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Lotus Esprit GT3
BBC Top Gear Road test
February 1997

For anyone after an affordable, mid-engined supercar with prestige, racing history and British-built heritage, the Esprit GT3 is the only thing that fits the bill. It's not perfect though, for its engine isn't the 349bhp V8 fitted to the range-topping Esprit. The GT3 makes do with a more humble, recently introduced, two-litre four-cylinder turbo. But with 240bhp and a claimed 0-60mph of 5.1 seconds, cheap(ish) fun is the object.


However, with a high-speed ride equal to any rep-mobile, reassuring steering and a stable, high-speed gait, our blast across Europe left us no worse for wear, thanks to the GT3's warm, cosy and comfortable cabin.

Twistier roads showed up the mega-turbo lag more than faster routes had. Coming out of a tight corner, you must be in the right gear. Lose too much speed and you either change down, or wait for the lag to pass and the turbo to kick in.


All Esprits suffer from a cramped pedal box, and the GT3 was no exception. With big feet, it's hard to ensure your foot is on the brake pedal alone. There was also little feel to the pedal but the ventilated discs always did the job.


Lack of feel wasn't an issue with the power steering "it's the best". The GT3 uses independent suspension all round, with coil springs and telescopic dampers. The rear gets upper and lower transverse links, while the front gets double wishbones and an anti-roll bar. Thus the Esprit is one of the most neutral, clean-handling cars there is, although care is needed in the wet.

For: Pin-sharp handling, performance, refinement, heritage
Against: Turbo lag, dicey in the wet, cramped pedals


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