Turbo SUVs and crossovers are growing in popularity in today’s automotive market, and with good reason: Turbocharged engines can deliver more power than their naturally aspirated counterparts, but they’re also more efficient. As a result, they can satisfy the current customer interest in responsible performance. The trade-off comes financially, since forced-induction powerplants generally require a pricing premium and aren’t found on all standard models.
10 Best Turbo SUVs and Crossovers
Photo Credit: Ford Media
2017 Ford Escape
The Blue Oval was an early booster for turbo SUVs and crossovers, thanks in large part to its EcoBoost engines—which actually combine twin-turbocharging with direct injection, too. EcoBoost choices are offered up and down the automaker’s lineup, with two of the newest in the 2017 Ford Escape. The first is a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder unit that is geared for optimum fuel efficiency and returns 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway/26 mpg combined, yet it also makes more power—179 horses and 177 lb.-ft. of torque—than the Escape’s standard, naturally aspirated engine. The more athletic setup is a four-cylinder engine that forces 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft. of torque from its 2.0 liters of displacement. And even that powerplant has an EPA line of 22/29/25. Also notable: Both EcoBoost engines are bundled with standard start/stop technology and a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Most of today’s turbo SUVs and crossovers rely on gasoline engines, creating a distinctly different selling point for the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee turbo diesel models. Those vehicles are fitted with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 that can churn out 240 horsepower and a robust 420 lb.-ft. of torque, and that’s enough brute force to pull up to 7,400 lbs. The enhanced efficiency of that diesel-fed powerplant—paired with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission—enables EPA ratings of 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. For 2016, Jeep offers the EcoDiesel engine as an option with a trio of Grand Cherokee trim levels: the Limited, Overland, and range-topping Summit. Speaking of which, Jeep revealed the 2017 Grand Cherokee Summit recently, showing a freshened exterior, 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels, and an ultra-lux Laguna leather interior for the brand’s flagship entry.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2017 Buick Encore
Autobytel experts like to emphasize the mainstream brands for our readers, so with GM supplying two turbo SUVs and crossovers in the subcompact segment, you might be looking for the Chevy Trax here. The thing is, even as the Trax has kicked off the year with big sales numbers, its corporate cousin, the Buick Encore, is doing even better. Now the restyled 2017 Buick Encore is on its way to dealers, complete with standard mobile Wi-Fi and the latest smartphone-integration technology for Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. Buick continues to back the Encore with two 1.4-liter turbo powerplants: The standard unit yields 138 horsepower, 148 lb.-ft. of torque and an EPA line of 28/34/30, and the sportier choice spits out 153 horses, 177 lb.-ft. of twisting power and an EPA high point of 33 mpg highway.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2016 Fiat 500X
Turbo SUVs and crossovers tend to supply the same transmission choices as their naturally aspirated rivals, but the 2016 FIAT 500X takes a unique approach to the matter. What Fiat engineers have done with the 500X is serve up a standard four-cylinder, 1.4-liter turbo, mating the unit solely to a six-speed manual transmission. That powertrain then produces a peppy 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as fairly good EPA ratings of 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined. But as mentioned, this engine cannot be matched with an automatic transmission, nor can it be configured with all-wheel drive. To garner either of those advantages, Fiat further furnishes a naturally aspirated, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and it can’t be configured with a manual gearbox. Instead, it showcases a nine-speed automatic to manage its 180 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque.
Photo Credit: Mazda
2016 Mazda CX-9
Positioned as the “premier engine” of Mazda’s SKYACTIV-G powerplant portfolio, the four-cylinder turbo for the 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a definite highlight of the all-new three-row crossover. In fact, by leveraging that 2.5-liter unit as its standard and only engine, the CX-9 sees output and efficiency ratings that stand out even among the top turbo SUVs and crossovers. Mazda’s Dynamic Pressure Turbo makes that possible, since it’s the first in the world that can adjust the degree of exhaust pulsation based on the speed of the engine. This both eliminates turbo lag and helps the CX-9 realize impressive fuel economy ratings. The vehicle’s EPA ratings are just fine, too, as the front-wheel-drive CX-9 has the segment’s highest city and combined efficiency grades in its overall line of 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/25 mpg combined—all while able to serve up 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque.
Photo Credit: Kia
2016 Kia Sorento
The 2016 Kia Sorento set an important benchmark for turbo SUVs and crossovers at the most recent Los Angeles Auto Show, where the editors of Road & Travel Magazine named the all-new three-row entry the International SUV of the Year. Judging was based on factors like style, comfort and performance, all of which the Sorento offers in abundance. For example, the 2016 edition is both more rugged and refined on the outside, wearing cleaner, sculpted sheet metal and an assortment of LED lighting, while its lengthened wheelbase enables a roomier, more inviting cabin, along with improved driving dynamics. Extra fun for the driver also can be had with the Sorento’s new turbo engine. It splits the difference between returning, naturally aspirated units, bolstered by outputs (240 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque) and an EPA line (19/25/22) that fall in the middle of the standard four-cylinder and V6 engines.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2016 Hyundai Tucson
Another of the all-new turbo SUVs and crossovers for the new year is the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. Still the entry point to the Hyundai crossover family, the redesigned, re-engineered Tucson is noticeably larger inside and out than its predecessor, and its list of premium amenities has grown at that same time. For instance, its extensive array of available LED lighting includes twin-projector headlights, headlight accents, daytime running lamps and, as a finishing touch, “approach” lights that illuminate from the door handles to welcome the owner. Additionally extensive is the Tucson’s tally of driver-assistance measures—including automatic emergency braking, lane-change warning and assistance, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, backup sensors and a standard rearview camera. Finally, a new turbocharged engine is available to help establish the Tucson’s forced-induction credentials, with this 1.6-liter unit yoked to a six-speed automatic transmission and able to deliver 175 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque.
Photo Credit: Nissan USA
2016 Nissan Juke
Some automakers also turn to turbo SUVs and crossovers to provide customers with more hi-po vehicle choices. A case in point is the 2016 Nissan Juke NISMO RS. It uses the same 1.6-liter turbo four featured in the standard Juke and Juke NISMO, but while it makes a none-too-shabby 188 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque for those models, it’s been boosted to boast 215 and 210 in RS FWD trim; all-wheel-drive editions are retuned to 211 horses and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. The results are much the same regardless of exact specs, however, as Nissan’s pocket rocket promises inimitable driving thrills in both setups. Of course, it also delivers, with NISMO engineers contributing a new suspension, an RS-specific braking package and Recaro sport seats.
Photo Credit: Volvo
2016 Volvo XC90
When it comes to high-tech turbo SUVs and crossovers, there’s nothing quite like the reigning North American Truck of the Year: the 2016 Volvo XC90. After all, this premium three-row Volvo is the only one with a turbocharged, supercharged, plug-in hybrid powertrain. The heart of the matter is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas engine that’s been both boosted and blown. In that XC90 T6, the unit touts 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, but because it gains significant assistance in the T8 plug-in—courtesy of a high-power electric motor—the outputs for the hybrid model jump to 400 horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. Yet owners also reap some serious green benefits, since the EPA certifies the pluggable XC90 for 13 miles of all-electric travel, 25 mpg in combined driving in traditional hybrid mode, and more than double that mark—53 MPGe—in plug-in mode.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz
2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
Right in line with the changing demands of customers—and the automakers’ own preferences—our expert list of turbo SUVs and crossovers focuses more on the latter than the former. That said, one of the industry’s most capable body-on-frame sport-utilities does happen to have an all-turbo powertrain roster, although it’s also one of the priciest picks on the market. The standard 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class can turn on the jets with a 4.0-liter biturbo V8, accelerating from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds in the process. But it starts at $119,900. The G63 AMG ups the power ante and reduces 0-60 sprint times accordingly, and you can guess which direction pricing goes. Last in line, but first in terms of titanic power outputs, is the AMG G65; it ships with a 6.0-liter V12 biturbo engine, 621 horsepower and an eye-opening 738 lb.-ft. of torque. You’ll just have to open up your bank account to afford one, as its starting MSRP is $217,900.