Review

The Four-Cylinder Lotus Esprit Turbo S Was Faster Than A Ferrari V12

And it cost half the price.

After more than a decade on the market, Lotus gave its Esprit its most significant styling update in 1987. While the overall wedge shape was kept intact, Peter Steven’s touches gave the Esprit a more rounded look. Stevens, of course, later went on to help design the McLaren F1. In 1989, Lotus introduced the Esprit SE, the subject of the latest Motor Week Retro Review. Powered by a turbocharged 2.2-liter four-cylinder with the then new “Chargecooler” air-water-air intercooler system, output increased to 264 hp and 280 hp was available on overboost.

Zero to 60 mph was an impressive 4.7 seconds with top speed clocked at just over 160 mph. That may be incredibly fast today, but the Esprit Turbo SE was faster than a V12-powered Ferrari Testarossa. Seriously? Yeah, seriously.

The Testarossa made the sprint to 60 in 5.2 seconds, but it could still eventually beat the Lotus because of its 180 mph top speed. Still though, a turbo four-powered Lotus that cost nearly half the price of a V12-powered Ferrari Testarossa is noteworthy. Where both old school exotics are probably equal are their crappy maintenance records. Neither one, particularly the Lotus, was known for rock solid reliability.

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