The Euro roadster formula is well-cemented in the car making world: Each car starts with a swooping front end that terminates in raised headlines, supported by haunched fenders. Long, aggressively sloped hood comes to a pointed nose. Across the cab is a removable top, soft or hard. The rear gets a stubby treatment with a tiny boot and simplistic taillights. An FR layout transfers power through a small block V8, naturally aspirated 6-cylinder, or forced induction inline-4 of some sort. Sounds well-versed, and many European makers have held to this formula steadfast for many a decade. That’s why the American-built Panoz Esperante is so cool.
European Aesthetics, American-Made
You might have seen an Esperante on the road – they’ve been in production since 2000, and the company, Panoz, LLC, is doing quite well in its home state of Georgia. You’ve likely never second-guessed what you saw, though. You probably thought it was a Porsche, some quirky old Ferrari, or perhaps a local British carmaker. You’d be wrong. That’s because Panoz has also perfected the Euro roadster formula with some American ingenuity.
Panoz makes just two models, the Avezzano, and the Esperante. We enjoy the latter for its more unique design and available configurations (Spyder, Convertible, GT, and GTS). It adheres to the Euro roadster formula, but it appears dated – not in a bad way. It manages to combine all the great things of any Euro roadster without acting like a childish mimic of any one maker. You’ll find Porsche lines, Ferrari fascias, Mercedes vents, and even Lamborghini interior accents.
American Muscle Under the Hood
The Panoz Esperante makes impressive performance by sticking with a typical American powerplant: An aluminum small block V8 mated to a top-mounted supercharger, blowing out 560 horses at the crank. Customers can choose to upgrade to a 750+ HP motor. A Ford-produced Tremec T56 6-speed manual transmission comes standard, with a 6-speed automatic with flappy paddle shifters made optional.
A Corner-Carving Roadster, Too
A middle-of-the-road 3.55:1 limited slip diff allows one to enjoy two-wheel burnouts while enjoying decent highway comfort and impressive 0-60 times (less than 5 seconds). Heavy-duty half shafts are included to handle all that torque. This doesn’t seem to take away from the overall experience though, thanks to the Esperante’s aerospace aluminum and carbon fiber body. A tubular steel frame with carbon fiber composite inserts keeps the car rigid and lightweight.
Suspension is kept tight and concise, with the front end developed using independent upper and lower control arms with double adjustable coilovers. The rear is kept planted in the turns thanks to the same configuration. The whole production weighs just 3,300 pounds and affords a responsive feel that any proper European roadster should deliver.
Often, a Euro roadster truly earns its keep by showcasing its prowess in the racing circuits. Prospective buyers nervous about this little-known company’s competence in that context need not worry. The Panoz Racing team scored 6 winds and 10 podium placements across 18 races in their 2017 GT season, including taking 2nd at the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Championship. If you want a car that will embellish you with the same racing pedigree in a daily driving package, you can pick up a Panoz Esperante for sound of $200,000. While this may seem a tad high for the figures and aesthetics, it’s a price we feel is suited for owning a car produced by one of the only official American manufacturers to put out a proper Euro roadster-type GT that plays in supercar territory.