Blast from the past: 10 of the best old school performance saloons

They certainly don't make them like they used to

2y ago

These days all of our cars are controlled by a maze of electronic gizmos and driving aids that help refine them as much as possible but if you're similar to me and like things a bit more simple then you'll appreciate this article.

I've compiled a list of what I'd class as 10 of the best old school super saloons.

10. Lotus Carlton

We're starting strong with the Lotus Carlton. A joint venture between Vauxhall and Lotus, this car is the definition of 1990s bonkers and was hated massively by all health and safety boards purely for one reason - it was bat shit fast. So fast in fact that it could keep up with a handful of the supercars at the time. I think what makes it even more attractive is that to the vast majority it looks like any other Vauxhall Carlton, only with a few cosmetic tweeks.

Originally it started out with a 3 litre engine from Vauxhall, but Lotus scrapped that, upped the displacement to 3.6 litres and just for good measure added two Garrett turbos. The result was an everyday family saloon car that was running 377bhp meaning 0-60 can be dealt with in just over 5 seconds and a top speed of almost 180mph. Crazy? Awesome? Hell yeah it is!

9. BMW E34 M5

Moving over to the Germans and for me the E34 M5 is one of the coolest looking cars ever made. Albeit running less power than the Carlton, the E34 still produced a fair 311bhp making it more than quick enough to keep up with the competition. Later on when the face-lift came out the displacement was increased from 3.6 litres to 3.8 with a power gain of about 20bhp.

A fun fact - the E34 M5 Touring was M's first venture into a performance estate car.

8. Mercedes 500E

Mercedes somehow has a charm of making their cars look striking yet subtle at the same time and the 500 E is the best example of that. Opt for a casual colour like silver, bronze or black and you'll have a complete sleeper packed with a 5 litre V8 producing 322bhp although a downside is that it was only available as an automatic, but that kind of makes sense in a car like this.

7. Mercedes E55 AMG

Keeping with the Mercedes theme we have the E55 AMG. I could of chosen the later E63 AMG but I'm trying to keep this as old school as possible so we'll have to hold on to that 5.5 litre V8 for now as it really isn't anything to be laughed at. With 349bhp on tap and an even more impressive 516 lb-ft of torque, this is an autobahn stormer that you wouldn't want to mess with.

6. Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

The Sierra Cosworth is one of the most famous British cars of all time. Featuring the famous 'whale tail' spoiler which covered up most of the rear window, the Cosworth was an angry super saloon built by Ford Motorsport that had racing pedigree running throughout. An aggressive bodykit, a top speed of over 160mph and 0-60 in just over 6 seconds, the Sierra was a rocket.

5. Bentley Turbo R

I feel like the Bentley deserves a place in this list because it mixes pure British luxury with performance. Under the bonnet resides a 300bhp 6.75 litre Bentley V8 that although isn't an outright performance focused engine, certainly packs a punch. Despite weighing as much as a small island, the Turbo R still manages a 0-60 dash of 6 seconds.

4. Jaguar Mk2

The Mk2 can be considered as one of the first super saloons which entered production way back in 1967 and came with perhaps the best advertisement slogan - "Grace... Space... Pace - how bloody cool is that!

The top of the range Mk2 came with a 3.8 litre which was vastly similar to that of the E-Type with only a few different components like the inlet manifold and carbs meaning a total output of 220bhp which is more than some cars on sale today. I know that doesn't sound like a lot but back then it was seriously impressive and still warrants a large price tag for one in good nick.

3. Lancia Thema

The Thema was designed by Pininfarina and featured a 3 litre Ferrari V8 which shared the majority of its components with the 308, so it's basically a Ferrari saloon, no? Okay maybe that's a stretch but 215bhp and a 0-60 time of under 7 seconds, that's hardly a slouch and if you can look past the Lancia build quality then what's not to like?

2. Volkswagen Phaeton

The Phaeton makes this list because it's a personal favourite of mine and I feel that it needs a little more love and respect that what it does now. It was the company's first attempt into entering the luxury car market to compete with Mercedes, Audi and even Rolls Royce and Bentley but sales didn't go quite as expected which is now reflected with early examples going for under £5,000.

The W12 engine is shared with the Bentley Continental and is somewhat a rarity in production cars. Known to be awful on fuel and hideously expensive to maintain when something goes wrong, it is king for bragging to your mates down the pub.

1. Vauxhall Cavalier Turbo 4X4

The Cavalier didn't fair well against the Sierra in the race for the ultimate super saloon in the UK market but that doesn't make it a failure. It featured a turbocharged C20LET engine that produced over 200bhp and, like the Sierra, had a successful life in motorsport, especially the BTCC. An example in good condition is hard to come by, so if you see one, grab it!

So, what would you guys add to my list?

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Comments (30)

  • Renault 21 Turbo Quadra

    Renault Safrane Biturbo Baccara

    Citroën CX GTi

    Peugeot 505 Turbo

    Volvo 850R

    Saab 9000 Aero

    Alfa Romeo 164 QV

    Jaguar XJ-R

      2 years ago
  • Good article, but if I could query the Phaeton w12...owning the V10 TDI myself is far faster than a W12 and makes fuel ownership a little better....scared many a 911 with its pace

      2 years ago
    • Hi Ben great to find some Phaeton lovers here. I have own one of the 24 W12 Phaeton left on the road in the UK - I get 22mpg in normal driving and yes the bills can be substantial. For a car that does at least 186mph (allegedly) I think the trade off is...

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        2 years ago
  • Great line up, I love the addition of the Bentley, very cool. Just being pedantic though, the Sierra is a 3 door hatch, not a saloon. Should have picked the Sapphire Cossie!

      2 years ago
  • Never mind the cavalier, the Opel ( sorry, Vauxhall, for our anglophiles) Senator or what about the Calibra 2L

      2 years ago
  • I choose none of these I’m not interested in these I had my heart set on something much more my vehicle hasn’t been used in any video games since getaway black Monday. Getaway black Monday has always been my favorite game of all time even up to this very day of 2018 and 2019 It was a game that serve the purpose it was a good dialogue game didn’t have the best graphics did not have the best handling didn’t have the best brakes on each vehicle but to me it was the greatest thing of all time because I fell in love with 1999 2003 Rover 75 1.8 Diesel 2.0 Petrol 2.5 V6 The vehicle always fascinated me That fit my personality I would like to see it back in updated game World or Grand Tour Season 4 2020) I also have a photo that I Admire very much Beautiful paint job beautiful interior I love everything about this vehicle Just my opinions Something I love very much close to my heart ❤️ God knows I do he loves me very much.

      2 years ago