Although not as popular as the Italian exotic cars, the Esprit could match many of them in performance. It was comparable to the Ferrari 308, 328, F355, and 360. It could also compete with the top cars put out by Porsche.
The first Esprit S1 came with a 907 slant 4 cylinder engine. It was sold from 1976 through 1980 and made an appearance in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.
The Esprit S2 was a slightly modified S1, with cooling ducts by the rear quarter windows that could be described as "ears".
1980 saw the first turbocharged Esprit. The Essex Esprit was a special edition that included a 210 horsepower turbocharged engine.
Some popular Esprit models of the 80's and 90's include the S3, S4, SE, S, Sport 300, V8, GT, and GT3. The ultimate Esprit came along in 1999: the Lotus Esprit Sport 350. This was a very limited edition car that included a 350 horsepower engine.
There are Esprits out there on the market, if you're willing to pay for that performance. The best prices I've seen are on eBay, where they sometimes sell for a fraction of new prices.