1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo SE is Still a Fast Car

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The angular Lotus sports car had straight lines and straight-up impressive acceleration.

I’ll always have a soft spot for the Lotus Esprit. I’ve loved its looks ever since I found out it existed when I was a teenager. My affinity for it grew even more once I saw it on screen during James Bond movies (on VHS), my favorite film franchise.

I’ve known the Esprit is supposed to be a fast car. The above MotorWeek video taught me just how fast it was as far back as 1989.

That’s when the Esprit Turbo SE was out. Thanks to Lotus’s charge cooling system, its 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder generated 264 horsepower and as much as 280 horsepower in short bursts. Those are serious numbers for an I4 back during the days of the first Bush administration.


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teamspeed.com 1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo SE

Engineers coupled that healthy output with a revised suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, aero- and breathing-focused bodywork, and a large rear wing. At the Pocono International Raceway, MotorWeek found the SE to have more grip than the regular Esprit Turbo.

The show wasn’t able to take the SE to its top speed because of bad weather, but it did manage to clock it from 0 to 60 mph. The now-28-year-old Lotus did it in 4.5 seconds. According to Porsche, the current 911 Carrera with a manual gearbox does it in 4.4 seconds and it has nearly 30 years of progress and more than 100 horsepower on its side. Granted it’s a more technologically sophisticated and heavier car, but the Esprit’s time is still impressive. Even the newer, V8-powered C5 Corvette was only able to get a time of 5.0 seconds when Car Driver tested it. Its 13.5-second quarter mile was way behind the SE’s time of 12.9 seconds.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put the Esprit poster back up in my room…

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