2007 Mini Cooper S: That Old-Time Turbo Feel
May 15, 2008
Turbocharged engines used to have a unique character, a.k.a. "turbo lag." You'd roll into the throttle from a stop, wait a few beats for the boost to kick in, and whooooosh! The sudden rush of power would pin you back in your seat. Automotive journalists often had nasty things to say about turbo lag, but personally I enjoyed it... It was something cool you could show off to your passengers -- that Jekyll-and-Hyde personality was what made a turbo a turbo.
Alas, times have changed. More and more turbocharged engines these days are designed to reproduce the linear, lag-free power delivery of larger-displacement normally aspirated mills. Try the new Subaru Forester XT's turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer four, for example -- or any BMW with the twin-turbo inline-6.
Happily, our turbocharged long-term Mini Cooper S offers the best of both worlds: it's eminently tractable at low rpm, unlike those laggy turbocharged engines of old, yet the overboost function adds a furious and decidedly non-linear kick under full throttle that reminds me of turbos past. Boot the Mini from a stop, and you're thinking, "Well, this feels pretty quick but not exactly--" Whooooosh! Suddenly you're pinned to your seat and grinning uncontrollably.
That's why I can never refuse the keys to the Mini when they're available. In a lag-free kind of way, it reminds me of the days when a "Turbo" badge (which our Mini lacks, incidentally) virtually guaranteed an engaging driving experience.
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 15,284 miles