For Top Gear magazine’s 300th issue, we celebrated the best 50 cars over 299 issues: here’s our pick of the best super saloons
The Lotus Carlton arrived in 1990. Top Gear magazine arrived in 1993. Therefore, the car that rewrote, publicised and defined the supersaloon class during TG’s formative years is ineligible for inclusion here. But 377bhp, what’s that these days? Just a bit more than BMW’s entry-level M car, the M2, less than Merc’s second-tier fast E, the 396bhp E43. The hottest E, the 63S, makes well over 200bhp more than the Vauxhall/Lotus effort, an increase of over 50 per cent in 25 years.
But no one’s asked questions in Parliament about the E63S, no public action committees have demanded it be banned. One hundred and seventy-seven miles per hour? There are hot hatches capable of getting into that ballpark now. But there weren’t back then. Issue 1 of Top Gear shows the supersaloon is yet to make an impact. There’s an Audi V8 listed with 280bhp, a 240bhp Merc E500, but the only car we’d actually recognise is the BMW M5, which had 340bhp.
But look at what happened a few scant years further on. Whether it was the Carlton that caused the chaos, or if the serried ranks of Japanese, German, Italian and assorted others arrived at the decision independently, the supersaloon was suddenly super-business.