Panoz (pronounced PAY-nose) is one of those companies that doesnt necessarily change its products on a model-year schedule. Even if it did, the stylish rear-wheel-drive, two-passenger Esperante gets some notable modifications for the 2003 model year. The spring rates have been revised, and a new damper package has been installed. The entire superstructure is now made of carbon fiber, and the body and chassis are composed of aluminum.
Buyers can now choose BBS or Panoz custom alloy wheels with Michelin tire packages, as well as Brembo brakes and custom-fitted luggage. An automatic transmission might join the options list during 2003.
Well known to sports-car enthusiasts and racing fans, Panoz Auto Development came to life early in the 1990s as a low-volume manufacturer of a roadster called AIV (aluminum-intensive vehicle). Production then turned toward a new Esperante luxury roadster that featured such contemporary styling touches as flush oval headlights to help yield the overall look of a classic European sports car. Not until February 2001 was the first car delivered to a customer.
In 2002, Panoz issued the first of a series of limited editions, each commemorating a driver for the Panoz Motorsports team. The first was the Magnussen Edition, followed late in the year by Panozs first coupe, called the David Brabham Edition; it was equipped with a 390-horsepower supercharged engine.
Exhibiting classic sports-car styling, the Esperante features elegant, flowing lines and a long-hood and short-deck profile. Sitting atop a modular aluminum chassis are aluminum body panels that are shaped by a superplastic forming process thats been adapted from the aerospace industry. This superplastic method is claimed to produce stronger, more uniform results than the usual metal-stamping processes. Panoz says these body panels are more dent resistant and able to accept paint more effectively.
The front section of the convertible top is made of aluminum, while the rear is handsewn canvas. The pieces are hinged in the middle so the top lies flat on top of the rear deck. The Esperante has a fully independent suspension, all-disc brakes and 17-inch Michelin tires on aluminum wheels. It rides a 106-inch wheelbase, measures 176.3 inches long overall and stands 53.4 inches tall. Each car can be hand painted to customer specifications.
Two handsewn leather bucket seats blend with wood interior trim. All of the gauges are positioned at the center of the dashboard rather than mounted in front of the driver. Standard features include a 300-watt Alpine CD stereo, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry and variable intermittent wipers. Cargo capacity is 11.6 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
Ford supplies the hand-assembled, 4.6-liter, dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine, which produces 320 hp and 317 pounds-feet of torque; it teams with a Tremec five-speed-manual transmission. Esperantes can be serviced at Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships or by nearly 50 Panoz dealerships in the United States.
A limited-slip differential is standard. Panoz claims the Esperante can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds or less, reach 100 mph in 12.6 seconds and run a quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds (reaching 103.5 mph).
Dual front airbags and antilock brakes are standard. The traction control system has a deactivation switch.