Even if you are not a car enthusiast, you are probably able to spot a performance car parked on the street. They all share the same features: a low stance, aggressive looks, big wheels and a large spoiler on the back. Those are all signs of fast machines ready to jump to prohibited speeds in second’s notice. But looks can be deceiving. The car can be nothing but a bunch of bolt on modifications on a boring, slow family sedan.
Some people add features like spoilers to their cars to freshen their looks. However, real performance comes from the engine, transmission, brakes and suspension. The problem is, those are things you can’t see from the outside.
In most cases, manufacturers of sports cars like to dress them to look fast, underlining their performance. Big scoops on the hood help cooling, while low stance and performance wheels help handling. Also, the wing on the trunk helps downforce and stability at high speeds.
However, sometimes, manufacturers choose to go a different route. They introduce cars as fast and powerful as those performance models, yet they are extremely restrained in their appearance. In fact, they are almost stealth. Those cars have become known as “sleepers.” They are a cool class of performance models that look like ordinary sedans, wagons, trucks or even minivans.
Yet they are far from ordinary. Here are the best sleeper models car manufacturers have produced in the last 25 years. These cars still demand respect from the car community for their speed and power, as well as for their elegance. But it is their quiet understatement that makes them even more interesting.
Lotus Omega/Omega Carlton
This crazy and menacing sedan is virtually unknown in U.S., even though GM’s famous subsidiaries made it. They were Opel in Germany and Vauxhall in the UK. However, the Omega once claimed the title of the world’s fastest four-door sedan. They introduced it in 1990 and discontinued it in 1992. The Omega Lotus was Opel’s rear-wheel drive luxury model.
Lotus, the renowned British sports car maker tuned it, adding a turbocharger to the powerful stock six-cylinder engine. The 3.6-liter six delivered 377 HP – massive by the standards of the day. And the performance was thrilling, as well. A 0 to 60 mph run was over in just 5.2 seconds and the top speed was a record-breaking 177 mph. Lotus did the finishing and fine tuning of the Opel vehicles produced.
They installed the body kit, spoiler and special details in England. The car came in just one color. It was a dark green hue they called “Imperial Green.” Apart from the small spoiler and fender flares, the Lotus Omega looked the same as the regular production model. Customers could easily mistake it for a boring and slow diesel sedan.
Unfortunately, the production numbers were low. Consumers considered Opel and Vauxhall to be economy car manufacturers. But, the Omega Lotus and Lotus Carlton were expensive cars costing close to a fully-optioned Jaguar XJ. Also, the recession of the early 90’s hit the market hard. So, at the end, Opel and Lotus made only 950 cars. They are valuable classics today, but their prices are slowly rising as a result.