This year marks the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Pretty Woman, the film that spawned the career of Julia Roberts and solidified the presence of Richard Gere. However, one might wonder what became of their co-star — a certain silver sports car that, as Roberts’ Vivian said, “corners like it’s on rails.”
Possibly even more than Stucky (Jason Alexander) or Kit (Laura San Giacomo), the 1989 Lotus Esprit SE was the “character” responsible for bringing together the unlikely lovers. “[Director] Garry Marshall wanted the car to talk,” the movie’s executive producer, Laura Ziskin, says of Marshall’s idea that the car would bespeak a certain luxury and glamour to audiences. She also remembers borrowing it for the weekend. “I can still see myself on the Ventura Freeway, terrified!”
It’s rumored that Porsche and Ferrari passed on the chance to appear in a film that seemingly glorified prostitution. Big mistake — huge. Lotus U.S. president Arnie Johnson, who was director of service at the time, recalls that the brand saw a dramatic spike in sales. By the mid-’90s, however, Lotus had lost much of its luster and only regained some momentum in 2005, when it launched the so-called “Series 2” Elise in the U.S. But the stripped-down $40,000 model, while beloved by car fanatics for its engineering, was the definition of a niche car.
Which is why the car industry dropped its collective jaw in August when Lotus — which sells about 2,500 autos a year — unveiled five sportscar models at the Paris Auto Show, with the intent to build and sell them all by 2015. The first, appropriately enough, will be the reimagined Esprit — due in 2013. Explains Lotus spokesman Kevin Smith, “We want to recapture some of that Hollywood glamour.”
CLASS: Lotus’ four-door GT will be in the same league as Porsche’s Panamera.
ENGINE: The 5.0-liter V8 is based on an engine borrowed from long-time partner Toyota.
SPEED: Supercar performance: 0-62 mph in 4 seconds; up to 195 mph on the speedometer
BODY: Equipped with a fully hybrid transmission; built on Lotus’ Variable Vehicle Architecture