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Esprit S4 Reliability

Discussion in 'British' started by Meister, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    Apr 27, 2001
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    Greetings,

    I think I have decide to put my 88 project Esprit up for sale and start looking for something for next spring.

    I've noticed that mid 90's S4's can be had for mid $20k's. I'm looking for something that is reliable, comfortable yet unique for long weekends with my wife, can handle longish road trips (8 hrs/day)..etc

    Was wondering if anyone has had first hand experience with these cars and were they dependable etc...?

    Thanks
     
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  3. dlbutler

    dlbutler Formula 3

    Sep 18, 2009
    1,526
    With Lotus it all depends on the maintenance. One of my customers has a S4s with 110,00 miles and it runs perfectly.

    Don
     
  4. JoeZaff

    JoeZaff F1 Veteran
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    Aug 5, 2007
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    +1. A friend of mine has an s4 and he drives that thing everywhere. His repairs have been minimal and the car has never let him down. I was really surprised by how reliable it is. Needless to say, S4's are now on my radar!
     
  5. Anthony bentley

    Anthony bentley Formula Junior

    May 20, 2006
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    Anthony Bentley
    I have had numerous Giugaro Esprits in various guises (just love the shape), but ask any Lotus Specialist about what is the best evolved Esprit and they all say an S4.
     
  6. bcc

    bcc Formula Junior
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    Brent
    More so then the last V8 models?
     
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  8. Feffman

    Feffman Karting
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    Oct 31, 2003
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    Gateway To The West
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    Feff
    The 1993 1/2 SE, S4 and S4s are essentially bullet proof. Most Esprit owners agree the S4s was the ultimate development but those of us, including yours truly, who've owned the 4-cylinder (I've owned a 1990 SE and 1994 S4) and the V8 (Owned a 1997 and a 1999) are hard pressed to fault any of them.

    Feff
     
  9. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    This is promising news. I don't mind maintenance, but am looking for something a touch more reliable, comfortable and user freindly than the 2v 308 for longer trips....yet staying with something that is eye catching and unique.

    I do almost everything on my 308, but as I get older I seem to want to do less and less =)

    Thanks to all so far.
     
  10. 2NA

    2NA F1 World Champ
    Professional Ferrari Technician Consultant Owner

    Dec 29, 2006
    17,751
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    Tim Keseluk
    My experience with the turbo Esprit was that it was fun to drive, remarkably quick, cheaply built (essentially a big piece of plastic) and amazingly expensive to fix. I rebuilt a gearbox for one about eight years ago and some of the important parts were already unavailable.

    They seem to have an almost cult-like following among some owners (at least around here).

    Compared to a Ferrari or a Lamborghini the sound is quite pathetic, something like an out of control sewing machine.

    The best part is how lightweight everything is when you need to take it apart. There ain't that much there but they still made things hard to get to.
     
  11. anunakki

    anunakki Five Time F1 World Champ
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    Oct 8, 2005
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    I dunno how the maintenance is but they certainly are the best looking exotic of the past 20 years exempting the Diablo and the f355 !

    Can you get a good one for mid 20s ? or ?

    If so its definitely on my radar now.
     
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  13. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    #10 Meister, Dec 12, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  14. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    #11 Meister, Dec 12, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  15. dwhite

    dwhite F1 Rookie

    Don't make a rush decision on a Lotus. Find a one or two owner car and get the best one you can, just like a Ferrari. Join clubs(just like FChat, the best ones are probably owned by enthusiasts who work on their cars or pay someone to keep them in top shape) and learn as much as possible about them.
     
  16. abrussich

    abrussich Rookie

    Dec 10, 2009
    26
    Houston, Tx.
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    Al "phonse" Brussich
    I currently have an 89 with 105k+ miles and still using as a daily driver.
    The S4 is the best of the 4 pots, some will say even better than the S4S which was the final variation.
    Look for one that is well documented, has some mileage on it, as garage queens open up another world of problem issues, and has been properly maintained.
    I also echo the comment with regards to getting on Lotus chat sites and ask around.
    The Lotus Esprit Forum is hosted in the U.K. but has a large U.S. following.
    Lotus Ltd. is the largest U.S. club covering the eastern half of the U.S.
    Be patient, ask a lot of questions and if you find a car see if you can have a Lotus mechanic check it out.

    Key problem areas were the fuel tank vent tubing, fuel tank corrosion, intercooler pump failure, loss of the HVAC foam gaskets. Typically refered to the black crumblies.
    Ask any Esprit owner who has had his for a number of years and he should know right off what that is about.
    Another problem is the front and rear main seals. They leak. Easy fix, but be sure to see if it has.
    Cracked manifolds is common on the earlier Esprits but if the car comes from a northern climate and is driven in wintery conditions, the chances are there for a crack or two.

    Any of the above are fixable and except for the crumblies, rather easy. Parts are not a problem once you learn where to look.

    Overall a well taken care of S4 should not be hard to find and a good bang for the buck based on current Lotus values.

    If you want more details or have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. Email me off-line and I'll be happy to help.

    Al B.
    Lotus Owners of South Texas (L.O.S.T.)
     
  17. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    In the 5 years I've owned my project 88 Esprit I have visited lootusbuzz.com and a few other Lotus specific sites.

    I can't say I've really dug into it (Lotus) like I did with the 308 (and prior to that purchase), but I feel I'm fairly well informed about what the car is and what it isn't.

    I would hope that the S4 might be on the same level as a 328 or a 348 in terms of overall usability, maintenance and running costs. I say that only because it seems that in our Ferrari world the 328 is the most evolved (reliable) of the 308 line and people seem to put plenty of miles on 348's and even 355's if maintaned properly.

    I don't mean to be offensive (because I own a 2V 308), but the car lacks a certain amount of comfort, refinement, useability, etc... which was addressed as the line progressed to 328/348. And as such if the S4 is comperable to a 328/348 I think it might be something right up my alley.

    Thanks for all the great info!
     
  18. 4re Nut

    4re Nut F1 World Champ

    Mar 27, 2004
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    #15 4re Nut, Dec 17, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
    Thoughts on above?
     
  19. abrussich

    abrussich Rookie

    Dec 10, 2009
    26
    Houston, Tx.
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    Al "phonse" Brussich
    That can be a true statement. Like any performance car, a good amount of care is required.
    Proper maintanence and respect for the vehicle are key.
    The biggest problem I've seen with Lotus is that the majority prefer to let the car sit. That is probally the biggest killer of these cars.

    They were designed to be driven so do that. I've got 105k+ on my 89 and it's still running strong. I've had the head redone but the block is still un-touched.
    I know of cars that spent more time in the garage than out on the road and they have all sorts of problems.

    To own an Esprit, or any other sporty toy requires just a bit of extra care, attention, and devotion that your average daly driver might not.
    I use my Esprit as a dd and the etra care has paid off. Hoping to see the ticker go around once more.

    As for repairs, cheap compared to any of the other well known exotics. Especially if you can do your own wrenching and learn where to source the parts.
    If you prefer to not dirty the fingers then service costs are still considerably lower.

    Example; replacement windshield for the Esprit $1600 + install
    replacement windshield for Lambo $8000 + install

    Note the Lambo windshield number came from a friend with a Lambo who had to recently replace his glass.

    General service on an Esprit at dealership $1500 to 2500 depending on dealer
    Service on a Ferrari, Porsche, Lambo, Maserati? You guys know the numbers.

    Esprits may not have been the top of the performance spectrum, but I think they were one of the best bangs for the buck for their time and even by todays standards. IMHO.
     
  20. Amnster

    Amnster Karting

    Jul 25, 2005
    66
    NorCal
    I'm looking for a S4 or S4s too. Does anyone know a good Esprit mechanic in the San Francisco area?
     
  21. chandrab

    chandrab Rookie

    Apr 13, 2005
    20
    Metrowest
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    Chandra
    As a Esprit SE owner (coming up on 5 years now), my Esprit has been extremely reliable...on par with my daily drivers. In 5 years of ownership, the only issue I've had is to replace the waterpump (which was leaking from the PO), clutch slave and slow windows. At the same time as we replaced the water pump I replaced the timing belt...total in parts was less than $300...for the clutch it was $75 and the windows $0. Compare these to other exotic car parts. It's my belief that any Esprit from 1989 (SE, S4, S4S) are more reliable because GM required Lotus (as it's subsidary) to have the Esprit pass a 100K mile reliability test. Another nice thing is that Lotus's GMP4 engine management system comes from proven consumer cars (e.g. Pontiac Quad-4) tweaked to Lotus specs. The side benefit is that the parts are cheap and highly available.

    As far as weak points to look out for: slow windows, exhaust manifold, rusty fuel tanks. I find the Esprit extremely comfortable and easy to drive...but not the best car if your tall.

    If you have specific questions, I'm sure some Esprit owners including myself would be glad to answer them.

    btw - The 8cyl Esprits are a slightly different beast - more expensive to maintain than the 4 cylinder (not outrageous), but not that much more performance gain IMHO.

    -Chandra
    1991 Lotus Esprit SE
     
  22. thecarreaper

    thecarreaper F1 World Champ
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    Sep 30, 2003
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    i had an 89 SE, that was regularly driven and well cared for. i swear the damn car hated me, as it was always broke, leaking, or the damn check engine light was on, which puts it into limp mode.
    i grew to hate the car, and i wanted to like it. the ECU in my car was ( i think) the cause of my problems. but the Lotus ECU, and Eprom, are not common to GM and they are very , VERY expensive. i finally got the car running well for a few months and sold it for $17,000 to be rid of it.

    i would "maybe" consider an S4 or S4S, but i would need to spend some time in the car, as opposed to my usual method of wiring the money after a PPI and waiting for the car to show up. the 89 SE was very, very small inside. my friend with the 85 Countach 5000S is who i bought the Lotus from. the Lambo had MORE ROOM inside than the Lotus! and the 89 with the wing is not easy to see out of, so you have to putt along in traffic, as there is always some moron in your enormous blindspot, with a cell phone camera.

    the 89 soured me, i am sure a S4 series car is better, and perhaps i should give them a look sometime.

    i agree ( again) the NSX is probably a fun car. i just dont want one. i like my old, slow cars. these new Pontiac GTOs are wicked fast, and for the life of me i dont understand why these guys follow me when i am in my 78 Trans Am, or one of my two 911's, and are so proud to " pull away" and " beat me". i really could care less how fast their car is, nor do i want to get any attention for Law Enforcement. so the " look at me " lines of the Lotus would also be a negative. too many boy racers that only own one car that is financed, trying to be a "badass" on the street.

    if i wanted to go "fast" i would have a sportbike.

    please post if any of you get an S4 or S4S. i would like to read your thoughts on them.
     
  23. dustified123456

    Feb 12, 2009
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    Woodbridge Virginia
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    Dusty McGrath
    The S4 and S4s weren't made in 89.
     
  24. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
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    I think he meant post 89 as the models progressed SE S4...etc, as Lotus switched to some GM engine managment components.
     
  25. dustified123456

    Feb 12, 2009
    33
    Woodbridge Virginia
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    Dusty McGrath
    Well then kind of along the same lines as the OP. I agree with the SE, S4, and S4s but what about the V8's. From what I have read they are not as reliable as the 4cyl and cost much more to maintain.
     
  26. thecarreaper

    thecarreaper F1 World Champ
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    yes, which i why i said " i had an 89 SE". the S4S version of the car is hopefully much better than the early SE cars, as i got sick of the damn check engine light coming on and the car going into limp mode.

    i have had many cars, and that 89 SE was always broken, or taken apart to fix what was broken. my best friend had it for years and it never gave him any issues. thats just the way it is with old cars.
     
  27. Bullfighter

    Bullfighter Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Lol. I guess it happens everywhere.
     
  28. drjohngober

    drjohngober Formula 3
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    Jul 23, 2006
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    Dr.John Gober
    I have always loved the looks of the Esprits ( all models). They are timeless in design ( IMHO) as are the 3X8s.
    I have researched several cars and have come close to buying, but the reliability issue has thus far not outweighed the desirability of the design.
    I must second the recommendation of the NSX though. I had one for two years, great car,very reliable, gorgeous lines . But just as the Lotii, it is not a Ferrari...
     

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