Opinion: Turbo cars don’t have to be boring

Opinion: Turbo cars don’t have to be boring

Car companies are killing the howling naturally-aspirated engine and turning turbo to save fuel and cut emissions. And while the good news is turbos are an easy way to more power, it’s come at the cost of some sizzle. Former free-breathing heroes like the BMW M3 and Renaultsport Clio are less exciting now they’re turbo.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The things that made early turbo-mobiles fun are being engineered-out in the name of refinement. Take the Subaru WRX STI. Once upon a time its devious all-wheel drivetrain and turbo tech was cutting-edge. But Subaru’s spent so little money on its R&D that these days, it feels old school, and in a good way.

That’s because its EJ25 engine has no clue that turbos can actually be used to reduce fuel consumption. It just wants to go fast and be loud.

There’s a bit of old fashioned turbo lag down low but once it kicks in at around 4000rpm it smacks you in the face like a back street brawler. The whole feeling of acceleration is dramatically amplified because you’re waiting, waiting and then suddenly it kicks you in the head. A pensioner would have no problem driving it provided they stayed below the boost threshold. Once it takes off though, they’re guaranteed to end up in a shop window.

The funny thing is, it’s not even that fast. It just feels like it because the power delivery is so violent.

Sure, we have a sook when we drive a turbo car that is laggy, but perhaps car companies could build this into a button? Sometimes you want your eyeballs to bulge from their sockets as your four-wheeled steed roars onto boost.

And why not build some theatrics into said button? Give us idiots the option of scrolling through actual blow-off valve noises, or a dial that winds up audible turbo hiss. Not legal, you say? Well, of course many car companies have made a loud button for exhausts and you should hear some of those.

If most new turbo performance cars were boosty and fun, the rule makers would even have a legitimate excuse to stop young people from driving them. But that’s an opinion for another time…

How do you think car companies could give new turbo performance cars some extra sizzle?

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