Back around the turn of the 1990s, Lotus shocked the world with a 177-mph super sedan meant to take on the world — a vehicle that that was condemned in British parliament. More than three decades later, Lotus is wading into the sedan pool again with the Emeya, an all-electric super sedan with 950 horsepower. With substantially more power than a Carlton and shocking acceleration figures, you’d expect it to get the goats of Carlton naysayers. So where’s the outrage?
I would Thanos-snap the BMW M5 out of existence if that’s what I needed to do to buy a Lotus Carlton. This large family sedan hacked up by people in a shed in Norfolk appeared on the scene in 1990, sporting the biblical top speed of 177 mph. Yeah, that was supercar fast, capable of pulling bus-length gaps on Ferrari 348s, all while built on the bones of a Vauxhall. If you have a hard time relating to that, imagine if one of the fastest cars you could buy in the 1990s was a Chevrolet Lumina.
Parliamentarians, in their contempt for anything described as fun, wanted the Lotus Carlton banned. This car was debated against in the same halls where Eton-educated sentient croutons have argued about things like Brexit, austerity measures, and selling out the NHS. As Baron Carlisle of Berriew said during a parliamentary session, “Will the hon. Gentleman join me in condemning especially the heavy publicity that has been given recently to a Vauxhall Carlton which is capable, apparently, of achieving 170 mph? It should not be available for public purchase, even at the outrageous price of, I think, £45,000.” The Lotus Carlton was the Four Loko of sedans, another vertex of extreme. Now Lotus is building an even quicker sedan.
The Emeya may sound a bit like an Irish singer or a medical procedure, but it’s actually Lotus’ take on a Porsche Taycan. Not only does it get an 800-volt architecture for blazing fast charging, brake discs the size of small moons for re-aligning your spleen, and an even 50:50 weight distribution, it’s incredibly quick. We’re talking about a 950-horsepower all-electric super sedan claiming a 2.5-second zero-to-60 mph time and a top speed north of 155 mph. Through the quarter mile, it should blow the old Carlton into the middle of last week, and yet nobody wants it banned.
Part of this shift could be the class system. In Britain, public school is private, tea is more than a drink, and classism is still a thing. It’s not just income-based, but varies on employment, education, family, the words you use, the car you drive, etcetera, etcetera. As such, the wealthy looked down on the Carlton as a vehicle for riff-raff. In the words of Sir Anthony Grant, “There is unanimity between the two Front Benches that it is ludicrous that motor car manufacturers should be advertising cars that have maximum speeds of 140, 150 and 170 mph. Some of these products are cheap cars that can be purchased by those who are incapable of driving them safely.”
Normal Vauxhall Carltons were driven by people named Gaz or Baz who loved a pint and a Sunday roast, and had a middle-class life to go with a middle-class car. Ferraris were driven by people who did cocaine. Will the Lotus Emeya be driven by people with a penchant for uppers? I won’t comment on that, but it certainly occupies a different sphere than the Carlton.
[A Note From our in-house Brit, car-designer Adrian Clarke:
I realise Thomas is Canadian, which technically makes him half British (in the same way I consider myself half American, because I was once married to one), I think all that maple syrup has addled his brain. Or maybe he’s taken one too many hockey pucks to the noggin, because his understanding of the impenetrable intricacies of the British class system are a little off.
While it is true the Lotus Carlton was debated in Parliament, it’s important to add a little context. First of all, at the time the UK had had a Conservative government since 1979, a political party consisting of Eton educated shambling shitwits so out of touch with normal people they may as well have been from the fucking moon. Secondly, the explosion in popularity of affordable working class performance cars like the Sierra RS Cosworth meant they had become extremely popular with the criminal community. Remember this was the early nineties when cars had essentially zero theft protection worth a damn and you could steal a car with little more than a screwdriver. Coupled this with reduced police numbers and the cutting of social safety nets thanks to successive Conservative governments, and car related crimes including joy riding and ram raiding were off the charts. Want to stop your car being stolen? Simply park next to a Sierra RS Cosworth, went the joke. So the appearance of an even higher performance working man’s car that was easily capable of outdragging anything the Police had prompted a sense of righteous indignation from politicians.
Except the Lotus Carlton wasn’t really a working person’s car. The Vauxhall Carlton on which is was based was a mass market large sedan (essentially GMs equivalent of Euro Ford Granada), which no middle class person would be seen dead in. The Lotus version retailed for around £48k, well out of the reach of someone who knows what an honest day’s labor looks like. The RS Cosworth would have been about half that, much more accessible to people called Baz and Daz who enjoyed Sunday dinner with a pint in a flat roof pub.
No, the Lotus Carlton was for Tarquin and Pamela to cosplay as working class while giving them the speed to escape should any real working class people called Baz and Daz appear and try to steal their car. -AC]
Then, there’s ubiquity: Fast cars have been normalized. Performance isn’t sought, but instead merely expected in the year 2023. Even a Honda Passport owner can brake-torque their way to a sub-six-second zero-to-60 mph time during the school run, and the instant response of electric motors are bringing about a whole new era of acceleration. Sure, performance EV zero-to-60 mph times are impressive, but that isn’t the whole story. Basic EVs are shockingly quick from zero-to-30 mph, and since EVs have no gears and no turbos to spool up, they’re quicker in the real world than combustion-powered cars could ever dream of.
The fact that the Lotus Emeya doesn’t seem outrageous is truly remarkable. Here’s a sedan that can humble many supercars, yet it slides under the radar for the most part. Even if it isn’t slated for production until 2024, it already seems like a symbol of how far we’ve come. After all, who doesn’t want to go fast?
(Photo credits: Lotus, Vauxhall)
Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.