supercar elite that never made it past the concept car stage.

When car companies prepare surprise reveals at motor shows, they often only have one unexpected reveal up their sleeve - the recent Jaguar F-Type SVR leak is proof that manufacturers have trouble keeping a single car under wraps. As a result, you can imagine it's a nigh-on impossible task to keep multiple concept cars a closely-guarded secret until their official unveiling. But Lotus managed to pull it off brilliantly at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, with not one, not two, not three or four or five, but SIX brand new, never-before-seen concept cars!

What made this series of Lotus design studies that more amazing, though, was that they were incredibly ambitious - everything from entry-level sports cars to front-engined V8 grand tourers, and tiny city cars to four-door sedans. Yes, in hindsight, we all know it was a load of baloney, but we were too caught up in delight and euphoria to really care at the time - after all, it now looked like Lotus was, after years of dwindling sales and not actually turning a profit, finally going to unleash the potential it had locked away in its talented workforce at Hethel. And where better to showcase this world-beating might, than with the first car that was going to be released in this five-year plan to turn Lotus's fortunes around: an all-new, Ferrari-rivalling Esprit supercar.

If the concept's specs were indicative of the real car's capabilities, then the Esprit that Lotus was rustling up would truly bring the Norfolk-based firm into the big league. The second gen Esprit's V8 would produce roughly 550 hp, or 620 hp for the hypothetical 'Esprit R' model. Top speed was theorized at 205 mph, and a slick-shifting, seven-speed paddleshift gearbox would have helped endow this Lotus halo model with acceleration times equivalent to those of current mid-engined supercars like the Ferrari 488 GTB. In fact, the only modest thing about the Esprit was its price: a claimed $110,000. In comparison, Tesla was charging roughly that much for the Roadster (no pun intended) when the Esprit concept was revealed.

What filled us even more with hope was that, unlike Lotus's 2010 Paris Show models, the Esprit genuinely seemed to have a legitimate future. Even during the calamitous periods of 2012, which saw Lotus without a leader and without any money to spend on wages and car production, the mid-engined supercar was still claimed to be ready. And then, things went quiet. The whole Esprit project suddenly flew off the radar, with conflicting, pantomime-esque 'yes it is/no it isn't' reports from anonymous sources on whether the Esprit had indeed been cancelled. The closest we ever got to an official confirmation was via an Auto Express report in 2014, which revealed Lotus wouldn't carry on where the Dany Bahar regime left off.

This wiping clean of the slate appears to have removed all trace of the discontinued Esprit project - a reply to a feeler we sent out to Lotus before we published this article suggests that, indeed, all six 2010 Paris Show concepts have vanished. It's a great shame, considering all we have now to remember the second-gen Lotus Esprit by are a few renders, a batch of media kits and the "what if" possibilities of such an ambitious project. What's even more of a disappointment is that Lotus is currently no where near ready to even start thinking about a new Esprit - when you sell a whopping one car a day in your biggest market, a $100,000+ high performance flagship understandably isn't a high priority right now.


At least Lotus is starting to claw back the ground it lost during that tumultuous time, and new models like the Exige Sport 350 and 3-Eleven are bound to inject some much needed cash into Lotus's seemingly eternally empty coffers. We really want to see Lotus in the position where it could start justifying a new Esprit, but we'll just have to make do with daydreams about that avante garde, pearlescent white concept car from the 2010 Paris Motor Show whilst we wait patiently for that day to possibly arrive.


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