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I have always wanted an Esprit. Drove a couple; mostly like and heard the 94/95 S4/s was the best way to go. Then I drove a 2010 Evora when they first came out and really liked that too. Now I am in a position to buy a new NA Evora manual or a used Esprit. For those that have had both what are the key differences in how they drive and reliability??

Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Jay
 

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Just technology and reliability-wise I'd go Evora.
 

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Hi bluejayrover, merry Christmas to you too!

I have owned an Evora (2011 NA 6-speed) and driven a Evora S manual and Evora S IPS. I have also owned three Esprits - an S1, a V8, and I currently have a 1995 S4 (which is for sale). I am a casual, non-competitive driver and Lotus enthusiast. Of all 6 of those cars, the Evora S IPS is my favorite. I am definitely considering ways to get one in the future.

So anyway, depending on how to intend to use the car, I may not be the best reviewer of the cars but I will chime in as best I can. The Evora and Esprit definitely have a lot of similarities so I think it's fair to compare them - more so than the Elise and Evora or Esprit and Elan.

Esprit
The Esprit is a bit more "raw" than the Evora. It lacks a few of the comforts of the Evora and some of the refinement as well, but that's mostly to it being 15-20 years older probably. The Esprit is pretty smooth in day to day driving and the V8 has good low-down torque for quick lane changes on the highway without changing gears. I never got much more than 20ish mpg in any Esprit, and I drive conservative. The Esprit is quite a fast car (my S4 has 400+ hp) and it puts you in the back of your seat when the turbo kicks in. In the S4, the car can't peel a grape under 3k revs but is hella fast starting at 3k. The V8 is better on the low end, but I didn't particularly like the "feel" of the V8 engine compared to the S4 - it just didn't "match" the car somehow; not sure how to describe it. Of the two Esprits, I would recommend the S4 / S4s over the V8.

The Esprit is very comfortable inside, once you're in. The leather is super supple and the seats are well-shaped for what I'd guess is an average dude type of person. I'm 6'0" and 180 lbs and it fits like a glove. The driving position is great and visibility is better than you'd expect for the type, size, and shape of the car. The arm and leg room is great, again for the size of the car. I didn't feel like the equipment was great in the Esprit. It feels a little clunky, mismatched, and cheap. I feel like every time I turn on the wipers or lights or air conditioner or rolls the windows down that it's all going to bust. The A/C is wimpy, the defroster is lousy, and the e-brake is in a weird position. The battery is always dead after about 1 week, unless you have a battery tender. The stereo sound is pretty blah. The Esprit does have a doughnut spare tire up front. In fact it has a small amount of room up front for other stuff too. The trunk is surprisingly large.

Braking and handling are great and what you'd expect from a Lotus. Both of my newer Esprits had power steering and it didn't seem to much dull the nice steering feeling that you want from a great handling car. The car is low and scrapes on everything. I recently took my S4 out on a day in the 20's when it was sunny and mostly dry just to give it some exercise. It was neat to see the frost warning lights turn on. On wet areas of the road (not icy, just wet) the car handled terribly - probably mostly due to having summer tires. I wouldn't drive the Esprit in bad weather; it just doesn't seem up to it. I have driven in rain, however, and it stays dry inside (which you can't say for all other Lotus models).

The Esprit seems mostly reliable with a few minor things going bad now and then, as expected for an older car (even with low miles). Parts are expensive and repair labor is expensive. If you can do things yourself, it's time consuming and difficult to do most repairs and maintenance. Timing belts are critical and should be replaced often. The paint clear coat seems to be of lower quality on the Esprits. Also, if you're picky about colors like me, the Esprit doesn't have a lot to choose from unless you like white or red or black (which I don't). I am fortunate to have a 1 of 1 color that is very beautiful for the car, but otherwise it's hard to find a really good looking color other than yellow (in my opinion).

Evora
The Evora is well-built and mostly up to date with what you'd want in a modern sports car. I haven't driven other makes to do a real comparison, but the Evora is quite up-to-date for my liking. The seats are very comfortable, conforming, and supportive. The arm room is great and the driving position very nice, but in the manual transmission car I felt like the leg room was a little cramped. I didn't notice it being a problem in the IPS, even though it would theoretically be the same-ish. The instruments and materials are clean, smooth, and functional. I felt like the contrast needed to be dialed down on the otherwise nice and informative digital instruments. I especially liked the per-tire pressure readings and snowflake icon when it was "too cold to drive it like you stole it". Like any other car with digital instruments, the refresh on the digital displays is very slow when it's cold.

The Evora handles amazingly. In my opinion, it makes the other Lotus cars feel soft and mushy - even the Esprit and Elise. The steering is so perfect on this car and the handling balance is superb. My Evora was an all-weather car and even in a foot of snow (with snow tires, of course) it still handles crazy good. I could go around corners in the slush well beyond my comfort level and the car still wouldn't break loose. The dry handling is, of course, just as good. My NA car had plenty of all around power - low down torque and high end speed. I did not particularly like the transmission. It shifts fine but just felt clunky and noisy (it is from a Toyota truck, so what can you expect). The brakes would stop the car on a dime if you even breathe on them. They stop the car very quickly, but they're a little too touchy for my taste. All three Evoras were touchy, so I don't think it was just my car.

The interior of the car has enough room for the size of the car and I especially love the 2+2 option (which my car had). My kid fits perfect back there and a 5'5"-ish, slim-ish woman can fit back there without even crouching (but don't mistake this as being roomy in any sense of the word). Despite the trunk being small and weird-shaped, I was able to fit more back there than I expected. But by "more", I don't mean "lots". The interior of the car looks very pretty and flows nice. I've heard lots of complaints about the stereo ergonomics, but I thought it was fine. In the 2013 car I test drove, the radio seemed much nicer. The sound output - even though it claims to have a subwoofer in there - is adequate at best, but adequate is good enough for me (I'm not an audiophile).

The Evora felt very reliable and solid and, being new, I didn't have to deal with the cost of parts and/or labor for any repairs, so I can't speak to the long-term ownership costs. Tires aren't cheap, I know that much. My spidey-sense was indicating that it was a reliable, long-lasting car. Like I said at the beginning, I hope to get another one sometime - hopefully an S IPS - to go along with the Elan I intend to keep. I usually got mid to high 20's for my gas mileage. Insurance costs on the Evora were much higher than the Esprit, likely because of how much newer it is (even though it's a "4 seater" and doesn't have a turbo).

The Evora is super quiet and refined while driving, yet still stiff and compliant. The sport exhaust (on the early NA models) is a nice addition. Although not as bad as the Esprit or Elise, this car does scrape on almost everything because it's so low. The lines and reflections on the car are beautiful and it's fun to just stand in the garage and look at the car. A wide variety of colors are available and the car looks great in many of them. I had a Burnt Orange car which was fantastic but I believe it's now been discontinued. The interior on the newer cars is much improved compared to my 2011 model.


So there you have it, some opinions from someone who probably doesn't matter much to the reasons many people buy Lotus cars. If you have any specific questions, however, I would be glad to answer! I just can't speak much to any real performance/track driving. Also, if this kind of thing matters to you, it might be worth mentioning that "anyone" can own an Evora - you can go buy one off the lot and they're relatively easy to find in good condition - but only "cool" people can own a good Esprit due to their rarity and difficulty in finding a well-kept example. If you're the type that likes to put your own blood, sweat, and tears into a car, the Esprit might also suit you a little better since it's not under warranty and will likely need a little fix-it every now and then. It's a little harder to feel like you own the Evora since it's relatively perfect out-of-the-box.

Oh, and if you are interested in an S4, here's my shameless plug to take a look at my well-kept car: http://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f94/1995-lotus-esprit-s4-beautiful-condition-only-one-bugatti-blue-29k-174009/

Hegg
 

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Wow, great write up.
 

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Wow, great write up.
Thanks, always glad to share.

I forgot to mention performance of the cars as well. On paper, they're fairly comparable in both acceleration and top speed with a slight edge to the Esprit in both categories (except the electronically limited 150 mph of the IPS). In real world driving, the Esprit feels faster because of the whack-you-in-the-back-of-the-head turbo kicking in (particularly on the S4), whereas the Evora is smooth and linear feeling power delivery all the way up. The speedo and shift lights are nice in the Evora, too.

Cost between the two isn't really comparable if you're considering a used S4 and a new Evora. The S4 seems to range from $25k and $35k depending on condition, and of course you can look up the prices of new Evoras easily enough, noting that the $65k base price is fairly non-existent. All the way spec'd out is $90k+.

By the way, when looking for an Esprit, make sure you know the status of the timing belt and other maintenance items. If they're not all done, plan on another chunk of change to get it all ready. Although mine was in great condition - one of the very best I saw - it still required dumping some cash to take care of timing, gearbox oil, engine oil, filters, fluids, ABS maintenance, etc., etc.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts as the day goes on...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Great Thanks!

Wow - great write up is right! Thanks so much. My wife loves your blue esprit btw and we live in NorCal not too far away. Weather here is good for driving with our roads - not too hot, not too cold, never snows, some rain but predictable.

Gives us something to think about for the next few days!

Thanks!
 
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