The winds of change are upon us and they’re turbocharged. But it could be for the better

Ed’s note

Dylan Campbell

I’D LIKE TO call three cheers, rather than a moment’s silence, for the Lancer Evolution. It’s been in the pages of MOTOR for 24 years but with no prospect of replacement, not even a much-speculated performance SUV (and we have our ways of knowing), this month we’ve driven it for the last time. When it was launched into a GFC-crippled world in 2008 the Evo X moved forward the mid-sized, all-wheel drive, turbocharged performance game. But in the end it was sadly left to wither on the vine so long, the game it once mastered had moved on. Its legacy as a used car, at least, will surely be to continue spreading the passion for driving and performance.

But where one door closes another opens. And initially we weren’t sure what was beyond the door marked ‘turbocharged’. While most of us had fond memories of boosted WRXs (and Evos), Falcons, 911s and Skylines, we were collectively suspicious of the new force-fed, downsized generation of performance engines, not least because most of them were largely inferior to their much-loved, often legendary, naturally-aspirated forebears.

But with the world’s best engineering minds now focused on turbocharged engines, they’re getting better. Much better. Electric steering was much the same; initially a very unpalatable proposition, the best are now so good they make hydraulic systems feel archaic.

The latest and best turbo donks still can’t quite match a nat-atmo for response, and certainly not for noise or character. But they’re having a curious effect in making some un-boosted engines, even V8s, feel initially a little ‘torque-less’. As for response and character, the new C63 suggests it’s only a matter of time before turbo engines match the old nat-atmo heroes.

This issue in an Aussie exclusive, we’ve compared the best of the new turbocharged crop, Ford Focus RS, BMW M2 and Porsche 718 Boxster S. I am champing at the bit to drive each of them. They all sound fantastic, and yet they’re all cars you wouldn’t put your hand down the inlet pipe.