Attempting to draw a line in the sand and defining where the 'last generation' Esprits began is a tricky task, as the car has been under constant development ever since the major restyle of 1987. The introduction of the S4 is probably as good a place as any to begin, launched as it was at the start of 1993. With a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the S4 was good for 264bhp, but Esprit enthusiasts are a demanding bunch and it wasn't long before the lightweight Sport 300 edition was introduced alongside the S4, boasting a stiffened chassis, wheelarch extensions and a 300bhp power output. A slightly less extreme, but mechanically similar model, the S4S was offered in November 1994, basically a slightly sportier S4 with the Sport 300's engine modifications. In January 1995 a GT Commemorative edition was launched in Lotus Racing Green. Based on the S4, it celebrated Lotus' success in GT racing, although the car itself was not a notable sales winner. Only 11 were built. November 1996 saw a return to basics with a stripped out, 2.0-litre turbo engined model, the GT3 being offered for sale. Despite a 'mere' 240bhp on tap, many enthusiasts still reckon this to be the purest Esprit to date. The GT3 was discontinued in summer 2000.
The key milestone in the development of the Esprit occurred in May 1996 when the car was fitted with the V8 engine it deserved. The Esprit V8 boasted a 3.5-litre turbocharged unit pumping out 349bhp. It was joined in January 1998 by the slightly plusher V8 GT edition before being re-designated the V8 SE in October 1998. At the same time, Lotus launched the Sport 350 model, the lightest, rawest and most aggressive V8 Esprit of all, and one that challenged the Ferrari F355 and Porsche 911 Carrera for class honours. The interior of the car received a long overdue restyle in summer 1998, with recent cars no longer having a seemingly random scattering of instruments. Late 2001 saw a back to basics approach for the Esprit. The model range was pared back to one V8 version, which was treated to a mild facelift consisting of the Sport 350 front spoiler, twin round tail lights and 18-inch OZ alloys. The interior was also given a few splashes of brightwork and a dramatic high-back seat option.