Some people are into supercars, hypercars, hatchbacks, etc… There are plenty of categories that appeal to their users for different reasons. For me, the best of all remain the sports saloon or estate. The reason is their discreetness coupled with their practicality and massive power that make them capable of competing with proper sports cars or even supercars.
The Lotus Carlton or Lotus Omega is one of the all time great. First of all, it is rare. Very rare… Only 950 units were ever produced and I am not yet lucky enough to have seen one on the road.
Second, it is a proper oddity as was the Mercedes E500 in the way that they were both purpose built by a different manufacturer on different production lines (at the Lotus factory in Hethel for the Carlton, and at Porsche for the E500).
And finally, the looks and performance of the Carlton simply appeal to me! There is something about that wide, aggressive body in that Imperial Green shade that really makes it stand out compared to the other fast saloons of that era. And performance-wise, it was able to compete as well…
It was built from 90 to 92 by Lotus, even though it started its life a regular Vauxhall Carlton.
The engine was the same unit originally used on the GSi model, though reinforced in parts (Mahle forged pistons and stronger block) and still manufactured by Opel. Lotus then added two Garrett T25 Turbochargers to the 3.0L straight six to give it 380hp, far more that you could find on the e34 M5 (340hp to 360hp depending on the versions).
Being initially a Vauxhall, it borrowed parts from different existing models such as the Opel Senator for the suspensions (though modified by Lotus) or the Holden Commodore V8 for the LSD.
In terms of its ability to carry 4 people fast and comfortably, the Carlton excelled. Even by today’s standards, the performance offered is simply staggering with a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 177mph. Thanks to that, the Carlton held the fastest saloon title for a few years…
Unfortunately, many examples were destroyed during car chases in the 90’s as the car was extensively used by robbers, particularly in the UK. Indeed, the Carlton was much quicker and practical than anything else at this time making it hard for the Police to even have a chance to catch one. A good demonstration can be witnessed in the famous video of a police car trying to chase one, but really struggles as soon as the Carlton driver hits the gas!
At around £50K nowadays, I believe the Lotus Omega is still great value for money. It is however pretty rare to see one up for sale, but the good news is that most of the remaining ones have been carefully looked after. These cars need to be maintained as much as possible and they will be for sure, a highly desirable future classic.
One day you’ll be mine, Carlton… One day…