Ask any of my friends, and they'll tell you I'm not a fan of turbocharged engines. I've always felt that adding a turbo is a cop-out, cheater way of getting loads of power at the expense of throttle response, because no matter what you read, no turbo gas engine is exempt from lag.
Worst of all, the power delivery and shape of the torque curve is ultimately controlled by the computer. That means that some computer weenie decides how the engine should develop its power. In a perfect world, that decision would instead be made by some mad-scientist engineer in a test car with a bunch of tubes, dials, and protractors. A guy whose neck hair stands at attention when he hears a fantastic, resonating intake honk; whose eyes roll back in his head when his engine has a surge of torque at 4000 rpm; and who laughs maniacally when the cacophony of valves, pistons, and explosions comes to a crescendo at some ludicrously high redline.
Volkswagen, on the other hand, thinks that turbocharging is a great way of getting a lot of power, loads of torque, and great fuel economy out of a small engine. VW has made its fair share of fabulous engines over the years--the old 16-valve and the VR6 come to mind--so their 2.0T merits a closer look.
If you ignore the extremely minor (even to me, the hater of all things turbocharged) turbo lag, you'd never know that the GTI is turbocharged. Except that you'd never get this much torque out of this small of an engine. Floor it at 2000 rpm. Major thrust. 4000? Same deal. 5000? Yup. 6000. Uh-huh. Question it with a stab of your right foot, and the answer is always the same: lots of push-you-back-in-the-seat torque.
Volkswagen rates its 2.0T at 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Our test car put 178 of those horses to the ground, and generated a peak of 193 lb-ft of torque in the process. Those numbers are right where we expected.
Whereas most companies provide peak power ratings at a specific engine speed, VW says that the 2.0T makes its peak horsepower for more than just a single spot on the x-axis, and they're absolutely right. What that indicates, however, is that the computers took over and castrated the 2.0T. The horsepower curve is suspiciously flat and the torque curve is so perfectly linear that only a computer could be responsible for it.
That's the bad news. The good news is that-and anyone who has chipped a turbocharged VW engine knows what I'm talking about-there is a whole lot more power to be had out of this engine. Be sure to look for uprated factory 2.0T engines in the future, too. VW might reinforce the engine components, but the actual increase in power will be a result of a reprogrammed computer allowing more boost.
Castrated or not, cheating or not, this engine is immensely satisfying at all times. It sounds great, revs willingly, gets great gas mileage, and makes boatloads of power. It's a beautifully executed engine that makes good on VW's heritage of fine motors. You don't even have to hate the computer weenie.