The Lotus Carlton could strike fear into the heart of every Ferrari owner back in its day

Those with an interest in classic British sports car might remember the Lotus Carlton as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This year, the Lotus Carlton turns 30 and as far as we’re concerned, it’s still the same bonkers car that came to be in 1990. We even have a video to support our statement.

The Lotus Carlton was faster than almost everything on the road

The Often Forgotten Lotus Carlton Was the Ultimate Sleeper Sedan
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Lotus likes its cars lightweight, we know that already. But the company’s mechanical whizz showed what can you do with a platform that’s not necessarily built for high-end performance. Back in 1990.

It all started as Lotus started working on the Vauxhall Carlton/Opel Omega platform produced in Russelsheim. The Omega came with a 3.0-liter straight-six mill, but Lotus bumped the displacement to 3.6 liters and brought two Garrett T25 turbochargers to the party as well. The engine now made 568 Newton-meters (419 pound-feet) of torque at 4,200 rpm and cranked out 377 horsepower.

The Often Forgotten Lotus Carlton Was the Ultimate Sleeper Sedan
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In real life, these figures translated to a 0-60 mph sprint of five seconds flat - the Ferrari 348 did it in 5.6 seconds, while the 964 911 Turbo needed 5.5 seconds.

In the Lotus Carlton, 0-100 mph took 11.1 seconds, while top speed was capped at 174 mph - although the car could easily do over 180 mph. It helped, too, that the transmission came from a Corvette ZR1.

The Often Forgotten Lotus Carlton Was the Ultimate Sleeper Sedan
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On top of the above-mentioned tweaks, Lotus re-worked the front and rear suspension to meet its own ride and handling standards. What’s more, the stock tires were replaced with Goodyear Eagle rubber as seen on the Esprit Turbo SE.

The Often Forgotten Lotus Carlton Was the Ultimate Sleeper Sedan
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The brakes, of course, were tweaked to handle the bump in power and performance.

In fact, back in 1992, Autocar put the Carlton to its 0-100-0 challenge which the Lotus did in 17 seconds, coming second only to the Ferrari F40.

Let that sink in for a while.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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