Many turbocharged cars and crossovers suffer from turbo lag and don’t come close to matching the power of larger engines. Here are three that you will love.This writer has never been shy about criticizing car companies that drop wonderful engines for turbos that don’t measure up. Turbo lag, the delay in response as a turbo spools up to its power point, is the bane of all enthusiasts. Premium gas and so-so fuel economy make us question the logic of the whole enterprise. Then there are the outliers. Those engines that make us wonder why so many automakers get it wrong. Here are three we have tried and found to be excellent.
1) MINI Cooper/BMW 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder Turbo. 134 hp, 162 lb-ft of torque at just 1250 RPM. Premium Fuel.
If ever a car bucked the trend it is the Mini Cooper. Starting in 2014 the base Mini Cooper has used this new small 3-cylinder turbo. We were skeptical it could provide any zing to any car, mini or not. How wrong we were. Not only does the Mini’s engine provide instant response, meaning no turbo-lag, it pulls strongly and keeps pulling. We tested the Mini with its 6-speed automatic transmission. The pair works wonderfully, and the Mini can accelerate from 0-60 in 7.3 seconds. That’s quick, but it leaves room for more powerful Minis in the family. Fuel economy is also outstanding. In our testing, the car delivered 41.6 MPG in combined driving. That well exceeded its EPA estimated 34 MPG for combined driving and even the EPA’s estimate for highway estimate of 41 MPG. The engine is rorty too. You want to give it the boot, and it invites you to play. The great news is that there is lot more power hidden in this engine. BMW uses a version of it in the i8, and it produces well over 200 hp.
2) Hyundai 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo. 245 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque at 1350 RPM. Regular Fuel
Hyundai was one of the first mainstream automakers to put a 2-liter turbo in a mid-size car. Not only was the turbo one of the first, it was also one of the most powerful weighing in around 275 hp. Lucky for buyers, Hyundai wasn’t afraid to let that number come down a bit as it refined its turbocharged engine. We tested the 2.0-liter turbo from Hyundai in two vehicles. First a Hyundai Sonata Sport. The engine and drivetrain worked in synch to deliver very linear, and very abundant power. We found it to be a great middle-ground between the over-powerful Accord and Camry V6 cars and the underpowered normally aspirated (non-turbos) in pretty much every other mid-size sedan. We also tested the Santa Fe Sport, and the engine behaved just as well. Here’s the kicker; Hyundai’s turbo uses regular unleaded fuel, which saves buyers as much as 20% on fuel costs. Good luck finding a premium brand that offers a turbo rated for regular.
3) Ford 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo. 240 hp, 270 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 RPM Regular unleaded.
Like Hyundai, Ford has a 2.0-liter turbo that rocks. It also uses regular fuel in many vehicles including the Escape. When we tested the Escape Titanium it was clear the engine had the power and smoothness of a V6, and we quickly forgot about the engine – we mean that a compliment. In many compact crossovers, the only thing missing is power. That is not a problem with the Escape’s 2.0-liter turbo. Nor is fuel efficiency.
The marketplace has its share of bad turbos. The good news is that automakers from all points on the compass seem to be figuring out how to make them work.