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35 Affordable Turbos Drivers Overlook Far Too Often

Cameron EittreimJune 25, 2020

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
Photo Credit: Honda

19: Honda Civic EX-T

Honda has sold various performance cars over the years, but only recently has the brand ventured back into turbos. The Civic EX-T is more refined than your average SI and suitable for almost any type of driving. The big, comfortable interior offers seating for five, and yes, you can fit adults in the backseat. The Honda also has a lot of technological enhancements such as a Bluetooth connected infotainment center and blindspot monitoring.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
Photo Credit: Honda

Honda has elevated the Civic from its humble beginnings. The Civic EX-T is a stellar deal if you want a fun-yet-economical vehicle. Honda has been the innovator behind hot hatches for decades, and the EX-T is no exception.

Porsche 944
Photo Credit: Porsche

18: Porsche 944

Perhaps the most interesting Porsche of the period, the 944 is often overlooked. The 944 had one of the most unique shapes to be utilized on a Porsche. Then you had its brand-new V8 engine, which added to the performance. The turbocharged inline four-cylinder was what the buying public wanted though. It was the first four-banger inside of a Porsche and performed admirably.

Porsche 944
Photo Credit: Porsche

The 944 is probably one of the most sought after Porsche turbos on the market, mainly due to the unique design. The overall dimensions of the car coupled with a powerful engine make it a treat for drivers. If you’ve ever wondered what a 944 would drive like, now you can find out for a low price. The turbocharged variant is by far one of the most fun Porsches on the road today.

Saab 9-3x
Photo Credit: Saab

17: Saab 9-3x

The Saab brand was once upon a time an esteemed luxury brand. And with good reason, as the Swedish company is known for positive innovations in automobiles. But as time went on, Saab became complacent with designs and the brand faltered in the face of new competition from its German rivals. The Saab 9-3x was long one of the most underrated luxury turbos on the road.

Saab 9-3x
Photo Credit: Saab

Indeed, owning a Saab can still be considered a badge of honor to this day. But the 9-3x is also one of the most affordable turbos that you can get. From a design standpoint, you can’t go wrong for the price or the features.

Saab 9-5
Photo Credit: Saab

16: Saab 9-5 Aero

Another great turbocharged car that died too soon was the Saab 9-5 Aero. If you’ve ever had the privilege of driving one, you’ll know what we’re talking about. The sheer design of the car was a marvel of Swedish ingenuity. Not to mention the fact that the car was a blast to drive with precision-built design and implementation. The final generation of the 9-5 was sort of a final hurrah for Saab.

Saab 9-5
Photo Credit: Saab USA

The brand folded in the U.S. shortly after the recession and sadly the 9-5 didn’t get to experience a resurgence. But if you’re looking at inexpensive Swedish turbos, the 9-5 does the job. The sheer beauty of the car still stands to this day, and you can’t go wrong with its luxury appointments and sturdy design.

Saab 9-2x
Photo Credit: Saab

15: Saab 9-2x

Perhaps the only Saab that was a Subaru, the 9-2x was a solid compact sedan. With the turbo-powered option, you’re getting a Subaru WRX with a premium design. Since the car has an AWD platform, you can take it just about anywhere from the Swiss alps to your favorite off-road trail. Subaru had a lot of influence on the design of this car, and the platform is based on the popular “bug-eye” models.

Saab 9-2X
Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

There’s no denying that the final years in the states were a tough one for Saab and its turbos. But the 9-2x is a bright spot in an otherwise dim decade for the brand. You can still find these 9-2x models on the market for a fair price with a ton of standard features.

Nissan 300ZX
Photo Credit: Motor Hub

14: Nissan 300zx Turbo

Although the Toyota Supra and Mazda RX-7 seem to get all the recognition as ’90s sports cars, there were a few other notable options as well. The Nissan 300ZX Turbo was an equally powerful model that still had a lot going for it. The design was attractive and the interior was luxurious when compared to previous models. The 300ZX is an affordable twin-turbo with a stellar record for reliability.

Nissan 300ZX
Photo Credit: 300ZX

Not only are these turbos blazingly fast to drive, but they’re also cheap to fix. The 300ZX has a lot of positive attributes and the main one is its factory twin-turbo. The stellar design of the sports coupe makes it great even to this day. With the demand for these turbos going up, the 300ZX is only going to increase in value.

Nissan NX
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

13: Nissan NX Turbo

The ’80s were a period full of turbo-powered vehicles. As emissions laws became stricter and the V8 was phased out, turbocharging a four-cylinder became a viable option. Nissan was at the forefront of turbocharged vehicles with quite a few interesting options. Of course, the 300ZX comes to mind, but there was another option before that.

Photo Credit: Nissan

The NX Turbo was a compact two-door that had all the makings of a stellar sports car. The affordable price tag was in line with Nissan’s philosophy around this period. The NX was boxy, to say the least, but the drivetrain was topnotch. To this day the NX still holds a good deal of value with consumers.

Dodge Shadow CSX
Photo Credit: My Classic Garage

12: Shelby CSX-VNT

Do you remember the Dodge Shadow? Probably not. But there was one variant of the cheap economy car that is still highly sought after. The Shelby CSX-VNT was one of the many cars that were built during a partnership with Carroll Shelby. The interesting little commuter car was far more than your average vehicle in a lot of ways. The first thing that made the CSX unique was the interesting bodywork.

Shelby CSX-VNT
Photo Credit: Mecum

From a distance, you wouldn’t even know that this was a Dodge Shadow. With an impressive 174HP, CSX was far ahead of its time in terms of power. The alloy rims and the ground effects gave the car an attractive stance, one that still looks good to this day. The CSX is quickly becoming more of a collector’s car as the market for these cheap turbos heats up.

Dodge Spirit R/T
Photo Credit: Car Domain

11: Dodge Spirit R/T

Another interesting turbo-powered Mopar was the Dodge Spirit R/T. The Chrysler K-Cars reinvigorated the American automotive market, and the R/T was a special edition. Long before the sport sedans we see today, the Dodge Spirit R/T was a stylish and fun package. Available in a red or white paint job with matching alloy wheels, the Spirit R/T still looks good to this day.

Dodge Spirit R/T
Photo Credit: Dodge Spirit R/T

The turbocharged V6 gave the lightweight Spirit a whole lot of power at the wheels, which in turn created a hefty performance sedan. Chrysler ran the Spirit until it was replaced by the larger Intrepid. Drivers looking for cheap turbocharged power can’t go wrong with the Spirit. The comfortable interior included six-passenger seating with a bench seat, a first for a sedan of this size. The Spirit R/T is truly a unique turbo-powered car.

Dodge Caravan Turbo
Photo Credit: Chrysler

10: Dodge Caravan Turbo

Yes, you read the title correctly. There was indeed a Dodge Caravan Turbo that was released during the ’80s and ’90s. The car is proof positive that Chrysler was innovating even at a time when budget restraints were fierce. Very few of these Caravan Turbos are still on the road today, as their reliability was iffy at best. It would appear that the biggest problem for the Caravan Turbo was transmission failure. But aside from that, the Dodge Caravan Turbo is perhaps one of the coolest minivans ever created.

Dodge Caravan Turbo
Photo Credit: Chrysler

The sheer amount of power you can get out of this Chrysler turbo is astounding for the price. The resale value on these cars is so low that you can potentially find a decent one for under $1000. Which in today’s world of high-priced automobiles is a pretty good deal, and something many should consider for a fun project. The Dodge Caravan Turbo will remain a staple of the fun turbos of yesteryear.

Shelby Lancer
Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

9: Shelby Lancer

Mitsubishi was originally known more in America for selling imported economy cars through Chrysler dealerships than for its vehicles. But there was a compact car that caught Carroll Shelby’s attention, and that was the Lancer. Chrysler had been importing this model for some time and the team at Shelby decided to make it into a performance version.

Shelby Lancer
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Shelby Lancer is remembered for its bright red paint job and silky smooth ground effects. The look of the car was more than just skin deep though. The 2.2L Turbo II drivetrain was good for 175hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the lowered suspension and an affordable price tag, this Lancer was a steal. This car was faster than a comparable CSX off the line, which was Shelby’s other project around the time.

Chrysler Conquest
Photo Credit: Bing

8: Chrysler Conquest

A car that you don’t see too often on the road anymore is the Chrysler Conquest. The Conquest was part of the partnership that Chrysler had with Mitsubishi. For lack of a better term, the Conquest was an amazing sports car. Not only because of its affordable price tag but also because of its performance. The car was cheap to maintain and easy to fix.

Chrysler Conquest
Photo Credit: Bring a Trailer

With the Chrysler version, the company added luxury features. The Conquest was never going to become a major hit for the company. But as far as Mitsubishi was concerned, this was a great way to get into the market. The Conquest had a lot going for it in terms of the twin-turbo design and functionality. This car was one of the first real competitors to the Toyota Supra.

Neon SRT-4
via: Top Speed

7: Neon SRT-4

Perhaps one of the most unique cars to come out of the last decade, the Neon SRT-4 was a radical departure from the standard economy car. The most capable turbo-powered car in this price range, the SRT-4 was a real treat. For its stripped-down price, the car was lacking a lot of features such as power windows in the rear.

Neon SRT-4
via: Modified Car Trader

But aside from that, the Neon SRT-4 is perhaps one of the best turbos created in the last few decades. At the price point, the Neon SRT-4 is a steal no matter which way you look at it. The car has a lot of features and power that more expensive models don’t come close to. The SRT-4 is one of the most underrated and iconic turbos to hit the road.

Mustang SVO
Photo Credit: Car Domain

6: Ford Mustang SVO

The Ford Mustang is most commonly associated with a powerful V8 engine. However, during the ’80s, there was another unique option. Ford was experimenting with various turbo-powered options during this period and the Mustang was at the forefront. With the lightweight design of the Mustang, there was no reason why the company wouldn’t try a smaller engine. GM did it with the Camaro “Iron Duke,” but Ford wanted to do it differently.

Mustang SVO
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The blue oval wanted a car that was both exciting to drive and gas efficient. The Mustang fit the bill with the lightweight rear-wheel-drive platform that was carried on into the 1990s. While the SVO had some reliability problems, the car was for the most part a great choice. There was a good deal of factory options that made the car a great choice for fans of turbos.

Datsun 280ZX Turbo
Photo Credit: Car Domain

5: Datsun 280ZX Turbo

There’s no denying the significance that the 280ZX has in the sports car market. The 280ZX had gotten quite bulky by this point in time. That was a drawback for many aspects of the car, but Nissan innovated with the addition of the turbo. The turbo-powered 280ZX is still an affordable option if you can find one in good condition.

Datsun 280ZX
Photo Credit: Mecum

The car was simplistic to work on and it had a great deal of factory performance options. Most drivers were pleased with the factory setup that the 280ZX came with. But there are also tons of aftermarket upgrades you can purchase for the legendary Z. This is why this body style is one of the most popular options in terms of turbos on the road.

Volvo V70
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

4: Volvo V70 Turbo “The Brick”

There are many different affordable options drivers can get in terms of turbos. There is one, however, that’s even more unique than the rest, and that’s the V70. Known in the enthusiast community as “The Brick”, the V70 has a lot of good options for tuners looking for cheap thrills. To start things off, the wagon has seven-passenger seating, which is almost unheard of in most circles.

Volvo V70
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Then you also have a luxurious interior, which Volvo is famous for. Volvo cars are among the safest vehicles on the road. Getting one with a turbo is a real thrill, especially if you love how Swedish cars drive. Volvo has produced quite a few stellar turbo s. The V70 is one of the more iconic models and the wagon has quite a loyal following.

PT Cruiser
Photo Credit: Chrysler

3: PT Cruiser Turbo

The PT Cruiser was one of the most popular cars for the new millennium. The retro-themed style was part of a plan by Chrysler to reinvigorate the Plymouth brand name. Of course, this never happened and the PT Cruiser ended up being sold as a Chrysler model. The PT Cruiser Turbo was a fun little car. The setup was almost identical to that of the Neon SRT-4.

Pt Cruiser
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

In typical Chrysler fashion, a good deal of the parts on the PT Cruiser were borrowed from other models. The PT Cruiser broke a lot of barriers for Chrysler in the new decade. There have been many cars that have come and gone after the PT Cruiser such as the Chevy HHR. The PT managed to carve a niche out for itself in an already crowded marketplace.

VW Beetle
Photo Credit: VW

2: Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo

The Volkswagen New Beetle was one of the most influential new cars in the last couple of decades. But as the years waned on there were quite a few other “halo” cars that stole the spotlight. Fortunately, there is a bright spot in the history of the New Beetle, and that was the Turbo version. The Turbo offered a powerful German driving experience with the same motor that you’d find in a Jetta or a Passat.

VW Beetle
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The Beetle had a short wheelbase the drive was much more intuitive. Although the Turbo version had a lot of reliability issues overall, the car was a blast to drive. That made it a great choice for anyone who wanted a turbo-powered tuner on a budget. The turbo version was also released in a convertible.

Volvo C70
Photo Credit: CDN

1: Volvo C70 T5 Turbo

Another interesting car that has been under the radar for the last decade is the Volvo C70. This rather sedate looking convertible was one of the best selling cars in the Volvo lineup. But aside from a calming demeanor, there was a performance version of the car as well. The C70 T5 was a turbocharged variant of the already excellent wagon. The interior of the C70 was only one of the radically different features.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The turbocharged engine is at the heart of every special-edition Volvo. The Volvo lineup has not often been associated with performance. But when you merge Swedish engineering with a turbocharger, you get a pleasant combination. Volvo has long been associated with an upscale driving experience, and the C70 is true to that.

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