First introduced in 1976, the Lotus Esprit kept being updated well into the ’90s when, restyled for the fourth time, the Series 4 was revealed in 1994. Despite its age, though, the car proved that evolution can be a good thing.
Although it was also available with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V8, the version tested by MotorWeek in 1995 was the four-cylinder model. The Esprit S4S was powered by a 2.2-liter turbocharged inline-four that made 285 hp (289 PS/212 kW) and 277 lb-ft (375 Nm) of torque, which was pretty competitive in 1995, although it could produce as much as 300 hp (304 PS/223 kW) for short bursts.
That was enough to get the four-pot supercar up to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in just 4.6 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 104 mph (167 km/h), performance figures that still impress today.
MotorWeek reports that the handling was excellent with the only mild criticism being the “agricultural” five-speed manual transmission.
“And it’s fast through the corners, too. Stiffer springs and chassis bracing, coupled with our test car’s optional extra-wide OZ 17-inch wheels give the S4S remarkable balance and grip,” says host John Davis. “Laps around Georgia’s challenging Roebling Road Raceway also illustrated substantial improvements in steering feel and accuracy over that of the also impressive S4.”
Indeed, Road &Track reported that the S4S was capable of 0.91 G on the skidpad and ran through the slalom at 61.7 mph (99.2 km/h).
It’s all evidence that, if the engineering is sound in the first place, then a car can be upgraded and be competitive for quite some time.