Milestone for a motoring icon

Vauxhall is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its high-performance Lotus Carlton.

Vauxhall is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its high-performance Lotus Carlton. - Credit: supplied

Vauxhall is celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of its most famous and dramatic models, the Lotus Carlton, which started a long tradition of Griffin-badged performance saloons that still survives today.

The Lotus Carlton was the fastest four-door saloon in the world when launched in 1989, 65 years after Vauxhall produced Britain’s first 100mph road car. With 377bhp from its twin-turbo engine, it could hit 62mph in 4.9 seconds and had a top speed of 176mph. Its chassis was developed by Lotus in Norfolk so it had the handling capabilities and top speed to keep up with the finest supercars of the day.

A total of 440 Lotus Carltons were produced from 1989 to 1994 as a joint project between Vauxhall and Lotus, with each car costing £48,000.

Stuart Harris, head of Carline brand at Vauxhall, said: “Everyone at the time said it was completely inappropriate for a manufacturer like Vauxhall to launch a 176mph car. It was better than the competition in every conceivable way and will go down as one of the most iconic Vauxhalls of all time. It was landmark product for Vauxhall, which, to this day, is much loved.

“It introduced the brand to people who would not have considered driving a Vauxhall before. The car put a question mark in people’s heads and got them talking – just like the cars in today’s VXR range do.”


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After the Lotus Carlton there were talks of a successor, but the project did not go ahead, meaning the 3.0-litre quad-cam-engined Omega produced from 1993 to 1997 became the final large performance saloon for Vauxhall through the rest of the 1990s.

By the early 2000s, though, large performance cars were firmly back on Vauxhall’s agenda thanks to the all-new VXR range. In 2007, it spawned the 420PS VXR8 saloon, based on sister-company Holden’s Clubsport R8. Vauxhall’s latest incarnation, the VXR8 GTS, produces 576bhp in its current form.

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