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Turn On The Turbos

8 min read
Turbocharged cars provide extra power without racking up the size of the engine. Here are three recent models that will whet anyone’s appetite.


The new Lexus IS 300 puts together the trinity of elements that embodies its proposition: performance, luxury and style.

From the outset, the exterior of the brand’s sport sedan line has gotten a leg up in aesthetic refinement. The IS 300’s wider and lower stance states its intentions aggressively. The lowered side lines continue to the back and complete a well-integrated shape that offers an elegant silhouette. The enlarged, new design Spindle front grille, with its three-dimensional polyhedral structure, contrasts against the slim headlamps, while the muscular fenders, straight-line-type rear lights with an “L” motif completes the remodelled look. Two unique new exterior colours are on tap for buyers: Sonic Iridium and Sonic Chrome.

Few can fault Lexus’ design of its interiors, and the new IS 300 continues this with aplomb. The leather upholstery on the dashboard, central armrest, and door panels oozes luxury. With the clever redesign, the entire cabin is afforded a classy ambience.

Key additions include a new multimedia system with a wide 10.3-inch touch display that comes with a Lexus remote control touch interface for screen and audio functions. The screen has also been moved 5.9 inches closer to the driver for easier use. Compatible with SmartDeviceLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the IS 300 leaves few stones unturned when it comes to offering connectivity.

The 2.0-litre engine of the IS 300 is characteristically smooth and made even more so with a balance shaft featuring resin gears. The turbocharged engine now comes with special ducts to make the drive quieter than ever. There is also an eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift transmission, which includes a clutch that locks the torque converter in gears two through eight when the car is driven hard. And for differences in driving sensations, the IS 300 offers three drive modes: Normal, ECO and Sport.

Lexus takes safety seriously, and has enhanced its Lexus Safety System (LSS+) recently. The IS 300 is the first of its models to incorporate this improved suite of features.

The enhanced LSS+ include upgrades to the Pre-Collision System that alerts the driver of an impending collision with enhancements on Intersection Turning Assist with improved recognition of oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn; and Emergency Steering Assist that works in tandem with the Pre-Collision System to help drivers steer away from trouble. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist to help keep drivers in lane, Parking Support Brake, Clearance Sonar and Rear Cross Traffic Brake to warn of oncoming cars while reversing further rounds out the comprehensive safety features.

Luxury and safety aside, Lexus has embarked on a new journey to improve driveability in all its cars. The Lexus Driving Signature will set a new standard for every model in its fleet, honing the finer aspects of road handling in all types of driving situations.

The tests involved in developing the new IS reflects this approach. The IS 300 was put through its paces at a new technical centre in Shimoyama. The test track there features a 5.3km-long winding course that emulates many sections of the world-renowned Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. The demands of this track allowed Lexus engineers to refine the IS to meet increased standards of vehicle performance, comfort and quality.

With the new IS 300, Lexus ups the ante and showcases one of the most exciting, luxurious, and performance-oriented four-door saloons out there.

POWER  241HP @ 5,800RPM
TORQUE  350NM @ 1,650–4,400RPM
0–100KM/H  7.0 SECONDS


Volkswagen has re-entered the competitive four-door sedan sector with the new VW Passat, and it will be one model that’s hard to ignore. The reliable TSI engine remains a mainstay in VW cars, and the two-litre turbocharged version here not only provides improved performance, but also driving customisation through its three-mode selection of ECO, Sport and Individual.

Fuel efficiency is given a boost here as well. The start/stop system automatically switches off the engine when the vehicle is stationary, with the engine running only when it is really needed. Regenerative braking helps minimise engine load and improves fuel economy.

The new Passat also offers a wide array of safety elements. Side Assist is a neat feature that uses radar sensors in the rear to detect vehicles coming up behind you. When one is coming up on your blind side, a light on the side mirrors alerts you. Similarly, the Rear Traffic Alert System provides a beep when a vehicle approaches as you’re reversing out of a parking lot. The Passat’s safety system is intelligent enough to also detect when you’re feeling too tired to drive. When the Fatigue Detection system registers this, it triggers an alert sign on the dashboard with a warning beep.

Practicality and safety are only two reasons why drivers should consider the Passat. Aesthetically, the four-door saloon has always offered classy lines without any earth-shattering distracting elements. Although functional to a fault, the Passat now boasts a sportier façade with striking trapezoidal LED headlights, and dynamic turn signals that are more eye-catching.

The interior, however, is also where the Passat shows its panache. Luxury, comfort and practicality come together to offer one complete package. Nappa leather upholstery and ventilated seats are standard inclusions that will impress. Given the attraction of this car to drivers with families, potential buyers will certainly find the Easy Open tailgate a boon, allowing them to open the boot — even with their hands full — with just a kicking motion under the rear bumper!

Previous owners of VW cars may find the new displays refreshing. The Active Info Display provides a new, high-resolution digital display that shows myriad information that is customisable. App-Connect allows you to hook up your smartphone to the infotainment system via USB. In the Passat Elegance, Discover Pro navigation system with Gesture Control lets you use hand gestures across the 9.2-inch touchscreen to change settings such as radio stations or interior lighting with a single hand swipe.

The VW Passat has always been popular for providing everything an urban driver wants in a European car without breaking the banks, and this new version doesn’t do anything to change this reputation.

POWER  190PS @ 4,180–6,000RPM
TORQUE  320NM @ 1,500–4,180RPM
0–100KM/H  7.5 SECONDS


Mercedes-Benz’s E200, arguably Singapore’s most popular executive sedan, just got better. The face-lifted model, introduced at the end of 2020, pushes higher the standard against which all sedans are measured with a lengthy list of upgrades and enhancements to an already well-appointed car.

First and foremost, the E200 Avantgarde is powered by one of the most reliable and solid engines ever made. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine teams up with Mercedes-Benz’s trademark 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission to provide all the power and torque you need to handle Singapore’s roads in comfort and style.

The refreshed E200 incorporates a list of improvements that is as long as the waiting list for the car.

New front full-LED headlamps lead the way and offer a new façade to the smart-looking saloon. Tail lamps and radiator grille, together with the front bumper, have also been tweaked.

Some of the most poignant upgrades are in the safety features. The E200 Avantgarde leaves very few aspects to be desired when it comes to protecting you from accidents.

The new steering wheel has capacitive hands-off detection just in case you nod off while driving and leave the car to chance. Active Brake Assist offers autonomous braking to prevent collision or mitigate its severity. And Active Parking Assist with PARKTRONIC works together with the 360-degree camera to make it possible for you to enter and leave parking spots automatically.

Several other driving functions are available as options. Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC allows intelligent technology to regulate the distance between you and the car ahead, and Active Stop-and-Go Assist helps you keep to your lane and maintain safe distancing up to 60km/h. Active Blind Spot Assist not only warns of cars approaching from blind spots and activates the brakes accordingly, but also warns passengers visually in exterior mirrors before they get out of the vehicle.

Improvements pervade in the interiors as well. The latest MBUX multimedia system is now available on two large, 12.3-inch screens set side by side. MBUX functions can also recognise movement, and media display changes may be effected by a hand approaching the touchscreen or touchpad on the centre console.

Mercedes-Benz has taken enhancements in comfort to the next level with its ENERGIZING seat kinetics. This new feature supports changes in seated posture with minute movements of the seat cushion and backrest. ENERGIZING comfort control takes this even further by intelligently networking comfort systems in the car to integrate audio and lighting modes with several massage modes. To top it all off, with Mercedes me, ENERGIZING COACH is a new function that uses intelligent algorithm to recommend programmes to enhance comfort and safety for the driver.

If anything, the new Mercedes-E200 Avantgarde, with all its upgrades, provides a window to what driving in the 21st century has in store.

PRICE  $287,888 (WITH COE)
POWER  197HP @ 5,500–6,100RPM
TORQUE  320NM @ 1,650–4,000RPM
0–100KM/H  7.4 SECONDS

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