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The Suzuki Kizashi Turbo is a well-hidden secret in Suzuki Australia’s arsenal. Although still not available for sale officially, there is a good chance the turbocharged model will make it to production in the near future. CarAdvice got an exclusive first drive around Broadford race track earlier this month but we weren’t allowed to talk about it until today.
At a Kizashi owners’ track test day, Suzuki Australia had a nice surprise for us. Just when we thought the day was over, a blue Suzuki Kizashi Turbo appeared out of nowhere. If you must know, it’s actually the same car that we previously covered at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney last year. Technically it’s not a production car, simply a Suzuki Kizashi with a turbocharger kit provided by Road Race Motorsports in the US.
I have previously talked about the great ride and handling of the Kizashi and Kizashi AWD. I also can’t recall just how many times I’ve said that a chassis so well built could certainly do with more power. Thankfully, it seems as though someone is listening.
In its current form, the Kizashi Turbo is front-wheel drive. Although an all-wheel drive version of the naturally-aspirated Kizashi exists, it’s only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which makes the turbocharging processa little tricky.
Will the final version be available as a Kizashi Turbo AWD? We certainly hope so, but it’s currently an unknown. There is no doubt the factory in Japan could equip the AWD versions with a manual gearbox and a turbocharger if the demand was there, so it’s fair to say that anything is possible at this stage.
Under the bonnet sits the same JB24 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder engine, but with a turbo and front-mount intercooler attached. Power has increased from 131kW to 179kW at 4800rpm with torque rising to 330Nm at 4400rpm (100Nm higher than before). 0-100km/h times are not yet available, but compared with the standard Kizashi, it feels like a whole new car.
The massive increase in power and torque comes from running the turbo at just 7psi. The setup is mated to the standard six-speed manual transmission, which we are told is more than capable of handling the increased power.
Given our test vehicle was just a modified front-wheel drive Kizashi, it had exactly the same interior. Nonetheless, if the massive front-mounted intercooler didn’t give it away, the exterior is highlighted by 19-inch Enkei RPF1 wheels wrapped in 245/40 x 19-inch Pirelli P Zero tyres.
So why did we drive a modified turbocharged Kizashi when it’s still not confirmed for sale? The idea is simple: if the Kizashi Turbo gets enough attention from potential buyers, it will become a reality. So without further ado, CarAdvice was given the keys to the force-fed Kizashi for a few hot laps around Broadford.
Helmet on, driving position and steering wheel adjusted. It was time for our drive. A yellow warning light in the instrument cluster signaled that all nanny controls had been switched off (as the systems weren’t calibrated to deal with the increased output), which is a great way to make racing around a track exciting.
Engage first gear and away we went. Broadford was designed to be a motorcycle track, so it’s not as wide as it could be. A few consecutive mistakes can see you flying off into a wall in no time. So it was recommended that I take it easy the first few laps.
It was with those words running through my head that I came screaming into turn one, heavy on the brakes and letting the Kizashi’s excellent chassis do the hard work. The Kizashi Turbo’s acceleration is intense with the push back into your seat coming early in the rev range and not giving up for a while. It doesn’t seem to run out of steam as the gear ratios are well spaced and torque is available at all speeds.
Even though the brakes had been abused with hot laps minutes before and were starting to fade, the Kizashi’s well balanced suspension allowed for a confident drive through the track. The steering was smooth (although slightly over-assisted) and accelerating out of corners was not a case of holding the wheel and praying to God. Despite pushing all its power through the front wheels, it’s still very much a driver’s car. Torque steer is evident but generally a non-issue. If you happen to dump the clutch for a quick take off, you will certainly get wheelspin but that’s not uncommon for a turbocharged front-wheel drive.
Around the quick right and left turns in the back straight, the Kizashi Turbo was most impressive. In third gear it kept the power on and the smiles coming. The naturally-aspirated front-wheel drive manual Kizashi only weighs 1480kg (kerb), so with all the turbocharging kit put on it, it’s likely to hover around the 1500kg mark. It’s power-to-weight ratio is pretty good but we suspect it might actually be a little better if it was done at the factory in all-wheel drive form.
The best way to compare the Kizashi turbo is to use the Subaru Liberty GT as a benchmark. Although the Liberty is more powerful and all-wheel drive, the production-ready Kizash Turbo (when it happens) will be pretty much going for the same idea. Both of these cars are designed for enthusiasts that have practicality in mind. It’s fair to say the Kizashi has a better built chassis for the turbocharger application but Subaru has been doing it for so long that it’s got it pretty much just right (except for the looks, of course).
What we took away from our laps around Broadford was that, yes, indeed, the Kizashi can handle much more power. In fact, it deserves more power. It’s one of the few models in the medium segment that has been designed with sportiness in mind, so it will be a win for car enthusiasts if Suzuki can provide the goods to make it happen.
The big question is, if or when it goes into production, how much will it cost? The AWD Subaru Liberty GT starts from $52,990 for the manual and the range-topping Kizashi AWD CVT is $39,990. One can’t imagine Suzuki attaching a $13,000 premium for a manual turbocharged variant. If Suzuki can keep the price under $50,000, it will have a hell of a car on its hands and, we suspect, a lot of interest.
In a perfect world, Suzuki would soon announce the Kizashi Turbo as being available with a manual transmission driving all four wheels (with potential for an automatic in the future). Will it happen soon? Will it be AWD? These questions all remain unanswered for now.