We enjoy the Lotus Esprit S1 and put it fully to the test
1 DAILY DRIVING This isn’t really a car you can use every day. It feels very wide, and the limited visibility, shallow rake rear screen and sloping front mean that it’s happier out on its own with plenty of space around, rather than navigating through crowded towns and cities. There are two boots, front and rear, which are practical to a point. But with components and the spare wheel up front, and the intense heat of the engine nicely roasting anything in the back, you probably won’t want to use an Esprit for the weekly grocery shop. Although it will save on the cooking when you get back home… 2 IN THE SERVICE BAY The prospect of servicing a mid-engined car usually strikes fear into the hearts of potential owners, but the Lotus is better than you might expect. It helps that it’s only a four-cylinder, so it’s surprisingly accessible – you can get at the plugs, distributor, carburettors and fluids with relative ease. Major jobs are more of a challenge and transmission and suspension issues are best left to experts. There’s now quite a network of specialists and parts suppliers to help look after these cars, but some bits are borrowed from other rare machines, not least the Citroën SM gearbox. 3 ON THE SHOW CIRCUIT Frankly, if you turn up to a car show in an Esprit S1 during 2017 and the organisers don’t give you pride of place somewhere, then they’re not doing their job properly. It could be argued that the Esprit was a classic from the moment it was launched, and the passage of 40 years has done nothing to diminish this, especially given the anniversary of The Spy Who Loved Me and the passing of Sir Roger. You’ll find yourself the centre of attention at any show– just try to act like nobody has ever asked you where the switch to turn it into a submarine is. 4 THE LONG WEEKEND If you’re content with just you and one other person, then the strictly two-seater Esprit is ideal for getting away for the weekend – and you’ll probably enjoy the getting there just as much as the final destination, for this Lotus laps up longer distances. As for luggage, well, the two-occupant limit does mean there’s less to carry. Take a chance and leave the front spare wheel at home, and you’ll be able to squeeze more in the front. Anything in the rear will not just be on full display (unless you fit the ultra-desirable rear screen louvres) but nicely toasty too. 5 THE B-ROAD Blast Assuming a B-road of adequate width, the Esprit’s point-and-shoot qualities make it the king of the cross-country glee spree. The handling is exemplary and corners become a delight rather than an obstacle. There’s enough power to enjoy the straights without getting into big trouble and the brakes are fierce enough to quickly bleed off the speed when needed. It is absolutely impossible not to take a Lotus Esprit down a quiet, twisty road and emerge without a huge grin, and an impression that you’re actually a half-decent driver. Lotus abilities do that to a person.
yards of sweeping beige and brown suede make the interior very futuristic. Or at least how the future was expected to look during the mid-1970s.