Vauxhall is celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of its most dramatic and revered models this year, the Lotus Carlton.
Upon its release in 1989, the Carlton was the fastest four-door saloon in the world and launched a long tradition of Vauxhall-badged performance models which eventually evolved into the VXR range.
Producing a monster 377bhp from its twin-turbo straight-six engine, the Carlton managed the 0-62mph sprint in an incredible 4.9 seconds with a 179mph top speed, impressive even today.
The Carlton also had a chassis that was developed and tweaked by Lotus, which resulted in an extremely dynamic car that could comfortably hold its own amongst the finest supercars of its day.
In total, only 440 Lotus Carlton models were produced between 1989 and 1994, which each car costing £48,000 at the time – roughly £112,328 in today’s money.
Stuart Harris, Vauxhall’s head of carline brand, said: “Everyone at the time said it was completely inappropriate for a manufacturer like Vauxhall to launch a 176mph car.
“It was landmark product for Vauxhall, which to this day is still 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.”
Grandfather to the VXR range
Upon its retirement in 1994 the Carlton was succeeded only by the Vauxhall Omega in terms of large displacement performance saloon until the early 2000s with the advent of the VXR range.
A true follow-up to the Carlton didn’t arrive until 2007 when Vauxhall released the 414bhp VXR8 saloon, which came with a massive 6.0-litre V8 and put companies like BMW firmly in its crosshairs.
Following that came the limited edition Bathurst S which joined the range two years later and cost less than £45,000, making it the least expensive car with an output of over 500bhp at the time.
Vauxhall’s latest incarnation in the VXR range started by the Carlton is the VXR8 GTS, which produces 576bhp in its current guise, undercutting its main German rivals by around £20,000.
“It’s all about driving pleasure and the ownership prospect. With our performance saloons we like to show that we can be different and not do what everyone expects,” said Harris.
“And just like the Lotus Carlton, our current VXR range makes people reassess their preconceptions of Vauxhall and allows them to see the brand in a very different light.”