Hooniverse Asks- What's the Best Turbo Engine?

Do you feel turbocharged, America?
Do you feel turbocharged, America?

With gas prices through the roof, and eco pod-people calling out conspicuous consumers of dead dinosaurs like they are the un-converted, car makers are once again revisiting the idea of smaller, forced induction engines in supersession of large, gas-hungry motors. This isn’t the first time for this sort of renaissance, and there’s a mess of older factory turbos out on the market today. Some are pretty good, and some are crap.When Buick originally  introduced their V6 engine way back in 1962, gas was cheap, the government was too busy dealing with the Ruskies to do anything about air pollution, and the V8 was king. A decade later, gas lines filled the streets and the front page of the newspaper (which was what people used for the Internet back then) and smog had become something that didn’t just affect the sunken-chest kids that had to sit out P.E.. Buick, having sold the tooling for the little V6 to AMC, informed them that it had really been a loan, not a sale, and took the engine back. Needing something to overcome the attacks on horsepower waged by both emissions controls and CAFÉ standards- which had the 455 on the ropes- Buick strapped a turbo on the 3.8-litre and created one of the more successful forced induction motors of the ’80s.
If you can put it together in under an hour, you get to keep it, GO!
If you can put it together in under an hour, you get to keep it, GO!

There’s lots more than just the Buick- there’s the 2.3-litre turbo four of the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe Merkur XR4Ti and SVO Mustang. There’s the Porsche 930 and 944 Turbo, the VW 1.8 and 2.0-litre turbo fours that have made GTIs some of the hottest of the hot hatches. Seemingly millions of Chrysler turbos. And of course the EVO and WRX.
So, learned hoons, which one of those, or another, is the best turbo engine out there?
Let’s exclude supercharged engines, we’ll talk about them another time.
Image sources:[beforeblack.net, cardomain.com]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. PowerTryp Avatar

    Only because I own one Porsche 924 turbo, It's sad as a road car but the same engine built up won the 1971 LeMans on street radials when all others were on race tires. 2.0 Turbo Audi block FTW.

  2. joshuman Avatar

    I say the best turbo is the biggest one that doesn't kill you with power-induced snap oversteer.
    The best turbo for me is the VW 1.8. One has been in the stable for the last seven years and, other than the coilpack issue, they have been very reliable, relatively good on gas (24 MPG) and yet still have enough power to get into trouble. I keep telling myself I should chip it but never get around to doing it.

  3. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Faster, more sophisticated turbo engines have come along later, but I still have a soft spot for the Saab 99 Turbo "B" engine. It was exceptionally well-developed for its time, given the pioneering exercise it was — especially if you compare it to its contemporary, the troublesome Mustang Turbo Cobra that made 10 less HP from 300cc larger displacement, and lasted about nine months on average.

  4. SeanKHotay Avatar

    Yeah, I’m probably the resident fanboi and apologist…
    …but I truly find it hard to believe the SAAB 2.0L/2.3L Bs weren’t mentioned before Tashanomi did.
    Started out with the Tashanomi’s mentioned B20T but tunable to 650hp (2.0L) or 750hp (2.3L) with the stock later blocks, ditching the stupid B20’s rev-limiting, H2O pump-driving idiot shaft. See Per Eklund’s hillclimbers or that sleeper 99…
    10psi boost out of the box only because of the weak trans in the longitudinal engine form…but the ’86 SPG still out accelerated most anything on the road from 45-70mph at the time (per C&D, IIRC). Turn the P-pot and waste gate up to 20psi and keep it easy in 1st and 2nd, and you have quite a daily driver sleeper.

  5. blueplate Avatar

    Shout-out to the Volvo 5-cylinder turbo. Makes for a fun whine/throaty noise at wide-open-throttle, and has powered a bunch of hoon-approved transport, including 850's, S70s, S60s, and my personal favorite, the o.g. V70R. I keep thinking that an 850 "T5-R" (in banana yellow, of course) would be a great idea.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      One of my rules is that any engine with an odd number of cylinders is automatically okay in my book…

      1. blueplate Avatar

        Oh, heck yes, but the problem is, it's either that, or an I-3. There might be a Geo Metro LSI somewhere with your name on it!

        1. Tanshanomi Avatar

          In keeping with the spirit of this post, please change that to "Sprit Turbo." Then you'd have a Suzuki 3-cyl. I'd actually go for.
          Or a GT750 (Suzuki, Saab, whatever. they're both water-cooled two-strokes..)

  6. citroen67 Avatar

    Cummins B series 12 valve.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Big fan.

    2. aSoundofSleep Avatar

      Bravo for thinking outside the box. How about the ISX? 🙂

  7. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Tubro Jetfire with Methanol injection!
    All-aluminum 3.5L turbocharged V8 on a unibody compact chassis. Such was the engineering daring of GM in 1961. All downhill from there.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      While we're at it, the Pontiac Tempest on the same Y-body platform had a rear transaxle (tranny + diff) and independent rear suspension.

    2. _Tomsk_ Avatar

      The guy that prepares the glasses for my parents and brother has a '63 he's trying to sell, though the hairdryer and associated hardware are long gone.

  8. _Tomsk_ Avatar

    At the risk of putting my fanboyism on display for all to see, I vote the Mercedes-Benz OM617 3.0L inline-5 diesel. It was kinda powerful-ish by late '70s/early '80s standards (120hp), got good mileage (25+ real world mpg highway in the W126 S-Class) and, oh by the way, is near-as-makes-no-difference invincible.
    Honorable mention to the 6.0L AMG V12, whose peak torque must be electronically limited to 738 lb./ft in order to prevent trannycide.

  9. CptSevere Avatar

    Um, all this is way over my humble, overhead valve head. Never had anything that wasn't naturally aspirated. But I've driven and worked on plenty of Deuce-and-a-Halves in my day, and have always had lots of respect for the mighty Continental 478 turbocharged multifuel inline six. Only 134 horsepower, a lot more torque, but the turbo whine and the throaty bellow of that engine makes a Deuce a real riot to drive. When I was a cold, wet, GI waiting someplace foul for someone in a Deuce to come get us out of there, that sound was golden.

  10. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    I have only owned one vehicle with a turbo engine, and as Armand4 eluded to above, it was a 2.2L turbo 4 in a 1986 Chrysler GTS. (The stable mate to the Dodge Lancer, but all you hoons probably know that, I'm just used to explaining what it was to everyone else) For me, this is the best turbo, because that car would have been a SLOW piece of crap without it. I know it doesn't make it the best turbo motor out there, far from that, but it really did transform that car, and it was fun to stomp on the gas!
    Because the turbo still worked, it was actually pretty quick, and I could overlook all the other issues (no power steering, a random shattering of a rear door window, I swear I could hear squeaks and rattles when the car was standing still, engine off… you get the idea)
    Remembering back, it even had a nice exhaust sound, and actually handling wasn't bad either, but really, it was the turbo that made the car. Hadn't thought about that Chrysler in a while, but you know what… looking back, i'm remembering it fondly.

  11. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Just to be original… (and possibly way off) I'd say the fourbanger in the late model jeeps. Turbo power makes it a torquey useful, and somewhat fuel efficient engine. Plus hamsters love forced induction, makes them all happy and jumpy.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      The engine from an SRT-4 would make the Compass almost bearable. But I think the only turbocharged Jeeps have been the few with the CRD engine.

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        Yeah not so much a factory option as a aftermarket solution. I think the crusher makes a Compass pretty nice.

  12. free points Avatar

    I’m so very glad to see there is actually some great content to find online. I’ve gotten so tired of google sending me garbage.

  13. where to buy Premier and Stitched Detroit Tigers jerseys ??…
    […]we adivce go to this website to see more about Detroit Tigers jerseys and others. […]…

  14. fatih Avatar

    cobalt ss turbo 08-2010 2.0 lnf turbo

  15. edward Avatar

    13B-REW Rotary turbo

  16. DClan Avatar

    While there are so many wonderful huffed on motors to choose from, I’m going to pick two for my choice, one early American and one malaise era foreigner.
    The American lump is an easy choice, as it inspired a generation of later Japanese lumps, I am referring of course to the Turbocharged flat engined Corvair (especially in the breathed on Yenko Stinger Corvair- too much fun at any speed).
    The second choice is every bit as eclectic in nature as the Corvair. In this I choose the wonderfully maddening and powerful… Turbocharged, fuel injected 5 cylinder from the Group B rallying Audi Quattro. This is the engine that inspired the Group B mad dash to multiple turbo monsters that eventually killed the series.
    Thanks for letting me share.

%d bloggers like this: