Home » Lotus Built A Sedan Quicker Than The One The UK Government Tried To Ban And It’s Suddenly Okay

Lotus Built A Sedan Quicker Than The One The UK Government Tried To Ban And It’s Suddenly Okay

Lotus Emeya Topshot
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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?

04 1993 Vauxhall Lotus Carlton 289507.jpg

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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.

08 1993 Vauxhall Lotus Carlton 290070.jpg

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.

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Sh02004 013 Lotus Alpha 34front Comp05 Rbn Finalart Lotus

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.

Sh02004 016 Lotus Alpha 34rear Comp09 Rbn Finalart Lotus

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.

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[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]

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Sh02004 017 Lotus Alpha Rear Comp06 Rbn Finalart Lotus

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.

M022 Lotus Ext 022 Comp10 Ab R5 Finalart Lotus

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)

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Theotherotter
Theotherotter
10 months ago

Adrian’s note is the winner here. And I’m going to try to ease the lovely alliterative phrase “shambling shitwits” into my vocabulary.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
10 months ago

Yeah, zero chance I’m buying a Lotus this heavy. And having it made in China, with everything happening in the world now, is also a non-starter for me.

Hard pass.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
10 months ago

Blimey, I don’t think Adrian Clarke is old enough to remember the dread feeling that the UK had stopped moving towards the light that descended over large sections of the UK population with the election of the Thatcher government, but he has distilled and bottled the righteous fury.

Phuzz
Phuzz
10 months ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

I was born at the start of Thatcher’s rule, and I’m not sure that it’s better to born into a world devoid of hope. I’ve lived 3/4s of my life under Conservative governments.
(It’s telling that when Wikipedia sections up British history into separate periods, they’ve chosen to mark the current era as ‘1979-present’)

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
10 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

This is the Autopian, so we should mention that the Thatcher government stuffed British Leyland after Michael Edwardes had transformed it by breaking it up and selling the remnants to British Aerospace, who knew sweet FA about how to run a car company, then BAe subsequently betrayed Honda by selling out to BMW the first chance they got. BMW took a half interest in turning Rover into a pipe and slippers brand, got bored, waltzed off with Land Rover’s IP and the Mini brand and flushed what was left down the toilet.
3/4 of your life under Consevative governments and most of the rest under Blair… “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Logan King
Logan King
10 months ago

I disagree with the article premise. I’ve seen plenty of people expressing anger that the Emeya exists. As a *Lotus.*

But since the halves of the Venn Diagram of “people who want a Lotus” and “people who want a 5000 pound sedan” are as close to each other as Neptune and Mercury, it’s a moot point anyway. This will be dead in three years outside of China (because why on Earth would you buy it when the Taycan exists) and Geely will continue to append the Western brand names it collects like trading cards to unrelated cars for markets where simply being a Western brand gives the car exotic cachet.

Last edited 10 months ago by Logan King
Steven Moor
Steven Moor
10 months ago

OK, so first of all the Carlton is a called a “saloon,” and not a “sedan.”

Second of all, what would you prefer to have an accident in at high speed? The old Carlton that would fold like a paper bag in an accident, atomizing it’s occupants? Or the more modern Lotus that should pass safety tests with flying colours?

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
10 months ago
Reply to  Steven Moor

I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying “flying colours.” British cars weren’t known for their superior build quality when they were made locally, and now they’re made in China and I don’t think that’s exactly a high benchmark still honestly.

I think the safety is probably on par with the looks, adequate.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
10 months ago

The context provided in Adrian’s note is absolutely spot on.

Regular plebs like me lusted after a Lotus Carlton, but there was no way in hell I’d ever be able to afford one. I did however, drive an Escort RS2000 for about six month, before I gave up and got a sensible car instead after losing two windows and my brand new Pioneer stereo to the hooligans who apparently forgot to bring their screwdriver with them.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
10 months ago

Which RS2000?

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
10 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

It was a Mk 5 (1993 I think, L Reg) – I was mostly excited to have luxuries like power steering and electric windows, but the handling wasn’t too shoddy (if you like torque steer). I did get pulled over pretty frequently though, even when I wasn’t driving like a tosser.

Last edited 10 months ago by Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
10 months ago

Nice. I think those early Mk5 RS2000s had the slimmer headlights from the Cosworth. I seem to remember they got a good reception at the time, surprising as the pre facelift standard car was such utter dross.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
10 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

They definitely looked a bit more subtle than the Cosworth – the little bonnet bulges and rear wing were the only obvious signs that it wasn’t a Ghia.

If I’d had my way I probably would have gone full-chav and strapped a row of Hellas to the bonnet and got a fake plastic whale tail, but my wallet was already having a hard time paying insurance, and the radio incident almost bankrupted me, so in hindsight it’s probably for the best that I didn’t go down that path.

Marlin May
Marlin May
10 months ago

In case you’re interested – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Carlton#Reception – “A campaign by the Daily Mail and the Association of Chief Police Officers was launched to have the Lotus Carlton banned in the UK. The car’s advertising was also condemned in Parliament. Despite gaining traction, the campaign to ban the Lotus Carlton ultimately failed.”

Sci Pi
Sci Pi
10 months ago

The Carlton wasn’t a Lotus

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
10 months ago
Reply to  Sci Pi

It had a Lotus type number, so they clearly think it was.

Sci Pi
Sci Pi
10 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

It’s a design number, it’s a Vauxhall/Opel

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
10 months ago
Reply to  Sci Pi

It was built in Hethel. Do you consider a Lotus Cortina not a Lotus as well?

Martin Witkosky
Martin Witkosky
10 months ago

Lotus announced years ago a few battery design layouts, including the more traditional “skateboard” and a “chest” design to place the battery pack more or less where the engine would be located in a mid-engine vehicle. I wonder which this will use? Frankly, however, I could care less about a Lotus EV until battery technology has evolved until significantly high energy density is achieved with inversely proportional battery pack weight. Their whole existence was based on creating light weight cars. Right now that’s in direct conflict with the way EVs and cars in general are going today.

DysLexus
DysLexus
10 months ago

I read the article twice and still couldn’t find what the estimated price is!?!?

Are we talking Corvette Z06 money or Porsche Taycan Turbo S money?

I guess it really doesn’t matter because I’m in the Chevette Z0-naught Turbo-leSs income end of the car lot anyway.

DysLexus
DysLexus
10 months ago
Reply to  DysLexus

And the only Taycan I’ll ever own is one of this add on muffler “Tie-cans” on the back of a sporty Civic. Hehe.

DysLexus
DysLexus
10 months ago
Reply to  DysLexus

I know, I know…
If you have to ask then your in the wrong store…blah blah
(eye roll)

Phuzz
Phuzz
10 months ago
Reply to  DysLexus

There’s two bits of information that they’ve not announced yet: the price, and the weight. I assume that’s because both numbers are a lot bigger than most people would like.

Last edited 10 months ago by Phuzz
BunkyTheMelon
BunkyTheMelon
10 months ago

I just wish it looked better. A little more Lotus-like and less Toyota Crown-like perhaps?

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago
Reply to  BunkyTheMelon

I have driven Lotus Europa, Elan, Elite, Esprit, Evora, Elise, Seven, Eleven, and 17. The Emira is the last gasp of an amazing legacy.

The sad thing is that Lotus didn’t die, the spirit of Colin Chapman and his loyal followers did.

BunkyTheMelon
BunkyTheMelon
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I envy you for having driven all those!

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago
Reply to  BunkyTheMelon

I campaign an Eleven in vintage racing where I have been fortunate to meet lots of other Lotus owners, some with amazing cars. I once raced against Bobby Rahal in a Lotus-only event at Barber Motorsports. His Type 47 Europa burst a fuel line and caught on fire! That was quite scary but Bobby and Lotus survived.

Last edited 10 months ago by Chronometric
Matt Hardigree
Matt Hardigree
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Wait… what?

Torque
Torque
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

“I’ve had better weekends,” the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner said after climbing out of the fourth car he drove Sunday that failed to finish a race”

That’s a tough track weekend, insert joke here about ‘better than being at the office, hard, hard, har’

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago
Reply to  Torque

The fire was legitimately scary. Rahal started last so he had just passed me out of the museum turn and had pulled away easily. When I came on the back straight there was a car pulled over with flames and thick black smoke. As far as I could tell, the driver was still in the car. I recognized the Europa and thought, “Oh shit, I just saw Bobby Rahal die”. A caution came out and on the next lap he was out of the car and the fire crew was dousing the car. I think I have it on video somewhere. I really think he would have rather been at the office!

Torque
Torque
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Colin’s ‘add lightness’ spirit lives on at Radical and Caterham at least!

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
10 months ago

Bloated, fat, and dumb as hell. Just like their asinine super SUV. I’d rather see Lotus put out to pasture with their dignity than watch them continue to be turned into trend chasing influencer mobile dreck to be displayed in the dick measuring contests of the 1%.

This car is a heinous waste of resources. All of these super EVs are, and their mega rich clientele already have such astronomical carbon footprints that choosing this over whatever 12 cylinder Bentley of Rolls they’ve been eyeing will make almost no difference whatsoever.

In conclusion: get off my lawn

Last edited 10 months ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
V10omous
V10omous
10 months ago

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.

What if one of the fastest cars you could buy in the 1980s was a Buick Regal?

Ivan256
Ivan256
10 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

And imagine them having a rabid following 30 years later!

Tbird
Tbird
10 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Actually, the original Z34 models were not slow. They could run with an SHO.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
10 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

The hell of it is that nobody complained about the GN/GNX being “too fast,” because nobody actually drove the damn things. They just stashed them away as collector’s items. I see one of those things these days with 5k on the odometer, and all I can think of is all the fun it didn’t have.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Yet. All the fun it hasn’t had YET.

Besides some of them need to be preserved for a future where Star Trek like
holodecks can make virtual copies for virtual funand industrial replicators that can crank out perfect physical copies right down to the spin on the electrons.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
10 months ago

I don’t understand the Lotus sedan and SUV. Geely owns the following brands:

  • Lotus
  • Volvo
  • Polestar
  • Smart
  • Zeekr
  • Lynk & Co

Why can’t Lotus be a small sports car division, making an electric coupes and roadsters to be sold alongside Polestars? Why dilute the brand when you have so many options?

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

What a great idea. Convert all the Polestar and Lotus dealerships to Polestar / Lotus dealerships. Let Lotus be the performance EV brand.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago

Because then Lotus’ sales organization would bitch about not getting a sedan or a crossovers of their own, and investors would bitch because the Lotus brand wouldn’t be contributing enough to the balance sheet

Same reasons why Jaguar can’t just sell sedans and sports cars and leave SUVs to Land Rover

Last edited 10 months ago by Ranwhenparked
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
10 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

“ Lotus’ sales organization”
jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, Microsoft Works.

James Davidson
James Davidson
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I see what you did there. Clever, very clever…

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
10 months ago

Blast! Another fantastic machine that I can never hope to achieve. Why me! Why my limited income! Just not fair. Where is the justice in a world where fantastic cars are priced well beyond the reach of everyman. Answer? There is no justice.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
10 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

We all feel your pain, Opa. This is a safe space. Let it out!

Ivan256
Ivan256
10 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

If it makes you feel any better, shitty cars are also priced beyond the means of everyman.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
10 months ago
Reply to  Ivan256

The average price of a new car is almost 50 grand. If the fat cats get their way the Everyman isn’t going to be able to own cars at all in the next 5-10 years.

Ivan256
Ivan256
10 months ago

If by “fat cats” you mean Progressive US Senators and Representatives, sure.

I’m sure the more traditional “fat cats” would love to sell you some cheap-ass chinese econo-box for $10k at 100% profit margin if they were allowed to even if it killed you and several puppies every few hundred miles.

CAFE’s footprint-based standards killed small affordable cars. EV mandates are going to kill the big ones. There is no other blame to go around.

Vote for moderates in primary elections! Especially ones who admit to mistakes and signal willingness to compromise.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
10 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

FWIW, my spellcheck is broken so there may be some errors creeping in. My apologies.

To my respondents and others. I know you are correct in pointing out the unavailability of truly entry level cars and trucks. I have lived through this entire market idiocy and have watched as cars have improved incrementaly in all respects. The problem is the cost of these improvments has been far beyond their actual value.

In our modern society we have become so risk adverse we will pay an inordinate amount of money for the appearance of safety. All of that “safety” comes with a price. If you truly need blind side assistance instead of looking in your mirrors it will cost you. If you need for your car to tell you that you are following too close, it will do so, for a price. I’m not saying all these developments aren’t great, just that it comes at a significant price.

Additionally, we have metaphorcally painted ourselves into a corner. In order to sell these “improvements” we created laws and regulations that require us to buy them. Thus, even if you wanted a minimalist old time car you can’t have it because your own rules prevent it.

Is there a realistic solution to this conundrum? Not really, short of the entire restructuring of our own psyche, which I don’t see happening without some societal earthquake.

So mote it be.

Last edited 10 months ago by Opa Carriker
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

Oh my friend, just peruse your local craigslist while imagining yourself as living in 1955. Even with your limited purchasing power you’ll be able to easily afford as used what would have been yesteryear’s dream cars:

Automatically self tuning electronic port or direct fuel injection!
Automatic choke!
Electronic ignition!
4 valve DOHC with some kind of variable valve timing & lift control!
4 wheel power disc brakes with ABS!
A/C! That actually works! ALL the time!
Not just an AM radio, an FM stereo and a player that can store your entire music collection with HOW many speakers?!! And it all sounds awesome?!
A heater!
Crumple zones!
3 point seat belts for everybody!
Unibody!
Electrics that don’t constantly crap out!
Carpeted trunk!
Collapsible steering column!
Rust protection?
Stainless steel exhaust!
No fumes!
No leaks!
100k spark plugs!
5+AT/6+MT!
250k break in period!
10,000k+ oil changes!
< 15s 0-60 times!
A convertible that doesn't leak!
Bodies that don't flex!
Radial tires that can go 50k or more!
Alloys!
IRS!
Halogen/LED headlamps!
LED taillights!
Batteries that doesn't die in a couple of years

You turn the key, it starts! Every time!

And so, SO much more, all for basically couch change.

Last edited 10 months ago by Cheap Bastard
Torque
Torque
10 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

This @CheapBastard is a good take. While ice based personal cars are a mature technology, from a regular end user perspective it is still surprising how many improvements have been made in the past 40 years.
Just 40 years ago carbureted cars were still common & with that alone difficulty starting especially in cold weather or very hot weather was likewise common or running well at high altitudes.
Likewise (as alluded to), maintenence intervals for so many items (timing belts, accessory belts, spark plugs, tires, oil changes (and really all fluid changes) have all dramatically increased in their duration cycles.
Perhaps something of an laggard / outlier I has a 98′ VW Jetta TDI that required 60k miles between timing belt changes as one personal example

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
10 months ago
Reply to  Torque

Thank you. Always nice to be appreciated.

One of my first cars was an early 60s British sports car with half doors, bolt on sidecurtains, no heater, no radio, leaky softtop, Lucas electrics, etc. It also had a hand crank start which was needed on occasion Great as a warm, partly cloudy weekend toy, not so great as an only DD to get to work or school. Which is why I feel obligated to point out what a bargain even used CL beaters really are in the grand scheme.

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