Thursday, July 15, 2010

My first driving impression of the Lotus Esprit S4

(Continue from last post: Why an Esprit now? published on July 15, 2010)

I don't have the car in my garage yet on May 24, 2010. The previous owner needs to get it smog checked before the transfer of title can take place so I paid, but left it with him for now. I did drive in it for a couple hours. This is the first time I drove a Lotus and my other car is a 2006 BMW 525i w/ sports package. Here is my initial impression on the car. 
I looked for a S4 because I want power steering, easier shifting, ABS brakes, more modern interior, and most importantly, the most reliability I can possibly get. So far so good and everything seem to be working in my car so far. It is much smaller than I thought; however, once I got in the car, everything is OK again. I actually have much more trouble getting out of the car as I have to move the seat all the way back to free my legs. The foot well is tight, but I can find a position to fit my feet fairly well inside and drive fairly comfortably. My biggest problem was actually the gear shifting. After driving automatics for 20 years after my "stick" college car, I almost forgot how to drive a stick again. I could not find a stick rental anywhere, so I have to refresh my muscle memories in this "exotics". I stalled 3 times on the road. One time I actually shifted into first after a red light and forgot to press the clutch, that stalled the car for sure. I hope I did not put any bad damage on the transmission yet. I got progressively better over the 2 hours. It is not where I want to be yet, but I can "drive" the car up and down the road, do 3 points U turn, and get on the freeway cruising for now. I hope I won’t get stuck in stop and go traffic in this baby anytime soon. I wonder if anyone else "learned" how to drive a stick in a Lotus?

The power steering makes the car easy to drive in any speed. The handling is precise. The ride is stiff, but not uncomfortable. Since I do not plan to drive it in a track meet, I wonder is there a way to make the ride a bit softer for everyday use?

Compare to my Bimmer 5, the Esprit is loud, and everything in the car seems to be rattling and noisy in any speed. I tried to compensate by turning up the Radio / CD, but the stereo setup in it is pretty weak, too. I wonder is this the way of life for a Lotus driver? Any tips to make it better?

Of course the Esprit is a performance car. Until I get the total control of the manual transmission, I won't do anything too fast. Maybe in later posts I can share some "real driving experiences".

I post the questions on a couple forums and here are some of the feed backs:

From Lotus4S:
“As for the noises, it's fairly common to have rattles/squeaks/creaks in the cabin but I have found that with a little judicious searching and work and adding some cushioning material in the right places, most of the annoying noises can be eliminated.

On the ride, we need to know what suspension you have now. Are the dampers (shocks) OEM or aftermarket, are they old and worn? With the proper setup the S4 is actually pretty smooth for a car that's closer to a race car than a luxury coupe. It will never ride like your BMW however. Different animals.”

From Jonathan:
“Probs with the ride is when you soften it (usually with adjustable dampers) and then you want to play you forget and the thing bites you.
Same with the ride noise - its a supercar, it tends to do 1 thing really well and the rest rather mediocre/poorly. This is why people buy Porsches etc to insulate themselves from the road.
Remember you buy an Esprit with your heart, not your head !

The pre GT3 interiors are rattly - my GT3 is pretty quiet (build is much better imo) there's less panels and they are alcantara finish, not leather so they don’t creak and knock.
Poeple poke felt buffers inbetween the leather to try and silence it but really, without major interior re-trimming, it's aleays going to be a noisy car. Tyres dont help either being low profile, neither does the fibreglass which tends to amplify the sound on the bumps etc.

The one thing you can do is ensure all the panels are correctly aligned and the windows seals are ok, that will stop some of the wind noise. Best antidote though is to put the roof up, pull the windows down and just drive.

I notice it's got wider that standard wheels on - that'll make a difference to road noise for sure. Esp on them hard roads in Cali - it's not as if they can pour tarmac down on the roads there is it (you'd be sticking rather than driving !)”

From Waynef:
“I was in the same boat as you five years ago I chucked in my Mazda RX8 for my Esprit and first drive was awful.

It was really hard to engage gears without crunching it was noisy it creaked, it had lots of wind noise, but it did one thing that no other car i've owned ever did........kept a smile on my face five years on.
She still has a creaking sunroof, a louder than ever exhaust, oh forgot to mention the wider V8 wheels like yours so even noisier road noise and yet every journey is special, if i want to enjoy comfort i use the Espace V6 but The Esprit gives satisfaction and still gives me grin factor. No stereo, the windows down and roof out (summer time of course).

After all is that not why you have the BMW for comfort .”

From Christopher:
“Noises are part of the character of the car. Unlike our leader ( Bibs ) , and I can personally attest that he does not use the stereo, I use my stereo. I have upgraded all the components. But the car has plenty of squeaks and rattles. The nature of the beast. They become familiar and when you do not hear them you begin to worry.”

From Paul:
“Your experiences so far pretty much mirror mine shortly after I bought my first car, a 1985 Esprit. I currently have a 1991 SE, which is much more civilized and reliable. The S4 is even better. Actually I was looking for one, too, but the SE surfaced here in California with the right number of miles, good cosmetics, and MOST IMPORANTLY a documented service history. So I got it and have been happy with it.”

From Tom:
“I think the “Lotus Experience” is tempered a great deal by the realistic expectations of what you think the car is capable of providing you and how much you have an interest in all phases of the car.
They are sort of supercars, but by modern standards they are pretty simple, and they are NOT “luxury cars”. They are made to drive and be moderately comfortable and accommodating but their no Lexus or Acura.”

Well, I guess my first impression is quite similar to a few other Esprit owners. I will have more driving impressions later.

(Next: Upgrading the stereo in the car)

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