In the world of tuner cars and smaller auto manufacturers, there are a few names that are fairly common. Saleen, Brabus, Sportec. One name that you don’t hear very often is Panoz. Their roadster, the Esperante, is produced at their factory in Georgia, and it is one of the few homegrown tuner cars that balances the tight feel of Japanese sports cars, the raw power of American pony cars, and the precision associated with Italian supercars. In a word, the Esperante is amazing.
The Esperante is not a package built on top of another vehicle. It is a unique car, although it does include components from other, usually larger, manaufacturers. This is not a drawback, simply the business reality of small manufacturers. They simply cannot afford to have design and build an engine entirely from scratch. Whenever it was necessary to design a new component, however, the Panoz engineers did not shirk from the task. When the Panoz launched in 2001, and in the first few years of its life, it did borrow heavily from the Mustang Cobra for the engine, some suspension parts, and a few trim and floor pieces.
The American muscle is thanks to a Ford V8 engine that has been tuned (over the Eseperante’s lifetime) to produce anywhere from 300 to 420 horsepower, depending on model year and the specific model variant. This power is coupled with a relatively lightweight design, allowing the Esperante to blast from 0-to-60 mph in 4 seconds. The car handles incredibly well, also, thanks to a custom designed coil-over suspension setup that keeps the car firmly planted on the ground even in the most harrowing turns. Top speed is 180 mph, there’s over 300 lb-ft of torque, and the car still gets 17 mpg city / 25 highway.
Normally, custom built tuner cars with that sort of performance cost about as much as a small house. The Esperante is out of reach of many drivers, but the starting price of a base model is $89,000, very low for the custom world. That may seem like a high price, but considering the precision of the car’s design and manufacture, it is more than fair.
There isn’t a hint of a cut corner anywhere on the car. From the styling to the drive, the Esperante is a one-of-a-kind.
To view more photos, visit our Panoz Esperante Pictures Gallery