Panoz Esperante Spyder/Spyder GT Review
For today’s review we are proud to present an up close and in depth look at the Panoz Esperante Spyder and Spyder GT. In this review we’ll start them up, show the engines, go to the performance data and get plenty of exhaust clips. Take them both on a thorough drive and show you many of the unique aspects throughout the interiors as well as exteriors.
Panoz offers eight standard color options for the Esperante, unless you’re looking for something a bit different. In that case there’s quite literally thousands of other options for true individualization. The interior is similar in that there are four standard colors, but again Panoz is more than ready to cater to unique requests no matter how off-the-wall it might be.
Keep in mind that both of the cars featured here are pre-production prototypes, so there’s going to be some elements throughout that aren’t a proper representative of the final product. To start, all you have to do is to just make sure you have the key filed within the interior. Then suddenly put your foot on the brake and the clutch and hit the dash automated button to go.
History of Panoz
For those not familiar with Panoz, they first opened their doors back in 1989 and were founded on the principle of producing hand-built exclusive sports cars that were decidedly American. It came without the costly service of repairs and more exotic alternatives. The two main ideals that have followed the company since day one is that each car must have a V8 and come standard with a manual transmission. Despite being a small car company, they’ve also been heavily involved in racing over the years, including winning the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006 with the Esperante GTLM.
Panoz builds each car to order at a relatively small factory just north of Atlanta, Georgia. The Esperante has been the company’s bread and butter since the early 2000’s. It is one of the best examples of a truly bespoke automobile. The Spyder and Sypder GT are being produced in very limited numbers to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary. With an expansive list of customization options, no two cars are ever alike. Literally everything from powertrains to body styles and even the seats are up for change. Not to mention colors, materials, finishers, accents and more.
With regards to maintenance, Panoz has always used engines sourced from Ford and GM even in the early days. With technology and equipment that’s already been proven time and time again in the higher volume production cars. This not only ensures a proper availability of replacement parts if needed, but you’re also able to have a service just about anywhere. In 1992 when Panoz launched the original Roadster, they became the first US auto-manufacturer to use super formed aluminum body panels on a production car. Later on in 1996 with the introduction of a new aluminum chassis and a new aluminum V8 engine, the Panoz AIV Roadster became America’s first aluminum intensive vehicle.
Now especially with the new Spyder and Sypder GT, Panoz offers the Esperante in either a standard or wide-body version. The standard body is primarily made from super formed aluminum panels, while the wide-body which is automatically added on the Spyder GT blends aluminum and carbon fiber. Even the headlamps feature carbon fiber housings. The wide stance allows for wider wheels and tyres for greater traction with higher horse power engine options.
If you’re familiar with Esperantes of the past, you’re probably aware of this revised front fascia that was introduced a while back. The long sloping nose was added as a homologation requirement for the company’s race cars. It proved to be more aerodynamically efficient than the original fascia and directed more air to the engine with larger intake for better performance and cooling. Of course as bespoke as these cars are, if you really had a soft spot for the so called classic fascia, you can still order your car with it as long as you specify the standard body.
You can also mix body styles with the different powertrains options. Again the options are pretty much limitless. Underneath the body work is a patented modular extruded aluminum chassis with tubular steel sub frames and carbon fiber composite superstructures. Some of which can be seen across the injury thresholds. The Sypder and Sypder GT are both open-top vehicles by default, unlike the Espearante convertible which has a foldable soft top.
In order to maintain a level of stiffness and torsional rigidity, engineers upgraded the eight pillars with the high-strength tubular steel structure compared to the traditional stand parts. The Sypder’s new carbon fiber windshield frame also sits 5 ½ inches lower than any other Esperante. The windshield frame also makes use of unidirectional carbon fiber for added strength and stiffness. Additional tubular bracing can also be found in the rear sub frame, including twin high-strength steel roller hoops that resided behind each seat. All of this put together gives the Spyder a more low-slung look than your regular Esperante.
The carbon fiber rear panel also houses twin capless fuel filter systems, so matter what side you pull up to at the gas station, you’re still able to fill it up. A removal tonneau cover is included to seal and protect the interior when not in use.
Cars like this that are hand made in a limited number certainly don’t come cheap, with a MSRP of $165, 900 for the Esperante convertible or $183, 900 if you opt for the wide body. There’s a lot of different cars out there to choose from.
If you’re looking for something truly different with an immensely personal feel, the Esperante is definitely something you’ll want to consider. The limited edition of the Spyder is priced at $149, 500 while the Sypder GT is priced at $197, 500.
Wheels for the Esperante Spyder
Panoz offers quite a range of wheel styles for the Esperante, all of which can be found on their online configurator. The standard BBS forged aluminum wheels measure 19 by 8 ½ inches at front and 19 by 9 ½ inches at the rear. They’re wrapped in two 45/40 and two 85/35 Michelin pilot super sport tyres respectively. Panoz is able to fit an even wider set of wheels and tyres for more grip around corners and greater traction under hard launches.
Steering is provided by hydraulically assisted rack and pinion set up and delivers great road feel and response with shard handling. It takes just 2.6 turns to lock with an overall ratio from 15:1. The turning circle is measured at 36.9 feet. Two pieces forged aluminum BBS or SGT wheels come standard on the Spyder GT, although they’re not as shown here.
Regardless on the Sypder GT, the wheels measure 19 by 10 inches in front paired to two 75/35 tyres and 19 by 12 inches in the rear with three 25/30 tyres. An ultra-light weight BBS F1 wheel package is also available for reduced unsprung weight. Like the Esperante convertible the Sypder should be able to stop for 60 miles an hour about 112 feet or less, as the two share the same braking system.
At each corner, you’ll find two pieces slotted and internally ventilated disks brakes. The 14 inch front discs are paired with four piston Brembo calipers, while the 13 inch rear discs use single piston calipers. Upgraded six piston front and four piston rear calipers come standard on the Spyder GT for added bite to complement the more powerful engine. The larger calipers are also available as an option on other Esperantes.
A recently updated suspension consists of fully independent tubular steel upper and lower control arms at each corner with core liver springs and double adjustable nitrogen charge shocks. A hollow front and sway bar keeps things tight around corners, while revised bushings improve ride quality over earlier cars. The ride is stiff but it’s never punishing. The adjustable shocks allow for fine tuning for firmer or relaxed set ups. If you’d rather save some money and go for a fixed damper setup that’s easily done.
While Panoz will certainly entertain special engine requests, their two main offerings include a naturally aspirated 5 liter V8 or supercharged 6.2 liter V8. Perhaps, my favorite thing here is the aluminum plaques that embellish the signatures of the folks who assembled the car. The Sypder and the Spyder GT both come standard with a heavy-duty close ratio Tremec T56 magnum, six speed manual transmission. Power is sent to the rear wheels through eliminates the differential 3.51 final drive ratio. The differential features on aluminum housing with heavy-duty half shafts. For greater convenience a six speed automatic with paddle shifters is also available.
It’s a fantastic gearbox that combines smooth crisp shifts with a nicely weighted clutch and a stunning aluminum shift lever. Both of the available engines feature aluminum block and heads as well as sequential multi-port fuel injection. The 5 liter V8 was sourced from Ford and is more or less the same coyote engine you’ll find underneath the hood of a new Mustang. It’s also the engine used in Esperante Spyder, slightly modified of course and ranted at 430 horsepower. With this engine has played 20 – 26 times with just 3.7 seconds, a quarter mile time of just 12.5 seconds at 112 miles per hour and a top speed of 172 miles per hour. On the flip side, the Spyder GT 6.2 liter V8 is GM’s LSA engine that powers the previous generation Cadillac CTS-V and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It’s an absolute monster developing a whopping 560 horsepower.
As you all probably know these engines have very different personalities of designs. This is especially evident when looking at how each sounds with the Panoz engineer exhaust system. The 5 liter V8 absolutely bellows at a much more prominent sound, whereas the 6.2 liter V8 actually sounds a bit more mellow, until you get to the higher rpms where it gets a lot more aggressive and raspy.
Panoz uses magnaflow mufflers on their cars. With the Spyder, the exhaust exists out back but with the GT you get side pipes like a Dodge Viper. So when you’re accelerating really hard to get that raspy and aggressive sound right at your ear, it’s such a crazy sensation. As cool as all that might sound, with the help of the lawn motor sports technologies and decades of motorsports experience, Panoz can custom build engine per request that produce over 800 horsepower.
The interior of the Esperante has always been unique especially during the early days. It featured a design that appeared to pay homage to the Panoz Roadster but enveloped occupants in a more comfortable and premium environment. Today the Esperante has evolved quite a bit incorporating some modern touches while keeping things simple and straight forward. Just about every surface within reach is wrapped in leather. From what it is, it’s a comfortable interior with good ergonomics and only the bare necessities. If equipped optional alcantara accents can be had on the seats, dash, door, panels and center console.
The red prototype you’ve seen has its gauge cluster, air vents and lower dash highlighted and brushed in billet aluminum. A nice modern touch that also highlights the car’s aluminum intensive construction. In contrast what isn’t carbon fiber in the yellow car is finished in piano black trim.
Of course with the additional carbon fiber trim pieces and even wood options, you can go as sporty or elegant as you want. Panoz offers a number of seat styles based on your preferences and whether you’re looking for something more comfortable or performance oriented, such as the carbon fiber backs about sports seats shown in the yellow example.
In the regular Esperante convertible regardless of the seat style, traditional safety belts with load limiters are standard. However on the Sypder and Sypder GT their strong point racing harness with inertia reels in a competition lock out feature. The latter operates like a regular seat belt for normal driving, but if you press a small button in the center console labelled race belt, it will lock them in a fixed position and remove the slack. This keeps you secured and in place at all times, especially useful for track days.
Behind the seats in the Spyder and Sypder GT is a carbon fiber panel where a convertible top will typically be located. All in all the latest Esperante in line offers more interior space than ever before. It appeared quite accommodating and especially for taller folks. Being 5 foot, 10 inches I felt like I had plenty of room to move around.
The standard leather wrapped momo steering wheel measures 13.75 inches in diameter, but a thicker 14 inch flat bottom, carbon fiber steering wheel is available. The latter can be had with leather or alcantara across the sides. Perhaps the most striking new addition to the latest Esperante is the dashboard which now incorporates a 10.6 inch digital instrument display instead of the prior center managed to a cluster. It kind of looks like an Ipad and incorporates all of your necessary readings such as: speed, rpm, temperature feel and more.
On top of that you’re able to toggle between day and night modes which changes the background color from white to black respectively. Behind the shift of the center console are the power, window and door lock controls which are easily accessible by the driver or passenger. The power mirror controls are located on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. With regards to the interior space, the new Esperante in line has more overall passenger space than prior iterations.
The interior has some space in the center console in the lock and glove box. In the center console is an aftermarket infotainment system with navigation satellite, radio and hands-free bluetooth connectivity. The touch screen itself measures 7 inches while a backup camera comes standard. As far as safety, the Esperante is designed to be inherently safe with its aluminum high strength steel and carbon fiber chassis. It has also an airbag for the driver and passenger.
Trunk in Esperante
So next let’s go and shut her down; check out trunk space. The Esperante has a surprising amount of space outback. It’s 8.8 cubic feet worth which is about the same as a new Camaro, but you have a lot wider of an opening.
Inside you can also see some of the housing for the custom audio system, as well as a decorative panel inlay and that serves as the trunk’s illumination at night.
I hope you enjoyed the in depth look at Panoz Esperante Sypder and Sypder GT. Be sure to stay tuned next time, there’s always a lot more reviews we’re working on. Take care everyone.
Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lo4GyKuNtw