BMW 2002 Turbo
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
With the turbocharger installation in the 2002, BMW evolved a car which was not only technically fascinating, but fun to drive, as much because of its remarkable performance as for its limitations.
The Turbo, all left-hand drive used the injected two-litre slant-four engine that was fitted with a KKK turbocharger resulting in an impressive 170 bhp. It was geared to produce 32 km/h per 1000rpm in its 5th gear, but ran out of puff at 209 km/h.
In the early 1970's it was generally understood that a car's power-output could not be increased by more than 30 per cent before other serious problems arose in the vehicle. The 2002, despite its undoubted and well-known qualities, was no exception to the rule. With the turbo equipment the 2002's power-weight ratio tumbled from 16.5 lb. per hp to 12.2 lb. per hp (7.48 kg/0.7457 kW-5.53 kg/ 0.7457 kW).
The Munich technicians had put in untold work to prevent their car from emerging as some sort of dragster - the aerodynamic down-pressure of the bodywork was increased, an air-dam was standardised on the front-end, and a tail extension at the rear. Suspension was modified, and wider wheels/tyres were fitted. The transmission had a limited-slip differential.
It had strong drive shafts and bearings with increased spring rates. Anti-roll bars were installed at each end and Bilstein dampers were placed at the rear. Vented discs were fitted to all wheels, and inside the Turbo featured rake-adjustable buckets. Its only other changes were the addition of a boost gauge in a pod attached to the middle of the dashboard and a three-spoke sports steering wheel with the instrument binnacle becoming red.
The modifications undoubtedly improved the car's potential, but they also brought in their wake certain disadvantages. The steering became heavy at low speeds, and the comfort, never considered top class in the normal 2002, also deteriorated.
The perhaps exaggerated efficiency of the limited-slip differential tended to catch-out many drivers in the wet when the backend grip was likely to "take-over". Wind noise at 125 mph (200 km/h) is quite violent, and particularly irritating as the engine and transmission were quiet.
Sitting in the front bucket seats (which wre more comfortable than the normal 2002 seats) the occupants could reasonably put up with the jolting meted-out by the stiff suspension, but those unfortunates in the rear seats had a rough time on bad roads. But, all things considered, the Turbo was enormous fun to drive. Docile in town, it would take the bit between its teeth when the full power of the turbocharger was used.
The compressor "engaged" at around 4,500 rpm - it was definitely perceptible but not abrupt, although care was needed on a wet road to avoid wheelspin. It was a lively, spirited car which, two-up would accelerate from 0-100 mph (161 km/h) in 19.1 seconds. The car handled well on good roads, and although it deteriorated somewhat on poorer surfaces it was still satisfactory. Passing safety was of a high order due to the enormous acceleration available from the turbocharged motor, but the engine offered little over-run braking effect, and retardation from the disc/drum equipment could be uneven when warm. Subject to considerable thermal intake, the exhaust system transmitted a great deal of heat to the car's interior, and the ventilation arrangements were scarcely capable of dealing with it.
The finish was not exceptional, and the instrumentation left plenty to be desired; the omission of an oil pressure gauge on a car of this type and price was quite unforgivable. In the final analysis, the Turbo 2002 with its almost explosive performance, its certain qualities and its evident faults, must be rated as a true motoring tonic. It stood out as an example of individuality in an era when standardization had unfortunately become the norm. The BMW turbo was built during 1973, a period that saw skyrocketing fuel prices. Car sales would have suffered because of this as it averaged just 17 mpg and only 1,672 were produced. Rare and definitely exciting, the BMW 2002 is now one of the most collectable 1970's BMW's.